For many of us, Michigan's state park system may be synonymous with the warm days of summer, but the truth is that in the Upper Peninsula, winter is when the state parks really start to heat up.
Outdoor enthusiasts seeking a top-notch location to snowshoe, snowmobile, ice fish, or cross-country or downhill ski need look no further than the state parks found in the northwestern part of the Upper Peninsula for access to all of these activities, plus convenient on-site lodging.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is considered the crown jewel of Michigan's state park system and activity at the Porkies doesn't slow down one bit during the winter months.
The Porkies are a popular destination for snowmobilers, and also feature 42 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails, a downhill ski area and plenty of ungroomed powder for backcountry skiers and snowshoers. Visitors who want to stay in the park can choose from three rustic cabins and four yurts located along the cross-country ski trail system, or one fully modernized lodge - a particularly attractive option for larger groups of snowmobilers.
Organized winter activities at the Porkies include lantern-lit cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The program will be offered Dec. 29 and 31 from 6-9 p.m. and every Saturday in January and February. Guided snowshoe hikes at the downhill ski area are also planned, but have not yet been scheduled. The activities calendar and maps of the cross-country ski trails can be found online at michigan.gov/porkiesvc.
Located only a short 10-minute drive from Hancock, McLain State Park offers several miles of groomed and track-set cross-country ski trails along Lake Superior and Bear Lake. Skiers who want to stay the night can conveniently hit the trail directly from the park's rustic cabin or one of the six mini-cabins that are available for rent throughout the winter season.
At the tip of the Keweenaw, Fort Wilkins Historic State Park also features groomed cross-country ski trails, along with hiking trails and backcountry areas for snowshoers, and excellent ice fishing on Lake Fanny Hooe.
The park's rustic cabin, located on the shores of Lake Fanny Hooe and adjacent to the ski trail, is an in-demand lodging option for skiers and ice anglers during the winter months. The park's modern campground also has one mini cabin for rent during the winter and several of the modern campsites are available for those hearty souls who'd like to RV or tent camp.
Located on Keweenaw Bay and snowmobile trail No. 15, Baraga State Park now features a large, plowed trailhead and parking area next to the snowmobile trail, and the frontage on Keweenaw Bay provides excellent access for ice fishing.
Although it is not groomed, the park's hiking trail is open to snowshoers and skiers willing to break their own trail.
Found in the heart of moose country, Van Riper and Craig Lake state parks have a wide variety of winter activities and lodging to choose from. A network of cross-country ski trails crisscross each park, popular snowmobile trails are adjacent to or within the parks, and ice anglers are attracted to Lake Michigamme and the chain of lakes at Craig Lake State Park.
New Year's Resolutions are in the spotlight at Van Riper on New Year's Day with the annual "Shoe Year's Day" snowshoe hiking event from 10 a.m. to noon, and the park's cross-country ski trail will be lit for evening skiing, snowshoeing and hiking on Jan. 19 and Feb. 16 from 6-9 p.m.
Visitors to Van Riper can rent two types of cabins: A rustic lodge on the Peshekee River or a semi-modern cabin on the shores of Lake Michigamme. Both can be reached by vehicle or snowmobile. In the wilderness setting of Craig Lake State Park, a yurt accessible only by ski, snowshoe or snowmobile is available on Teddy Lake.
With the unbeatable access to ski and snowmobile trails, ice fishing, comfortable on-site lodging and more, winter is a great time to explore Michigan's state parks, stay physically active, and make new memories enjoying the Upper Peninsula's great outdoors. To learn more about what the state parks have to offer this winter, visit michigan.gov/stateparks.
Debbie Munson Badini is the DNR's Deputy Public Information Officer. Contact her by phone at 906-226-1352, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @MichiganDNR_UP.