Despite Michigan’s reputation for its harsh snowfalls, the winter season also brings out the icy beauty of this Great Lakes State. The state boasts a number of well-maintained state parks, nature reserves, and private properties that are open to outdoor enthusiasts of all types this season. While spring hasn’t arrived yet, it’s never too late to engage in your favorite winter pastimes. Here are some of the places around Lake Huron that we highly recommend for your favorite outdoor activities this chilly season:
Located at the tip of the Thumb, Port Crescent State Park is a county park in Huron County five miles southwest of Port Austin along Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. The public recreation area covers 640 acres of land along M-25 highway in Hume Township. It is home to a dark preserve, a modern and pet-friendly campground with waterfront views and a camper cabin. Aside from its wooden boardwalk, the park offers visitors opportunities for canoeing, hiking, fishing, birding, and hunting.
As one of the only seven dark sky preserves in Michigan, Port Crescent State Park is protected against light pollution and has exceptional grounds for stargazing. A viewing platform is also available at the parking lot. The park also offers day-use trails, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing during winter. The park is open daily from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
Port Crescent State Park
1775 Port Austin Rd., Port Austin, MI 48467
The almost one-million-acre Huron-Manistee National Forests lies between the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Used to be two separate forests, it was combined in 1945 for administrative purposes. The Huron-Manistee National Forests provide recreation opportunities for visitors, habitat for fish and wildlife, and resources for local industry. Its headquarters is in Cadillac.
The Huron-Manistee National Forests features miles of rivers and streams, particularly Pere Marquette and Au Sable Rivers, that offer canoeing and fishing. It also has over 330 mi. of trails for hiking and designated grounds for camping.
Whatever the season is, the Huron-Manistee National Forests has something to offer to everyone. During the winter season, around 600 mi. of snowmobile trails, which are groomed by several partner organizations, are open to outdoor enthusiasts. Winter camping is available in Au Sable River Primitive Camps, Meadows Campground, or McKinley and River Road Campgrounds. Campers do not need a permit to camp on the national forests or designated campgrounds. Likewise, a wood permit to cut firewood is not needed if the campfire is on national forest lands. Walk-on ice fishing is also permitted on national forest lands, though no vehicle may be driven onto the ice of any body of water on the national forests.
Huron-Manistee National Forests
1755 S. Mitchell St., Cadillac, MI 49601
Referred to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” the 183-acre park is located along Lake Huron on the end of a sand spit that forms Tawas Bay. Though the campground is popular as a summer destination, it has camper cabins, campsites, and mini-cabins for winter. Tawas Point State Park also offers snowshoeing, ice skating, and ice fishing. Best place for bird and lighthouse photography.
Tawas Point State Park
686 Tawas Beach Road, East Tawas MI 48730
(989) 362-5041 / (800) 447-2757
Negwegon State Park is a rustic, undeveloped state park along Lake Huron which features a picturesque sandy beach and meadows of hardwood trees that are open for hunting and hiking. The 4,118-acre park is another designated dark sky preserve for night sky viewing. The park’s terrain is a mixture of lowland areas, small ridges, and pockets of open meadows. Located on US-23, Negwegon Park’s entrance is located in Sand Hill Trail and Negwegon State Park Road, north of Black River. Drivers are advised to take precautions when visiting the area as the roads leading to the park are often sandy. Negwegon State Park is a popular winter backcountry campsite.
Negwegon State Park
Sandhill Road, Harrisville, MI 48740
Norway Ridge Pathway is a seven-mile scenic trail of sandy ridges and lowland stretches of red pines. Close to Alpena, the trail is open all-year round for nature walks, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and bird watching.
Norway Ridge Pathway Trailhead
2502-3540 Werth Rd., Alpena, MI 49707