Lower Michigan may not be quite the vast snow kingdom that the UP becomes in winter, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a stellar place to strap on your Crescent Moon foam snowshoes. With many outstanding public parks and forestlands—some set upon ravishing Great Lakes shorefronts—the Lower Peninsula makes another great Midwestern playground for snowshoers.
Here’s a look at some of the top spots to hit the winter trails in Lower Michigan, from city greenspaces to dune-ramparted lakeshores and remote elk-trodden woods.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Lower Michigan has its own spectacular counterpart to the U.P.'s Pictured Rocks in the form of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which unfurls along more than 30 National Park Service-managed miles of Lake Michigan. Its towering dunes, deep woods, and meadows look especially striking suited up in winter snow. You can go snowshoeing on such groomed winter trails as Windy Moraine, Alligator Hill, Bay View, and Good Harbor Bay, or get a guided introduction to the landscape (and lake-scape) on one of the ranger-led Saturday snowshoe hikes out of the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, which comprise both beginner-friendly "Snowshoe Saunters" and the more advanced-level "Snowshoe Treks."
Pigeon River Country State Forest
The largest swath of undeveloped acreage in Lower Michigan—an area justly known as “The Big Wild”—draws snowshoers to the 109,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest a stone’s throw from the Snowsports hotspot of Gaylord and one of the state’s premier destinations for outdoor recreation. This is a major regional snowbelt: Gaylord’s the highest-elevation city on the Lower Peninsula. The extensive upland it sits upon gets on the order of 160 inches of snow on average each year. The skiing’s widely celebrated around these parts, but the snowshoeing’s just as topnotch. One of the most rewarding places to snowshoe in the Pigeon is the nearly 6,400-acre Green Timbers tract, where besides relishing some delicious backcountry along the Sturgeon River, you’ll have the chance to see some of the large reintroduced population of elk, or at least ID some good-sized wapiti hoofprints.
Ludington State Park
The 5,300-acre Ludington State Park along Mason County’s Lake Michigan waterfront allows snowshoers to explore the marvelous Big Sable Dunes in their frosted incarnation, plus some inviting lakeshore forest and wetlands. Established in 1927, the park’s not only celebrated for its great sand dunes but also the historic, 19th-century Big Sable Point Lighthouse. There’s a heated warming shelter for winter recreationists, besides doing a self-directed tramping, you can sign on to one of the free guided, 1 1/2-hour snowshoe hikes the park offers on Saturdays in January and early February.
Nichols Arboretum (University of Michigan)
The beautiful city of Ann Arbor has plenty to offer in the urban snowshoeing department. Case in point: the Nichols Arboretum, set on the Central Campus of the University of Michigan. “The Arb,” as it’s locally known, offers close to 3.5 miles of trails through its rolling parklands, which include an impressive variety of trees and shrubs from all over the world. From the Riverfront Trail to Laurel Ridge, this is a great place to beeline for after a fresh snowfall blanket the aptly named “Tree Town”—as is the nearby University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens, by the way.
Lower Michigan Snowshoeing Powered by Crescent Moon
Whether you’re crunching through the manicured groves of the “Arb” or wandering the ample backwoods of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, the snowshoeing is mighty fine in Lower Michigan—especially when it’s Crescent Moon-style! With their incredibly natural-feeling rocker-style platform and robust traction, our foam Eva and Luna snowshoes make the ideal footwear for Wolverine State winter walkabouts.