Michigan’s Upper Peninsula holds a treasure trove of scenery. There are many unique mountain ranges, roaring rivers, and cascading waterfalls that exist only in the wilderness of Northern Michigan. Summers in the U.P. are beautiful, to say the least. Warm sunshine allows for excellent beach days, while the cooler nights allow for perfect campfire conditions. As summer fades and snow covers the ground, new roads open. No, you cannot drive your car down these roads, but you can definitely snowshoe on them.
Snowshoeing is an active hobby in which nearly anyone can participate. All it requires is for you to walk.
Snowshoeing is an underrated activity—it takes you places inaccessible by regular foot, has low impact on the environment, and is good cardio as well. Since snowshoeing is so easy on the body, you will burn a lot of calories without even knowing it. If you use poles, you’ll burn even more calories. According to Yukon Charlie’s, a snowshoe manufacturing company, someone who is 180 pounds can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour from vigorous snowshoeing.
“Poles are a helpful accessory for snowshoeing,” says Jackson DeAugustine of Down Wind Sports. Down Wind Sports is a U.P. sports retail store specializing in snowshoeing, snowboarding and other “Yooper” sports. The store has locations in Marquette, Houghton, and Munising. DeAugustine grew up in Newberry, but now lives in Marquette. He explains that poles help you snowshoe uphill and across uneven territory with ease.
DeAugustine notes one of his favorite places to snowshoe is Munising’s iconic Pictured Rocks. The view along the coast is his favorite part, and being so close to the water. Pictured Rocks is an excellent location to snowshoe because there are so many interesting things to see. There are waterfalls, forests, and a long shore complementing the deepest Great Lake. He adds that snowshoes are nice to transport you to climbing spots, or whatever other winter activities you enjoy that require getting somewhere in the woods that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Not only is snowshoeing good for your physical health, but it can be beneficial mentally as well.
Sight-seeing is a favorite U.P. attraction, even for residents. It feels good to get outside and breathe in crisp, fresh air. Snowshoeing can be a fun social outing, or a time to just get out in nature and reflect. It is in these picture-perfect sceneries that we can sometimes process our busy, problematic lives. The solace nature provides is unobtainable anywhere else.
Northwoods Adventures, a U.P. outfitter/guide service, offers a helpful reference to other places to snowshoe. In the Marquette area, they recommend the Eben Ice Caves in the Rock River Canyon Wilderness Area. I have been there myself, and truly feel this one is a must-see. It is located by Eben Junction, and if you go during the winter, you will likely find a trail of parked cars leading in.
When you arrive, there are lots of porta-potties marking an open field entrance to the caves. You trek your way across, and are met with Pure Michigan all around you—the birds singing, and the sun sneaking its way to you through the bare branches of tall trees. Snowshoes are great here because they will bite down and give you the traction you need to climb up slippery, winter slopes. When you reach the temporary caves, you will thank your snowshoes and yourself for making the journey in!
Other recommended places for snowshoeing include Yellow Dog Falls off County Road 510, and Hogback Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain off County Road 550.
If you’re closer to Houghton, Northwoods Adventures suggests you check out Hungarian Falls around Tamarack City. You can get there using a seasonal road off Sixth Street, and then go down a snowmobile trail until you reach a foot trail near a bridge. Mt. Lookout and Breakers are two other good spots for snowshoeing in the Houghton area.
Now you know where and what, but perhaps still aren’t sure when or how to get started.
The best conditions for snowshoeing are when there is freshly fallen. light, fluffy snow. This is so the snowshoes can do their job keeping you afloat. Temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees are best, so the snow is able to stick, but not be so freezing that it’s uncomfortable to be outside. Remember to always dress in layers, so you can add or remove them, keeping a pleasant body temperature during your outdoor activities.
You can start by going to your local sporting goods store to get yourself a nice pair of snowshoes. You will want a larger shoe if you are going to be covering longer, more consistent surfaces. If you are going to be hiking mountains, or through uneven terrain, you may be better off with a smaller shoe. Poles are not required but can help reduce fatigue, especially on longer journeys. Ask questions, and staff members at outfitters will be more than happy to get you the right gear for your needs.
As with any journey off of familiar roads, you should always consider your safety. Avoid going alone. Bring a compass, tell someone where you are going, and tell them when you should be back. Bring a lighter, a multi-tool to hnadle unexpected equi9pment malfunctions, a water bottle, a whistle, maybe some snacks. The last thing you want to be in the wilderness is unprepared.
My final word of advice to you? Get outside, and try snowshoeing this winter sports season. You won’t regret it!
Jesse Wiederhold, twenty-one, is a senior English writing major attending Northern Michigan University. He is a pet dad to three cats, and loves to write. He spends time with friends, goes on hikes, enjoys snowshoeing in the winter, and is an avid aquarium enthusiast.
Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.