Many people think of Manistee County and think sugar sand beaches and miles of Lake Michigan Shoreline but often overlook our winter activities. During the winter months, the landscape transforms and you will come across miles of awesome cross country ski trails – groomed along with back country opportunities. Come up for the weekend and check out our trails. Here are some top cross-country ski areas in the region.
BIG-M SKI AREA: (TOP CHOICE)
One of the best places to cross-country ski and snowshoe is Big-M. Located near Wellston off M-55 in the middle of a hardwood pine forest, Big-M features 46 miles of trails over a variety of terrain, providing opportunities for people of all skill levels. Its setting among Udell Hills offers skiers and snowshoers a challenge while rewarding them with breathtaking views of the Manistee National Forest. Big-M is maintained by the Manistee Cross Country Ski Council, a nonprofit volunteer organization that operates in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. The trails and lodge at Big-M are operated through donations from ski council members and users.
Big-M also hosts many events throughout the year. During the full moon evenings in January and February, you will find moonlight skiing at Big-M. You will also find various fat bike, mountain bike and other ride/race events o the Big-M trails throughout winter and the warm weather months.
MANISTEE NON-MOTORIZED PARK: (TOP GROOMED “CLOSE TO MANISTEE” OPTION)
The City of Manistee Non-Motorized Transportation Committee and the Shoreline Cycling Club recently collaborated to create a new trail system on city-owned property off M-55 in Manistee Township. The group will be maintaining the 3.2 miles of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing this year, and hopes to expand the system in coming years. The dedication of local volunteers shows that the area is filled with people who look forward to that first blanket of fluffy white snow each year, and welcome others to partake in the joys winter in Manistee has to offer.
NORTH COUNTRY TRAIL: (BEST FOR SECLUSION & BREAKING TRAIL – EXPERTS ONLY)
The famous North Country trail runs right through the heart of Manistee County, and therefore XC skiing opportunities are abundant! Take advantage of this and enjoy. Keep in mind, these trails are not groomed and the difficulty and terrain can vary quickly. Some of the best terrain is at the eastern edge of the county where the North Country Trail and Manistee River Trail join to create an excellent 14 mile loop. The Upper River Trailhead is the best part to begin at as the trail is more flat and easy going, however, as you continue to venture north the trail is quite undulating and difficult.
ORCHARD BEACH STATE PARK (BEST BEGINNER TRAILS)
A great spot for a quick morning ski. This 2.5 miles of trail systems is great for the beginner. There are a great set of trails, however, they are not machine groomed, but you are certain to find some tracks of other skiers if it hasn’t snowed in a while. This is also a great spot to take your pet and let them exercise while you get a workout! Keep in mind this is a State Park and therefore, a State Park permit is required.
MAGOON CREEK NATURAL AREA (BEST WITH PETS)
Another great spot for you and your pet. No groomed trails but the 2+ miles of trails create a great loop for an early morning or later evening ski. Magoon Creek is a personal favorite for many with pets and with direct access to the beach, on a calm sunny day, you can traverse the shoreline for about 2.5 miles back to the beaches in Manistee, or south for 10+ miles of uninterrupted shoreline.