No matter the season, you’ll always find enjoyable things to do in Michigan. However, nothing compares to the state’s transformation into a winter wonderland. The frozen Great Lakes and snow-covered hills and mountains are good things about Michigan winters.
People in Michigan prepare for winter in many ways: firing up the fireplace, stocking up on hot chocolate, and pulling out snow gear. Some of us anxiously await the opportunity to enjoy activities that only winter offers. If you’re wondering what you can do for fun, check out some of our favorite things to do in Michigan in winter.
Places to Visit in Michigan in Winter: Michigan Summer Vacation Destinations
Knowing where you should go in the winter in Michigan is as easy as considering popular Michigan summer vacation destinations. For example, there’s no shortage of Michigan winter things to do in Traverse City, Petoskey, and Grand Haven. The best part is that, by comparison, these cities look like ghost towns during the cold season. Go off the beaten path and enjoy winter vacations in Michigan’s summer towns.
Crowded summer beaches are a part of Michigan life, but the feeling of having your favorite lakeshore town completely to yourself is a truly satisfying experience. Not to mention, the small businesses in these towns depend on summer traffic to survive the winter, which is why they will greatly appreciate your winter visit. You’re not just curing yourself of the winter blues, you’re helping the local economy, making it one of the best winter things to do in Michigan!
Take a Winter Road Trip in Michigan
One of the best road trips I’ve ever been on is to Munising in late February. The temperature was twenty below zero, the snow was falling at a rapid pace, and the emergency services shut down all roads in and out of the town. Was it a little nerve-wracking? Yeah. Was it an insanely fun experience? Absolutely.
Here’s my recommendation: Wait for the moment a winter storm is approaching, head “Up North” before it hits, then spend the day snowshoeing, driving freshly-plowed roads lined with pine trees blanketed in snow, and talking long walks that leave your eyelashes crusted in snow. It’s one of the best winter getaways in Michigan!
Take a Winter Hike Along the Great Lakes
To take in the breathtaking beauty of the Great Lakes during the winter months, go hiking or backpacking along the shorelines.
Think the coast is just for the sun? No way! Frozen beaches and ice-crusted lighthouses are some of the most beautiful sites to visit. On a cold weekend, drive up the coast to do a winter Michigan lighthouse tour. You’d be surprised how different they look in January or February.
Check out these off-season Michigan beaches to visit in the winter. On the frozen beaches, you’re likely to find rocks and stones that the freshwater waves have polished over the years. You might even come across pieces of sunken ships that have washed ashore.
Here are some winter hiking trails in Michigan that we recommend…
Isle Royale National Park
The Greenstone Ridge Trail in Isle Royale National Park stretches for 43 miles from Rock Harbor in the east to Windigo in the west in the Upper Peninsula. This national park gets the least number of visitors in the area, mainly because it’s remote and has crude camping conditions. Through the granite outcroppings and pine forests, you’re rewarded with amazing vistas of Lake Superior.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, you can walk the Lakeshore-North Country Trail, which is a combination of the Lakeshore Trail and the North Country National Scenic Trail. Extending for 42 miles, there are multiple access points: Munising, Minders Castle Point, Twelvemile Beach, and Grand Marais. Because of that, you can go on a winter hike for as little as an hour or as long as a few days.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
With miles of hiking trails, exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the top things to do in Michigan in winter if you’re near Maple City. You can choose from easy nature trails to hard dunes trails. If you’re in it for the scenery, though, Pyramid Point Trail is just 3 miles and offers a serene view of Lake Michigan. The moderate trek passes through paper birch trees and wildflower meadows and over sand dunes.
Negwegon State Park
In Harrisville, Negwegon State Park is a rustic area with a few easy loop trails. The Algonquin, Chippewa, and Potawatomi Trails are named after Native American tribes. They link together and take you on a journey deep into the park. The 5-mile walk is easy and offers the chance to spot some hidden sandy beaches and bays. Since the park is so remote, you may not even see other people.
Port Crescent State Park
Home to 3 miles of shoreline, a boardwalk, a dark sky preserve, and a modern campground, Port Crescent State Park in Port Austin has some excellent trails. The park borders Lake Huron and is located in a once-thriving fishing and lumbering town. In addition to views of the lake, the 2.5 miles of trails overlook Pinnebog River and Saginaw Bay. While there, you have the opportunity to go birding, fishing, skiing, and more.
Warren Dunes State Park
Near the southern shoreline of Lake Michigan, you can get exceptional views of the water from a 260-foot-high dune in Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer. Along with camping, there are 6 miles of trails for walking and hiking. In particular, the 4-mile Great Warren Dune Trail is of moderate difficulty and immerses you in Michigan’s natural beauty as you traverse hardwood forests and towering dunes.
Look for Blue Ice and Frozen Waterfalls in Michigan
Blue Ice on the Great Lakes
It’s unlikely that you’ll ever travel to the North Pole or Antarctica, but you still have a good chance of seeing blue ice on the Great Lakes. In fact, you won’t find anything more intriguing than this gorgeous phenomenon if you’re looking for unique things to do in Michigan in winter. The ice itself isn’t blue, but it looks blue because of how sunlight bounces around within the mounds of cracked ice.
Frozen Waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula
For more natural beauty during winter in Michigan, visit some of the frozen waterfalls across the Upper Peninsula.
Have you ever hugged a waterfall? Thought it wasn’t possible? You just didn’t visit at the right time.
A frozen waterfall is one of the most unique, beautiful sights I’ve witnessed. Our cold weather might not be the best thing for our cars, pipes, or fingers, but it is perfect for stopping a waterfall completely in its tracks. The flowing water freezes into giant icicles, creating a stunning formation that beckons you to admire and climb.
Munising Falls is a great example of a must-see frozen waterfall. On hot summer days, visitors might stand under the falls to cool off. In the winter, you can use the frozen falls as a backrest as you sit and take in the surrounding beauty.
Here are a few of our favorite frozen waterfalls:
- Laughing Whitefish Falls at Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park in Rock River Township.
- Munising Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising.
- Wagner Falls at the Wagner Falls Scenic Site in Munising.
- Tahquamenon Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise.
Michigan Ice Caves
Harsh weather and cold temperature also help create a phenomenon known as the “Michigan Ice Caves.” If you never witnessed the Eben Ice Caves or Grand Island Ice Caves, add them to your list. Their breathtaking beauty has caught the interest of The National Geographic, Huffington Post, and other international news outlets.
The best time to visit these caves is in mid-February. By this time, the ice has had plenty of cold weather to be safe enough to visit.
Experience the Michigan Winter Snow-Glow
The night after a winter storm, head out for a midnight stroll in the woods. The thick white snow reflects light, making the entire sky lighter than normal. Even with no moon, you can see perfectly in the middle of the night.
The best places to experience an authentic Michigan snow-glow are the Manistee National Forest or deep in the Upper Peninsula. The further from city life, the better and more peaceful the walk becomes.
Experience Outdoor Things to Do in Michigan in Winter
When you’re looking for what to do for fun in the winter in Michigan, strap on your snow gear and hit the slopes. The state has 47 areas with skiing, snowboarding, fat biking, dog-sledding, snow tubing, and many other outdoor winter sports for all ages. Below are several Michigan winter attractions that we love.
With dozens of ski hills across the state, one is never too far to carve their way down a mountain (or a really big hill). Winter skiing is an activity for all ages, and it is the perfect way to incorporate a winter family getaway filled with fun. Many of the ski resorts also offer heated pools, hot tubs, and saunas to guests. After a long day on the slopes, there is truly nothing better than letting your muscles soak in a hot tub under the stars.
For those not fond of skiing or snowboarding, try winter tubing. It is common to find sledding hills at ski resorts. It offers a fun and thrilling alternative for those not keen on catching the fresh powder.
In Iron River, Ski Brule is the No. 1 ski resort in the Midwest, and it’s perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway. It has winter activities for the whole family, including skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and fat biking. You can even hit the snowshoe trails and snow tubing park as well as ride snowmobiles and sleighs. Nearly everything that you want to do in the snow can be done here.
Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Adventures
For a true winter adventure, book a package with Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Adventures in McMillan. Everyone in the family can hop on a dog sled, and children ages 10 and older can drive one. The kennel has several adventure packages, including 10-mile and 20-mile options, an overnight option, and an option that includes a stay at Chamberlin’s Old Forest Inn in Curtis. You can even combine your dog-sledding excursion with ice climbing.
U.P. Ice Golf Scramble
Whether or not you’re a Michigander, you can experience a truly one-of-a-kind winter golf event in St. Ignace. Every early March, the city sets up a golfing range on the frozen East Moran Bay. The U.P. Ice Golf Scramble is a marvelous opportunity to work on your golf swing. Although, there’s no way to anticipate where the ball will bounce when it hits the icy surface. Also, the event includes the Glow Ball Challenge, which is a shuffleboard-like game using a glow-in-the-dark ball.
Boyne Mountain Resort
Family-owned Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls has been thrilling Michigan families for more than 65 years. It has almost 22 miles of cross-country trails and 60 downhill trails for skiing, snowboarding, and fat biking. On top of that, the resort offers about 2.5 miles of snowshoeing trails, horseback riding, snow tubing, zip-lining, SNO-GO biking, and ice skating. On a groomer ride, you get a scenic tour over the slopes.
Shanty Creek Resort
Located in Bellaire, Shanty Creek Resort provides a combination of terrain and variety across well-maintained slopes. You can enjoy Nordic cross-country skiing on nearly 17.5 miles of trails, or check out The Monster Park, The Natty, and Low Rider slopes. You can even test your speed against the best National Standard Race ski times in the country. Additionally, the resort features alpine tubing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, fat biking, and snowmobiling.
Hickory Hills Ski Area
If you’re in Traverse City or decide to visit, enjoying snow sports at Hickory Hills Ski Area is one of the best things to do in Michigan in winter. It has eight ski runs, including one for beginners, five for intermediate skiers, and two for advanced skiers. Seven of the runs offer night skiing. Other activities available include snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
At Muskegon Winter Sports Complex in North Muskegon, the name says it all. This venue offers quality recreational winter activities and programs for locals and visitors alike. The 850-foot winter luge track is one of only four in the country and has six curves, and the almost 9.5-mile cross-country ski trail is the longest in the Midwest that’s lighted. Sledding, snowshoeing, and ice skating are available too.
Peabody Ice Climbing
Peabody Ice Climbing in Fenton is a venue where you can learn to climb ice and improve your skills. It has two towers that are 45 feet and 72 feet tall. What makes Peabody so different, though, is that it’s the only facility in the nation with a permanent mixed climbing and dry-tooling fixture. The property has a clubhouse, 10-person sauna, and heated bunkhouse as well.
Northwest of Detroit, Alpine Valley in White Lake has a variety of terrain for all ages and skill levels. The Mini Park is set up for beginner to intermediate skiers and snowboarders. The Big Park is designed for high-speed rail tricks and catching big air, while The Rope Park has a high-speed tow rope jib and lines for everyone. Furthermore, Alpine Valley has the best snowcross track in the region.
More Things to Do in Michigan in the Winter
There are tons of other fun things to do in Michigan in the winter, including romantic winter things to do in Michigan! For instance, you could go take a scenic Michigan winter drive on a winter train ride in Michigan or visit many other winter weekend getaways Michigan destinations offer. Do you do something different during Michigan winters? Share your winter wonderland experience with us in the comments below!