Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a magical place in the winter months. Visitors can find activities for every member of the family and fitness level. Whether you’re visiting for Christmas or New Year or looking for a winter getaway destination, you can spend a day or a week enjoying all the winter things to do in the Upper Peninsula!
Cross-Country Trails in the Upper Peninsula
With the amount of snow that the Upper Peninsula receives, it is no surprise to learn you’ll have many choices when it comes to cross-country skiing trails.
The Porcupine Mountains have over 25 miles of cross-country ski trails surrounding its downhill slopes. Four main trails and countless small trails are available. Three warming huts are offered, and you will be enthralled by the beauty of the frozen waterfalls you encounter along the way.
Wolverine Ski Trails in Ironwood has 8 trails over 24 kilometers that cater to traditional cross-country skiers and skate skiing. Trails range from novice to expert. The warming chalet offers cookies and hot chocolate. If you travel with your well-behaved dog, they are welcome on the trails here.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore also has several cross-country ski trails located throughout the park. You may choose between short loops around the lakeside trail system or longer trips through the woods. There are three warming shelters at Pictured Rocks where visitors can enjoy snacks and beverages while waiting out inclement weather conditions.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park has two groomed cross-country ski trails winding their way through the forest near Tahquamenon Lake. Both trails have signs indicating which direction to go.
Upper Peninsula Snowmobiling Trails
How can you go wrong when there are 3000 miles of groomed trails in the Upper Peninsula? This region has been rated one of the best destinations for snowmobiling in the country.
The Lake Gogebic area is not to be missed. With more than 150 miles of trails, you travel past frozen waterfalls to Lake of the Clouds for spectacular views. Lake Gogebic is the largest inland natural lake in the UP and deserves a visit.
If you love snowmobile racing, you can enjoy some of the best races in the Upper Peninsula. The I-500 Annual Snowmobile Race takes place in Sault St Marie and is the biggest event in the Upper Peninsula. If NASCAR excites you, this one-mile ice track offers winter thrills.
Upper Peninsula Winter Festivals
The Michigan Ice Fest in Munising is a combination of clinics, demonstrations, film presentations, and ice climbing for all levels and ages. After-parties give participants a chance to mingle and exchange stories. If you don’t want to climb, spectators are always encouraged.
The Winter Carnival at Michigan Tech is an annual event in Houghton known for its snow sculptures and a multitude of outdoor activities. Plan ahead, and book your hotel early, so you don’t miss out on the sleigh rides, dog sled rides, and fireworks display.
See Santa in the UP
What could be better than seeing Santa and Mrs. Claus, their elves, and reindeer in Christmas, Michigan? You can enjoy the outdoors with cross country skiing and snowmobiling. Bring your holiday cards to mail from their post office for a special postmark.
Hometown Christmas Ontonagon offers lots of family-friendly activities over an entire weekend that begins with tree trimming on Friday night, breakfast with the Grinch on Saturday, and culminates with a Sunday night parade. In between, you can enter the gingerbread contest, shop for crafts at the Christmas Craft Walk, and partake in many other festive events.
Looking for family fun? If you are a train enthusiast, head to Linden for a trip with Santa’s elves. Visit Santa before your ride. Give him your Christmas wish list, get your candy cane and cookie from Mrs. Claus and ride the train through a winter wonderland.
Explore Ice Caves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
A mile-long walk gets you to the amazing Eben Ice Caves in Eben Junction. The trail passes over fields and through woods. Hikers are encouraged to wear ice cleats when exploring near and inside the caves. The spectacular formation is the result of melting snow running over a small cliff and freezing. Prepare to be wowed.
Viewing the Northern Lights in Michigan
The amazing phenomenon known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is visible in the Upper Peninsula and a winter visit allows you to see it at its most spectacular. One place to view it is Ontonagon County. Find a spot and look up to the nighttime sky for this free show.
Another great viewing location is Marquette on the southern shore of Lake Superior, which offers unparalleled views across hundreds of miles of water. Find a dark spot, get comfortable, and set your eyes on the sky.
New Year’s Eve on the Upper Peninsula
Time Square has “The Ball” but Mackinac Island has “The Turtle”, a 70-pound green fiberglass turtle that sparkles. This is New Year’s Eve Mackinac style!! Be sure to pick up some Mackinac Island Fudge during your visit.
If you prefer the traditional ball drop, head to downtown Marquette on New Year’s Eve. Follow the crowd to the junction of Washington and Front Street and wait for the ball to drop from the historic Savings Bank Building.
Upper Peninsula Snowshoeing
For snowshoeing trails that take you to places you can’t go easily in the warm weather, Copper Harbor offers Estivant Pines Sanctuary and Hunter’s Point Park. These trails are not groomed and range from easy to moderate. This is wilderness, so use common sense when venturing out.
The Swedetown Trails in Calumet has 3 marked snowshoe trails. You have your choice of locations; remote, village vistas, or multi-use trails where dogs are welcome, and the trail is packed by snowmobiles.
During the winter, the entrance and parking lot of Tahquamenon Falls State Park are normally properly maintained. This provides you quick access to the major trails as well as spectacular views of the ice waterfalls.
Additional popular places to go snowshoeing in the Upper Peninsula include:
- Little Bay De Noc Trail is a 2.5-mile route that runs from Escanaba to Gladstone on the bay’s northwest shore.
- Munising’s Valley Spur Snowshoe Trail path system takes you through hardwood woodland, meadows, and numerous tiny lakes.
- Wooded pathways lead to caves with spectacular shimmering sheets of ice to explore at Eben Ice Caves.
- Presque Isle Park in Marquette offers peaceful forested pathways as well as breathtaking views of Lake Superior.
- There are numerous well-marked paths providing options for hikers of all ability levels at Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming.
- Explore the Keweenaw’s old-growth forests on miles of paths along the Copper Harbor Pathway.
- Snowshoeing on the Michigan Tech & Nara Trails system is suitable for people of all ability levels.
- Enjoy a hike through the forests or the ice formations along the rocky shores of Lake Superior in McLain State Park.
- Explore a variety of steep pathways with beautiful views of the natural world in Fumee Lake Natural Area.
Downhill Skiing in the Upper Peninsula
Snow comes early to the Upper Peninsula, and it is not uncommon to have late fall skiing. With 9 ski resorts in the Upper Peninsula, every level of expertise is catered to, from beginner to expert. Whether you enjoy skiing or snowboarding, you will have a multitude of runs to choose from.
Ski Brule is a resort with something for every member of the family with 17 ski runs and lots of organized children’s activities. Cross-country skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and fat-tire biking are all offered.
Mt. Bohemia appeals to adrenaline junkies with a vertical drop of 900 feet and gives extreme skiers exactly what they crave. They offer Snowcat skiing for those who want the experience of skiing in a pristine, remote setting. When you aren’t skiing, enjoy the Nordic Spa, where you can enjoy a cold and hot water rejuvenating experience.
Upper Peninsula Breweries
While outdoor activities are what the Upper Peninsula is all about, in every season, you do need to chill out during your visit, and visiting one of the exceptional UP breweries is a great way to taste the local brew.
Keweenaw Brewing Company taproom in downtown Houghton offers a selection of beers brewed right on the premises. Relax in a cozy atmosphere, munch on peanuts, and order food for delivery from local restaurants. A great way to spend a snowy winter’s evening.
Cold Iron Brewing in Ironwoodoffers craft beer, brewed in small batches on-site. Stop in to relax with a Honey Cream Ale or an Ayer St. Amber, take part in the trivia competition, or enjoy live entertainment. It is located only two minutes from the snowshoe and ski trails at Miners Memorial Park.
UP Winter Indoor Activities
If you are feeling lucky and would like to try your hand at games of chance, head to the Ojibwa Casino in Baraga and Marquette. You can play the slots or table games, dine in style, and enjoy their onsite hotel in Baraga.
Places to Ice Fish in the Upper Peninsula
For the avid fisherman, frozen lakes offer a unique challenge. The Upper Peninsula has phenomenal fishing year-round. Take your pick, sit on a bucket or set up an ice fishing shanty, you will have plenty of company.
Savvy fishermen head to Lake Michigan and opt for either Little Bay or Big Bay du Noc. Walleye, yellow perch, and pike of trophy size are there for the catching. Other options for top-notch ice fishing are Au Train Lake and Squaw Pond.