Where’s the best place to go cross country skiing in Michigan? Well, that depends on who you ask. If you’re looking for the best cross-country ski trails to explore this winter, search “cross country skiing near me” and look no further than the Mitten State.
No matter if you go North, South, East, or West, to the Upper Peninsula or Lower Peninsula, if you plan on cross country skiing Michigan this winter, the state is chock-full of cross-country skiing trails that are fun, exciting, and allow you to take in the beauty of Michigan in the winter months.
So where should you go first? The possibilities are endless. As you search “cross country ski trails near me”, you’ll find that each region of the state offers some truly unique and different experiences. Michigan gets 64 inches of snow on average annually and some areas of the state are even snowier.
With this list, you’ll be armed with plenty of spots to explore in every part of Michigan and make the most of the winter. Michigan winters can get bitterly cold, especially later in the winter, but as long as you’re properly bundled up, you’ll be able to have lots of fun skiing – one of Michigan’s most popular winter sports – while taking in the beauty of nature.
Upper Peninsula Cross Country Ski Trails
If you’re looking for a place to get away, stretch out, and really get in touch with nature, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the place to go during the winter months. On average, the UP gets about 250 inches of annual snowfall, transforming the woods into a winter paradise that’s enjoyed by countless ski enthusiasts.
Cross country skiing in the Upper Peninsula is one of the best winter things to do in the UP! In fact, many of the UP’s state parks have well-groomed trails and lantern lighted trails, offering a truly unique experience.
Porcupine Mountains State Park
If you go to the Western UP, check out Porcupine Mountains State Park. There you’ll find 23 miles of trails right along Lake Superior, with the nation’s largest virgin hardwoood-hemlock forest, and a lift that allows visitors access to trails attached to the back of an alpine ski area. There are also equipment rentals, warming shelters, and trailside cabins.
Along the Keweenaw Peninsula, check out the Keweenaw Trails, which includes four separate trail systems. These network of trails systems are Michigan Tech University, the Chassell, Swedetown Trails, and Maasto Hiihto/Churning Rapids.
Visitors can choose an annual pass for the entire trail system or pay the daily rate for each one of them. Swedetown in particular offers great scenery and terrain among 20 miles of trails.
If you’re really looking for a special place to go cross country skiing in Michigan, check out Mackinac Island in the winter. The north and east sides of the island have the perfect trails in the wintertime and you can check out plenty of natural wonders along Lake Huron.
The island’s ferry service offers a line from St. Ignace to the Island from November to April, offering winter access to the island.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
One of the great, naturally beautiful places in Michigan is Tahquamenon Falls State Park. With upper and lower waterfalls, it truly is a sight to behold, especially in the fall. In the winter, it’s a great place to ski cross-country.
Between both sets of frozen waterfalls, there are nine different trails, with some of them lit by lantern light, though you should bring a flashlight if you want more light.
Fumee Lake Natural Area
Fumee Lake Natural Area near Iron Mountain offers a wide range of cross country trails too, which range from one to seven miles, depending on your preference.
If you have time to spend, plan your routes so you can loop around either Little Fumee Lake or Big Fumee lake.
Noquemanon Trail Network
If you’re up around Marquette, check out the Noquemanon Trail Network, which has four different options. Beginners can traverse the Baby Lake Trail, intermediate skiers can ski along the 2.5 mile Teal Lake Trail, and advanced skiers can challenge themselves on either the Deer Lake Trail or the Olympic Trail.
Iron Ore Heritage Trail
If you love history, then you’ll delight in skiing the Iron Ore Heritage Trail. This 47-mile trail connects five different UP mining communities, and as you ski you’ll glide along old railroad corridors that used to bring iron ore and lumber to the works along Lake Superior.
North Country National Scenic Trail
Another unique experience is the North Country National Scenic Trail. This is actually part of a trail system that spans multiple states and part of the trail stretches across the shore of Lake Superior, including the frozen falls of the Marquette area.
Northern Michigan Cross Country Ski Trails (Lower Peninsula)
Not to be outdone, the Lower Peninsula also offers a wide variety of options for cross country skiing in Northern Michigan.
Boyne Highlands & Boyne Mountain Resort
Start with the Boyne Highlands, which offers opportunities for a quick trip or an all-day adventure with 12 different loops. You should also consider Boyne Mountain, which also has plenty of loops to satisfy skiers of all levels.
Charlevoix X-Country Ski Trail
Sticking in Charlevoix County, the Charlevoix X-Country Ski Trail offers panoramic views of Lake Michigan with three different loops. Around Boyne City, the Avalanche Mountain Preserve trail offers more than five miles of ungroomed trails and offers a challenge to more advanced skiers with some steep inclines.
Shanty Creek Resort
Around Bellaire, you need to check out Shanty Creek Resort, which offers almost 20 miles of impeccably groomed trails. Visitors can traverse through scenic forests and stop for lunch alongside the creek.
Skiiers looking to get the best of all worlds on the trail can trek the White Pine Stampede Trail, which allows for long glides and short strides along a bending and stretching terrain.
Homestead Ski Resort
The beauty of Northwest Michigan can really be seen along the trails of the Homestead, which goes through thick forests and over Sleeping Bear Dunes near Traverse City.
You’ll see everything from farmsteads, barns, and plenty of beautiful scenery. The ski trails here are not groomed, but they are well-traveled, and you’re likely to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Petoskey to Mackinac Trail
You also can’t go wrong by trekking along the Petoskey to Mackinac Trail, which covers 35 miles and goes through multiple cities. For skiers looking for different views and varying degrees of difficulty, this is one trail worth checking out.
Heritage Route 23
On Michigan’s Sunrise Side, the Heritage Route 23 offers more than 200 miles of scenic views from north of Cheboygan to Standish, and plenty of skiing opportunities.
To the north, check out Black Mountain Pathway near Onaway or the well-marked trails of Cheboygan State Park. In the Alpena area, check out Norway Ridge’s variety of loops or the wooded terrain of the Chippewa Hills pathway.
Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs, which provides a first-class skiing experience with trails on three separate peaks. This has consistently been ranked among the top ski resorts in North America.
Treetops Resort in Gaylord is known for offering some of Michigan’s best golf, but it also offers some great cross-country skiing. Treetops’ trails are beautifully groomed and offer quite an experience.
The trails wind up and down the resort’s Jones Masterpiece golf course and another portion runs along the resort’s downhill ski slopes. During the journey, visitors will see plenty of wildlife and glide past natural ponds and springs.
Cross Country Ski Trails in West Michigan
There is no better way to get out and enjoy the outdoors and stay active than cross-country skiing. In West Michigan, there are a variety of trails in Ottawa and Kent counties that can add to your cross-country skiing enjoyment.
In Wyoming, Palmer Park offers equipment to rent and access to three different two-mile loops. Each loop starts at the Kauffman Golf Course, so you’ve got access to food and warmth as you enjoy one of the best winter things to do in Grand Rapids.
In Walker, try Millennium Park with its flat terrain and almost 18 miles of trails.
Pigeon Creek Park
Nearby, Pigeon Creek Park in West Olive has well-groomed trails and even offers lessons.
Blandford Nature Center
Check out the Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids, where you’ll have plenty of trails to trek, but you’ll also get to keep warm indoors with special exhibits and you can check out the center’s wildlife care program.
As an added bonus, you’re likely only going to be a short drive away from downtown Grand Rapids, which is always hopping with activity. With its bevy of breweries and well-rated restaurants, you’re likely to find the perfect post-ski meal to nosh on.
Muskegon State Park
While you’re on the west side of Michigan, take a trip to Muskegon State Park. There you’ll find more than 15 kilometers of trails through woods, over dunes, and plenty of natural beauty. The trails range from the easy White Night Trail to the more challenging Spencer’s Advanced Trail.
Greater Kalamazoo Cross Country Ski Trails
In the Kalamazoo area, three trails you absolutely must check out are Fort Custer Recreation Area, the Kal-Haven Trail, and Yankee Springs Recreation Area.
The area also features a local group, the Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers, who are dedicated to developing cross-country ski opportunities within the city. One of their courses is at Milham Park Golf Course, offering skiers the chance to explore a well-maintained trail.
Mid-Michigan Cross Country Ski Trails
There’s no doubt of the beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and its opportunities for skiing, but the Lower Peninsula offers plenty of great opportunities too. When the snow comes to Michigan, you can find some of the best places for cross-country skiing in Mid-Michigan.
Midland City Forest
Start in Midland at Midland City Forest, where you can explore well-groomed, well-lit trails designed for all skill levels. If you’re a beginner, you can try your hand at the seven-mile beginner trail, which is lit from dusk through 8 p.m. Or you can take on the advanced loop which stretches 11K.
The Chalet at City Forest is the perfect place to warm up with a snack and some hot chocolate after you’ve hit the trails.
Greater Lansing Trails for Cross Country Skiing
In Ingham County, two of the more popular skiing spots are Burchfield Park and Lake Lansing north, both of which saw an increase in visitors last year during the pandemic.
Burchfield Park actually offers an activity called ski-skating, which blends ice skating and cross-country skiing.
The trails here are groomed for the sport, which creates a more efficient and faster version of cross country skiing. This takes some practice and a good amount of endurance, but if you’re looking for something different to do during the winter, give it a try.
Pere Marquette Rail Trail
If you’re looking to make the most of your time outdoors, check out the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, a 30-mile, paved scenic trail between Midland and Clare, which stretches across three different Michigan counties. Skiiers will be happy to learn that it’s paved every night and provides the perfect path for skiing.
More Cross Country Skiing in Mid-Michigan
If you’re in Genesee County, check out For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum, for some awesome trails.
If you feel daring, you can explore Bundy Hill Preserve, the tallest point in Isabella County. Wilson State Park in Harrison and Roscommon’s Cross Country Ski Headquarters are also places worth checking out.
East Michigan Cross Country Ski Trails
Michigan’s Thumb and Bay region is teeming with winter things to do in East Michigan, including plenty of opportunities for skiing cross-country.
Start to the north, where you can visit Corsair Trails in Tawas Bay. You’ll get a great view of Michigan while exploring the Huron National Forest and over 40 miles of trails. Corsair Trail features three different trailheads to the north of Tawas.
Skiers of all levels will enjoy these trails, which offer an exciting mix of gently rolling hills to more challenging terrain.
Oscoda Cross Country Ski Trails
North of Tawas, you can explore several exciting trails around Oscoda, including Eagle Run Hiking Trail and Highbanks Hiking and Ski Trail.
Flint Cross Country Ski Trails
There’s plenty of fun to be had in Flint, including on the trails. Check out Richfield County Park in Davison and get on with exploring the beautiful trails. Flushing County Park and Linden County Park are neat spots to check out too.
Roscommon’s Cross Country Ski Headquarters
The biggest spot to check out is Roscommon’s Cross Country Ski Headquarters. Visitors can revel in the beauty that is Pure Michigan on nationally recognized trails. The headquarters features nearly a dozen trails that are groomed daily with the same kind of groomer used on Olympic trails.
Visitors can also warm up at the Trappers Cabin, which sits just a mile from the trailhead.
Huron County Cross Country Skiing
Huron County, the literal thumb of Michigan, has no shortage of places to cross country ski. In that county alone, you can visit five public spots and start skiing. Sleeper State Park has groomed ski trails and also features some candlelight ski evening events.
Port Crescent State Park has four miles of groomed trails, while Lighthouse County Park has a mile-long trail to travel. Wagener County Park has two miles of groomed trails and the Huron County Nature Center has an almost two-mile-long loop.
Cross Country Skiing in Southcentral Michigan
There are lots of fun and exciting opportunities for cross-country skiing in southern Michigan.
Battle Creek XC Trails
Start around Battle Creek where you can visit the Leila Arboretum. In the wintertime, the Arboretum offers access to hilly terrain, perfect for skiing. You should also visit Woodland Park and Nature Preserve within the city of Battle Creek, which features about five miles of trails and plenty of natural beauty.
Greater Ann Arbor Trails for Cross Country Skiing
If you’re looking to get out and about around Ann Arbor this winter, you’ve got plenty of options. The parks are beautiful with snow-covered trees, wildlife, ice ponds, and rivers. Rolling Hills Park in Ypsilanti stays open all year and offers a flat beginner trail and a longer trail for more advanced skiers. The park also has a torch-lit ski trail that goes for half a mile.
Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter has 12 miles of trails and an activity center with a heated lounge. For another unique experience, check out Huron Meadows Metropark Trail, which has a 1K loop covered with man-made snow all year along. They also have 15 miles of groomed trails.
Chelsea Michigan Cross Country Ski Trails
Around Chelsea, take a trek on the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail and features almost 50 miles of narrowing, winding trails which can prove exciting and challenging for even the most experienced cross country skiers.
If you’re looking for another real challenge, check out Lower Huron Metropark. There you can literally carve out your own path as you cut into untouched snow as you traverse in the woods or along the Huron River.
Jackson Michigan Trails for XC Skiing
There are fun winter things to do in Jackson Michigan and skiers can enjoy both the Falling Water Trail and the Martin Luther King Equality Trail.
The Falling Waters Trail is more than 10 miles long and follows a linear route, so you won’t have to worry about crossing other trails as you ski along the Kalamazoo River and Lime Lake.
Southeast Michigan & Metro Detroit Cross Country Ski Trails
It may be far away from the woods and scenery of Northern Michigan or the Upper Peninsula, but there are some top-notch cross-country ski trails in Metro Detroit that can take you away from the nonstop hustle and bustle of the city.
Oakland County XC Ski Trails
In Oakland County, check out the Lincoln Hills Golf Course in Birmingham and Independence Oaks County Park in Clarkston. Independence Oaks boasts almost 10 miles of trails and scenic views as well as heated restrooms and warming areas. If you’re looking for a different sort of journey, visit Orion Oaks County Park in Lake Orion. There you’ll find more than 10 miles of ungroomed trails.
Kensington Metropark in Milford is also worth checking out. Not only does Kensington have more than 12 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, but it also has a center that offers food service and ski rental.
Addison Oaks County Park offers 19 miles of marked trails including the Buhl Lake Trail, a perfect 2.5-mile trek. Don’t forget Heritage Park in Farmington Hills, which has more than four miles of nature trails, which branch off across 200 acres of land.
If you’re looking for a smaller cross country run, Spencer Park in Rochester has three miles of non-groomed trails. In Shelby Township, you can trek more than 13 miles of marked trails at Stony Creek Metropark. Similarly, Indian Springs Metropark in White Lake offers trails for all skill levels across 12 miles.
Mt Holly Ski and Snowboard Resort
If you’re looking to go cross skiing as part of a resort trip, look no further than Mt. Holly Ski and Snowboard Resort. There you’ll have access to expertly groomed trails, 19 in all, ranging in difficulty.
More Metro Detroit Winter Fun
Once you’ve completed your day’s exploring, there are more Metro Detroit winter things to do plus dozens of spots where you can go and warm up. After a short car ride, downtown Detroit is the perfect spot to grab a bite and really soak in the Michigan winter atmosphere.
FAQs About Cross Country Skiing in Michigan
Whether you’re exploring Michigan for the first time or taking up cross country skiing for the first time, it always helps to know where you can and can’t go and what you can and can’t do. Here are a few helpful FAQs:
What do I need to know as a beginner?
Cross country skiing can be fun, but you need the right equipment and you need to stay safe.
Sticking with a classic style, that is kicking and gliding, will help you stay on the trail. Be mindful of the weather and never ski for long distances alone.
Make sure to dress in layers, know your skill level and ability levels, and get the right equipment (rental equipment is available from many different places across the state) – boots, skis, and poles – so that you’re ready to go.
Can you cross country ski on hiking trails?
Yes, in fact many hikers switch to cross country skiing in the wintertime as a different way to experience the trail. Before you head out, it’s important to check trail conditions. You should also check to see if a trail is marked or unmarked, and remember to be courteous on the trails.
Can you cross country ski on snowmobile trails?
As with Michigan hiking trails, snowmobile trails in Michigan can also be shared by cross country skiers. Keep in mind what kind of multi-use trails you’re on and remember to share the trail. Trail maps are available online and at many trailhead locations across the state.
Can you XC ski on ungroomed trails?
Yes, you can, but it’s not for everyone. It can be fun to create your tracks deep in the woods, but the more experienced you are, the better off you’re going to be.
Well-groomed tracks are perfect for beginners, but inexperienced skiers should be careful about ungroomed trails. You don’t want to get lost and have no idea how to find your way back. Know the ski trail conditions before you head out!
Does Caberfae have cross-country skiing?
The good news for visitors to Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac is the trail system there is 10 miles and has several different loop combinations. The trails are groomed regularly and marked with directional signs and trail location maps.