Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stretches for 42 miles along the Upper Peninsula’s Lake Superior shore between Grand Marais in the east and Munising to the west. Thanks to its namesake stone cliffs, plus multiple waterfalls and its location on the Great Lake, the National Park is known for spectacular ice climbing opportunities. Towering frozen columns and blue ice curtains usually last into late March. The host of the annual Michigan Ice Fest in early February, Down Wind Sports in Marquette and Houghton, rents ice climbing equipment.
(TIP: You can limber up or learn how to tackle the ice on man-made 45-foot and 75-foot towers at Peabody Ice Climbing on a former farm in the Lower Peninsula town of Fenton.)
Cross country skiers and snowshoers (pdf 220kb) who venture through the Pictured Rocks wilderness are rewarded with views of incredible snow and ice formations on cliffs, in coves and caves, and on beaches alongside the frozen whitecaps of Lake Superior.
Experienced backcountry campers (pdf 84kb) who want to go where their cell phones won’t work enjoy the solitude of Pictured Rocks all year ‘round, but especially in the quiet of winter.
In the northwest Lower Peninsula along Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is known for its wall of sand that reaches more than 400 feet high; the challenging Dune Climb turns into a sledding hill in winter. Snowshoers can venture over all snow-covered grounds, including the one-of-a-kind dunes, while cross country skiers have a choice of trails throughout the park, which covers 71,000 acres and 30 miles of Great Lake shoreline. Backcountry campers ski and snowshoe are welcome at Sleeping Bear’s rustic White Pine campground.
It’s not a National Park, but it’s a Pure Michigan treasure. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is 60,000 rugged acres of wooded wonderland in the far western UP on Lake Superior. Challenging and scenic Nordic ski trails (pdf 520kb) venture into remote wooded areas and lead to unsurpassed views. Snowshoers have even more options in the “Porkies,” where a 35,000-acre tract of virgin hardwood-hemlock forest still stands.
Downhill skiers and snowboarders can tackle a 5,800-foot trail and a vertical drop of 641 feet, and access 100 acres of backcountry terrain via the Expedition Everest Snowcat. Bonus: Every run overlooks Lake Superior.
For an unforgettable winter wilderness camping experience rent one of the Porkies’ yurts; expert backcountry skills are required to reach Lost Creek Yurt by cross country ski or snowshoe.