Put Michigan into Your Winter Like Never Before: Sled the Dunes, Climb Ice Towers, Discover Ice Sailing & 14 Other Unexpected Ideas

Ice-Waterfall-Ice-Climbing-Winter-Adventures-in-Michigan

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Get Ready to Explore with 17 Adventures in Michigan’s Winter Wonderland

It’s winter, and we are right there with you: it can be so hard to get out in Michigan Winter when Netflix is just so easy.

Maybe common winter hurdles are keeping you in: I don’t own snowpants. That one lost glove. The ice stubbornly clinging to your windshield where no ice scraper can ever reach. 

I’ve been there. Costco snowpants are cheap and do the trick, by the way, and now I buy extra gloves because I know I will inevitably leave one behind somewhere. Another option: layer. I’ve managed Michigan hikes with layers of long underwear under leggings with a decent hat and gloves if we’re talking 20’s and not much wind.

Anyhow, I promise that, once that car is warmed up and you’ve got decent gear, there’s a whole winter world to discover.

BONUS: It’s within easy driving distance to adventures like Ice Climbing, Dog Sledding, & Sliding down a Luge – and that’s just for starters!

We’re pretty sure that with a little get-up-and-go you’ll be falling in love with Michigan all over again with this checklist of Michigan winter activity adventure ideas!

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01 – Sled Down the Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear National Park

I had no idea you could sled down the Big Dune Climb in Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.

Now that I know, it’s on the top of my winter bucket list!

If you want to sled the dune:

  • bring your own sled
  • bringing ski goggles
  • keeping your mouth shut to escape the flying snow/sand mix!

Location: Sleeping Bear Dune Climb 6748 S Dune Hwy, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Cost: To enter the park, you’ll need a National Park pass. Cost is $25 per vehicle or $45 for the year. If you have a 4th grader, you can get in for only $15.

Drive Time from GR: 3 hours

Sledding-the-dunes

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02 – Rise to New Heights with Ice Climbing

When I first heard about ice climbing, I was stoked at the thought of an amazing date adventure.

The mission of Superior Ice Climbing Adventures in the Upper Peninsula involves introducing new people – inlcuding families and children – to the sport of climbing. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque and exciting way to explore the coast of Michigan in the winter!

Superior Ice Climbing Adventures

Location: Superior Ice Climbing Adventures, West 2933 Co Rd 374, Carney, Michigan

Cost: Single 1 on 1: $200 PP: 2 to 3 climbers $150 PP; Groups of 4 + $120 PP. Different rates are available for kids.

Drive Time from GR: 6.5 hours

If you don’t want to venture quite as far north, Peabody Ice Climbing offers ice climbing in the lower peninsula. They have two towers iced over in the winter that offer an introduction for beginners (ages 13 and up) in a controlled environment but is also a place for seasoned ice climbers to train for the mountains.

Peabody Ice Climbing

Location: 12326 Foley Road Fenton, MI 48430

Cost:

Day Pass: $20; 5 Punch Pass: $80; Gear Rental*: $20

Beginner Instruction (required for those who don’t have belay experience): $10

Drive Time from GR: 2.5 hours

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03 – Get Your Luge On

There are only 4 luge tracks in all of the US, and one is right here in our home state of Michigan at Muskegon State Park.

For those not familiar with winter sports, think back to the Winter Olympics where those riders on small sleds slide down icy tracks on their backs, feet-first. That’s the luge! Take a look at this video to see what it’s like.

This track, which is part of the Winter Sports Complex, was designed by an Olympian and is a one-of-a-kind ride, made to introduce beginners (ages 8 and up) safely to the sport. The complex has many more witner sport options (skiing, snowshing, ice skating) to offer winter visitors, too.

Location: 462 Scenic Drive N. Muskegon, MI 49445

Cost: Each Learn to Luge sliding session is 2.5 hours and is $55 on Saturdays during prime times, or $49 all other times. Season passes are also available for both families and individuals.

Drive Time from GR: 45 min

muskegon winter sports complex luge Michigan winter activity

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04 – Chase Frozen Waterfalls

Want to see the beauty of the icefalls without the actual climbing? There are plenty of places in the Upper Penisula to simply stand and take in the frozen falls.

A few noteworthy falls on our list:

Munising Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

This is one of the easiest waterfalls to visit in winter, as it’s a short, paved trail that leads up to the falls. The parking lot is plowed, but the trail to the falls is not.

Location: Munising Falls, Munising, MI 49862

Wagner Falls is another must-see in Munising.

Along with the falls, you can expect a gorgeous (and not too long) snowy hike to the falls.

Location: Wagner Falls, Munising Township, MI 49862

Tahquamenon Falls is Michigan’s most famous waterfall, and its beauty is no exception in the winter.

There are two falls, and the easiest walk is to the upper falls. There is a brewery on site too for anyone needing a lunch stop.

Location: Tahquamenon Falls McMillan Township, MI 49768

Bond Falls is another well-known waterfall in the western part of the UP.

The walk is much more challenging in the winter, so it may be best to visit this one without the littles, but if you can make it there, the trek in is well worth it.

Location: Bond Falls Haight Township, MI 49912

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05 – Replace that Sledding Hill with Snow Tubing

Lansing has one of our favorite tubing hills in the state! Hawk Island County Park is a destination for those near and far. With beautiful trails, exciting snow tubing, a mechanical lift, warming shack, and hot chocolate and snacks, this is a great way to spend a mid-Michigan winter day.

Location: Hawk Island County Park 1601 E Cavanaugh Road Lansing

Cost: $10 per person for two hours or $8 per person with groups of four or more (there is also a vehicle entrance fee of $3 for residents and $5 for non-residents)

Other fantastic tubing spots in Michigan are Cannonsburg Ski Area in Cannonsburg, Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Echo Valley in Kalamazoo, Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls, and Timberlee Hills (the largest in Michigan) in Traverse City.

winter snow tubing Michigan

Timberlee Hills in Traverse City

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06 – Go for a Michigan Dogsled Ride

That’s right, you can experience the true arctic life right here in Michigan. Treetops Resort in Gaylord offers a thrilling dog sled adventure, where you and your friends can experience man and dog working together in nature.

Location: 3962 Wilkinson Road Gaylord, MI 49735

Cost: $50 per person, and $25 for each added person in the sled.

Drive Time from GR: 2.5 hours

Want variety? There are other great dog sledding places in Michigan.

Treetops Resort in Gaylord

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07 – Don’t Want to Ride? Become a Musher!

If riding in a dog sled isn’t enough, you can actually learn how to drive it!

Learn to Mush (the word for dog-sled driver) and become a certified Musher by the end of the day.

Shemhader Kennels in Cadillac offers an experience that includes time in the kennel to learn how to sled and hook up the dogs. After that, it’s time to drive with a trainer! By the end, you’ll get your own team to enjoy driving your own dog sled team for two rides on beautiful and adventurous trails.

This is the only guide service in lower Michigan that allows the musher to drive the sled. The rides are about 3 miles long – and don’t worry – there’s always a guide behind you to coach you through the ride. Talk about unforgettable!

For anyone wanting to see the dogs up and close but aren’t quite ready to drive, they also offer kennel tours.

Location: 6925 S. 27 ½ Road, Cadillac, Michigan 49601. Due to the ½ address, GPS and map programs sometimes have difficulty, so see the website for specific written directions.

Cost:

Become a Musher- $350 per person ($350 each or $700) – only 2-4 people are allowed per day. For only 1 Person, the cost is $600, so it’s most cost-effective for a couple, two friends or two family members.

Kennel Tours- $75/ hour for an entire group.

Drive Time from GR: 1.5 hours

Natures-Kennel-Sled-Dog-Racing-Girl-on-Sled

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08 – Make Tracks and Snowshoe the Trails

Snowshoeing is one of my favorite activities in winter because it’s so accessible, great for all ages, and if you have your own snowshoes, it’s free!

Wherever you can hike in the summer, you can snowshoe in the winter. (If the trail is specifically groomed for cross-country skiing, be sure to stay on the side of the trail so you don’t mess with the ski tracks though!)

Harris Nature Center, just east of Lansing, has trails for snowshoeing and also offers a snowshoeing class that gives a beginner tips on staying warm in the cold, snowshoeing techniques, and guided walks along the trails.

With over five miles of trails, an indoor nature center, and activities and events offered for families year-round (all for free!), this is a perfect winter stop.

Other Lansing area favorites for snowshoeing are Fenner Nature Center, Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge, Birchfield Park in Holt, and Lake Lansing Park North in Haslett. All have snowshoes to rent.

For some amazing scenic hiking further north, check out trails in Traverse City, guided day or evening hikes at Ludington State Park, hikes in the upper peninsula at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, or any of these trails all over the state.

For snowshoeing with kids on the west side of the state, be sure to check out these awesome areas.

Location: Harris Nature Center 3998 Van Atta Rd, Okemos, MI 48864

Cost:

Snowshoeing and admission to the nature center are always free.

For the snowshoeing class: $15 for one 2-hour session, or $20 if you need to rent shoes.

Drive Time from GR: 1 hour

snowshoe Michigan

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09 – Cross-Country Ski Around the State

Cross-country skiing is another fun and easy way to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the winter. 

Fitzgerald Park has xc-ski rentals by the hour, day, or weekend, so you can ski anywhere on Eaton County’s 15 miles of trails, and then afterward take the skis along with you if you decide to set out for a longer weekend trip.

Fitzgerald Park has cross-country ski clinics and “By the Light of the Moon” ski and snowshoe nights from 6-9 pm. These are a blast for all ages, with torch-lighted trails, a sledding hill, and hot chocolate at the nature center.

Many other area parks and nature centers have beautiful trails that are maintained for cross-country skiers too. These offer rentals for those just wanting to give it a try, and offer both kid and adult sizes. Some of these parks also offer ice skating, sledding, and more.

Location: Fitzgerald Park 133 Fitzgerald Park Drive, Grand Ledge, MI

Cost:

Rentals are $5 per hour, $15 per day and $50 for the weekend

Cross-country ski clinic is $10 per person, $15 including rentals.

“By the Light of the Moon” night is $2 per person, $5 with rentals.

Drive Time from GR: 45 minutes

In the Lansing area, check out Birchfield Park and Lake Lansing Parks in Ingham County, Harris Nature Center in Meridian Township, and Fenner Nature Center in Lansing.

For some incredible trails up north, don’t miss ABR Trails, which has the most miles of groomed cross-country ski trails (45.3) in the state. And did you know that in the winter the entire east side of Mackinac Island is shut off not only to cars but even to snowmobiles?

It’s open solely to cross-country skiers, hikers and snowshoers – it’s quite an experience to explore the winter in a wonderland of uninterrupted beauty!

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10 – Ride the Trails on a Fat Tire Bike

If you thought biking was on hold until spring, think again! This fun activity for ages 12 and up makes biking possible year-round. These bikes can power through snow and icy terrain, and there are plenty of places to bike in the winter around Michigan!

Crystal Mountain has groomed trails and bike rentals.

Cost: 1 hour: $19 per person; 2 hours: $25 per person. A trail pass is included in the rental fee.

Drive Time from GR: 2 hours

Boyne Highlands offers a groomed winter bike track. The Winter Sports Singletrack in Traverse City has a 15k track and a little further south you can find trails at Yankee Springs Recreation Area. The Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea also has 8 miles of groomed trails for winter biking.

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11 – Hit the Slopes for Skiing and Snowboarding

With over 40 ski areas and more than 260 lifts and 1,000 runs, Michigan is a great place to learn to ski, is much more affordable than ski resorts in other parts of the county, and if you have a 4th or 5th grader, Michigan makes sure they can learn to ski for FREE!

Two Michigan favorites are Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls and Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. Boyne Mountain also has horse-drawn wagon rides, snow tubing, indoor/outdoor pool and hot tubs, and Avalanche Bay water park. In the Upper Peninsula, check out Mont Ripley Ski Area in Hancock and Porcupine Mountains Ski Area in Ontonagon.

For mid-Michigan residents, Cannonsburg is a great place to go for a quick trip. Extremely kid-friendly and with tubing too, it’s a fun way to spend a day outside with the fam. Or, check out these other favorites for fun and affordable family skiing and snowboarding in many other Michigan towns.

Locations:

Boyne Mountain Resort Boyne Mountain Resort, 1 Boyne Mountain Rd, Boyne Falls, MI

Crystal Mountain 12500 Crystal Mountain Dr, Thompsonville, MI

Cost: Depends on the day, time, and deal! Boyne Mountain and Crystal Mountain offer season passes, day or flex lift tickets, and online deals.

Drive Time: No matter where you are in Michigan, you are no more than 2 hours drive from a ski lift! 

Crystal-Mountain-boy-skiing-2

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12 – Take a Toboggan Run

This one isn’t technically in Michigan, but it’s an easy drive and we just had to include it because it’s so much fun! Pokagon State Park in Angola, Indiana has a refrigerated Toboggan Run.

The 30-foot tower has dips and valleys, with the total vertical drop 90 feet over the course of a quarter-mile. It’s a 20 to a 30-second thrill ride, with the highest recorded speed 42 mph.

Location: 450 Lane 100 Lake James Angola, IN 46703

Cost: Toboggan sled rental per hour: $13, and park entrance fees for out-of-state vehicles are $9, or $2 a person on a bus.

Drive Time: 2 hours

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13 – Ice Skate in the Outdoors

Detroit: The Rink at Campus Martius Park opens with the official lighting of the Christmas tree in November and is open through mid-March. After skating, grab a cup of hot chocolate in the Cadillac Square Lounge to warm up.

Location: Campus Martius Park 800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Cost: Adults $10; Kids (12 & Under) $8; Seniors (59 & Older) $8; Skate Rental $5

Drive Time: 2.5 hours

Grand Rapids: Rosa Parks Circle in the center of downtown is a fun place to skate with the company and charm of the beautiful city.

Location: Rosa Parks Circle 135 Monroe Center St NW Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Cost: Adults $3, Kids $1 (what a deal, and price includes skates!)

Drive Time: less than 30 minutes

St. Ignace: Skating on Moran Bay in St. Ignace gives you a one-of-a-kind experience of skating on the actual Great Lakes! During the winter, little league hockey teams use the ice as a practice rink and the bay is free for the public to use. If you go in February, be sure to check out the Labatt Blue U.P. Pond Hockey Championships.

Location: Moran Bay, Lake Huron

Cost: Free, bring your own skates

Drive Time: 3 ½ hours

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14 – Watch Snowmobile Racing

You can find the world’s largest snowmobile race right here in Michigan at the Annual International 500 Snowmobile Race. Dozens of racers go the 500-mile distance, racing around the 1-mile track at speeds over 100 mph. Or, catch other area races here.

Location: 984 W 4th Ave, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783

Cost: Parking/Admission is $3 for the day or $15 for the week. You can also camp or reserve special seats.

Drive Time: 4 hours

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15 – Discover Ice Sailing

This is one winter sport that isn’t as well-known, but we’re adding it to the list, because it should be!

Ice sailing is simply powering winter sports, like sailing, skating, skiing, and snowboarding, by the environment or by the wind so that you can do them directly on the ice. People say the adrenaline and experience of ice sailing is like no other.

Any place along the shores of Lake Michigan, where it’s frozen and you can catch the wind, is a great place to try the sport. Or, just go to watch!

Sailing clubs often have groups or individuals that offer lessons and outings. Find a club here.

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container][fusion_builder_container admin_label=”16 – Winter Sports Park” hundred_percent=”no” hundred_percent_height=”no” hundred_percent_height_scroll=”no” hundred_percent_height_center_content=”yes” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” status=”published” publish_date=”” class=”” id=”” border_size=”10″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” margin_top=”10″ margin_bottom=”10″ padding_top=”” padding_right=”4%” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”4%” gradient_start_color=”” gradient_end_color=”” gradient_start_position=”0″ gradient_end_position=”100″ gradient_type=”linear” radial_direction=”center” linear_angle=”180″ background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ background_blend_mode=”none” video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” video_preview_image=”” filter_hue=”0″ filter_saturation=”100″ filter_brightness=”100″ filter_contrast=”100″ filter_invert=”0″ filter_sepia=”0″ filter_opacity=”100″ filter_blur=”0″ filter_hue_hover=”0″ filter_saturation_hover=”100″ filter_brightness_hover=”100″ filter_contrast_hover=”100″ filter_invert_hover=”0″ filter_sepia_hover=”0″ filter_opacity_hover=”100″ filter_blur_hover=”0″][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” hover_type=”none” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” border_radius=”” box_shadow=”no” dimension_box_shadow=”” box_shadow_blur=”0″ box_shadow_spread=”0″ box_shadow_color=”” box_shadow_style=”” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” background_type=”single” gradient_start_color=”” gradient_end_color=”” gradient_start_position=”0″ gradient_end_position=”100″ gradient_type=”linear” radial_direction=”center” linear_angle=”180″ background_color=”” background_image=”” background_image_id=”” background_position=”left top” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_blend_mode=”none” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” filter_type=”regular” filter_hue=”0″ filter_saturation=”100″ filter_brightness=”100″ filter_contrast=”100″ filter_invert=”0″ filter_sepia=”0″ filter_opacity=”100″ filter_blur=”0″ filter_hue_hover=”0″ filter_saturation_hover=”100″ filter_brightness_hover=”100″ filter_contrast_hover=”100″ filter_invert_hover=”0″ filter_sepia_hover=”0″ filter_opacity_hover=”100″ filter_blur_hover=”0″ last=”no”][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]

16 – Try a Little of Everything at a Winter Sports Park

Winter Sports Parks are a one-size-fits-all winter stop. You can find a ton of different activities for all the different ages and interests of your gang!

The Petoskey Winter Sports Park has areas for sledding, ice skating, hockey, skiing or snowboarding. The ice rinks are resurfaced daily. There is also a warming house with a fireplace, seating, concession stand, and restrooms.

While you’re in the area, be sure to stop by downtown Petoskey too. This is one of my favorite towns to visit in Michigan. Walk the streets for fun boutique shopping, delicious eats, and a general store that carries local favorites while giving you the feeling of stepping back in time. The views of Lake Michigan as you enter and then explore the city are spectacular year-round.

Location: 1100 Winter Park Ln, Petoskey, MI 49770

Cost:

Ice skate rental is $5. Admission to the park is free.

Private Groups may also reserve the Hockey Rink in one-hour increments at $25/hour.

Drive Time: 3 hours

The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex is another great winter park, best known for its Olympian-designed luge, but it has way more to offer winter visitors too! The park has over nine miles of cross-country ski trails, half of which are lit for night skiing. There are also three ice skating rinks for hockey, family skating, and a kiddie rink. The park’s snowshoe trails wind through the dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan. And the heated sports lodge has rentals, food, and a fireplace to warm up..

Bonus: Muskegon’s track chair program helps visitors with wheelchairs explore areas of the park where traditional wheelchairs can’t reach. These off-road, electronic chairs can easily handle trails, snow, sand and up to 8 inches of water.

Location: 462 Scenic Drive N. Muskegon, MI 49445

Cost: Daily admission is $5, and each activity has a separate charge. Check out rates here.

Drive Time: 1 hour 

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17 – Warm-up at Winter Festivals All Winter Long

There are so many winter festivals in Michigan to explore! There’s nothing better than a weekend full of festivity and fun to warm you up from the inside out and give you a reason to get out to new towns to explore something new. A few winter favorites to note:

The Winter Carnival at Michigan Tech started in 1922 and has grown into one of the biggest annual winter celebrations in the nation. Known for huge, intricate snow statues, there are also broomball competitions, comedy skits, human ice bowling, and a queen coronation.

The Michigan Ice Fest in Munising, MI is Feb 12-16. This festival is for ice climbers to gather together for a week and climb around Pictured Rocks. For non-athletes, this is a fun time to visit the area, see the beauty of the waterfalls, and watch athletes in action.

The Meridian Winter Blast is held in February in downtown Detroit. With exciting live entertainment and culinary cuisine for the foodies, Winter Blast is a favorite of locals and brings in visitors from all over the state.

A popular ice fishing event is Tip-Up Town U.S.A, held in January in Houghton Lake. Thousands of people go to the annual winter festival that has children’s activities, a parade and chili cook-off, and an ice fishing contest weigh-in with fireworks.

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Step Outside to Experience Michigan in Its Winter Glory

When the snow falls in Michigan, some days you don’t have to go anywhere! Simply stepping out of your back door can usher you into a winter wonderland. Bundle up and go out with the kids for some snow angels, neighborhood snowball fights, or to build a snowman.

The fresh air is rejuvenating, and nothing beats the beauty of newly laid snow.

Check out more winter adventures here, or comment below with anything we missed!

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