You will love cross-country skiing in the Upper Peninsula!
When it comes to cross-country skiing, the Upper Peninsula has boasting rights for being the best place in Michigan to glide or skate between November and mid-April. Ski along miles of groomed trails through magical snowy scenes from Ironwood to Drummond Island. Reach century-old lighthouses and vast Great Lakes beaches, be awed by frozen waterfalls, glide through historic sites and spy wildlife in the U.P. 's whisper-quiet wilderness. Peacefulness will do your heart and mind good.
Where to rent or buy cross-country skis | What to wear | U.P. cross-country skiing etiquette | Favorite cross-country skiing trails | Tours and places to visit | Annual events | Links to trails and pathways
Where to rent or buy cross-country skis in the U.P.
If you don’t own skis or want to try cross-country skiing before you buy, there are plenty of places to rent them in the Upper Peninsula. Here is a list of places you can buy and/or get rentals.
Western Upper Peninsula
- Down Wind Sports | Houghton
- Michigan Tech Recreation | Houghton
- Mt. Zion Recreational Complex | Ironwood
- Porkies Winter Sports Complex | Ontonagon
- Sylvania Outfitters | Watersmeet
Central Upper Peninsula
- Brampton Bike & Ski | Gladstone
- Down Wind Sports | Marquette
- Down Wind Sports | Munising
- Maple Lane Archery & Ski Center/Ski Area |Skandia
- Mr. Bike, Ski & Fitness | Escanaba
- Superior Outfitters | Marquette
Eastern Upper Peninsula
- Drummond Island Resort & Conference Center | Drummond Island
- Dunham’s Sports | Sault Ste. Marie
What to wear and bring when cross-country skiing
This is a highly aerobic sport, so dress in layers. For your base layer, start with a thermal shirt and pants that wick sweat and dry quickly. Next, add a sweatshirt or fleece and pants or leggings. Top it off with a warm, water-resistant winter coat or jacket that lets your arms move freely. Add a hat that covers your ears (in the U.P. we recommend a Stormy Kromer) and mittens or gloves. To reduce sweating, find jackets or fleeces with zip-necks or front and side vents that allow you to release some of the heat. On your feet, start with wool or synthetic socks, followed by warm boots and your cross-country skis and poles.
Bring a backpack and include sunscreen and sunglasses, your mobile phone, a compass, extra socks, a first aid kit, water, non-freezable and high-energy snacks, a headlamp, a knife and matches.
Cross-country ski etiquette in the Upper Peninsula
When snowshoeing on groomed trails, first read the map or signs.
There are two types of groomed trails: classic skiers use tracks and skate skiers followe trails with a corduroy-like surface. When skating, please stay off classic tracks so as not to ruin the experience for traditional cross-country skiers.
Be considerate of other skiers.
- If you are slower than the skier coming up behind you, step out of the track or pull your poles close to your body and let them step out of the track and pass around you.
- If you are skiing faster than the person in front of you, say “Excuse me.” If they are not comfortable stepping out of the track, let them know you will pass around them.
- If you need to stop along the track, step aside. Do not stop at the bottom of the hills. Other skiers may have a difficult time avoiding bumping into you.
- When tucking on downhills, point your ski pole tips down, not upward behind your armpits. You want to avoid poking the following skier in the eye.
- Check the trail rules before bringing your dog on your cross-country skiing adventure. Keep your pooch on a leash and off the tracks.
Avoid snowmobile trails.
Keep an eye out and listen for motorized vehicles and trail groomers headed your way or coming from behind. Move off the trail to let them go by.
Favorite places to cross-country ski in the Upper Peninsula
You could spend a lifetime cross-country skiing and not glide or skate across the miles and miles of trails, roads and beaches that welcome you to discover winter’s beauty at its best. From Copper Harbor to the lighthouse on the Stonington Peninsula and Drummond Island to Ironwood, this silent snow sport is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Scroll to the end of this page for a comprehensive list of trails and parks, but here are some of our regional best.
Western Upper Peninsula
- ABR Trails, Ironwood. On the westernmost side of the peninsula, this full-service ski center offers 60 km of some of the most beautiful scenery along the Montreal River.
- Copper Harbor Trail System, Copper Harbor. The trailhead for the original 9 km of winter trails is centrally located behind the Copper Harbor Welcome Center. This multi-use system is regularly groomed and includes classic ski tracks. Go easily through the woods or take it up a few notches to glide along ridges to see icy formations along Lake Superior’s rocky shoreline.
- Michigan Tech University Recreation Area and Nara Trails, Houghton. With over 50 miles of trails to explore, this is a popular destination near campus. A chalet is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Trail map
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Ontonagon. With 200+ inches of annual snowfall, it is no wonder cross-country skiers frequent these trails. A trail pass at the ski area contains a customized lift ticket that provides quick access to the groomed cross-country ski trails on the alpine ski area’s backside. Or really get away from it all exploring the park’s 90 miles of ungroomed trails! Winter trail map
- Swedetown Recreation Area, Calumet. More than 30 km of meticulously groomed trails offer a great outdoor experience for all skiing levels. As a bonus, 5 km are lit every night until 10 p.m.
Central Upper Peninsula
- Fayette State Park and Historic Townsite, Garden Peninsula. Five miles of groomed cross-country ski trails with views of the preserved boomtown gone bust, woods and Snail Shell Harbor limestone cliffs.
- Noquemanon Trail Network, Marquette. 45 km of multiple trail choices to match your skiing level. This trail network also allows skijoring with your leashed dog.
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Grand Marais to Munising. Lake Superior churns up some heavy snowfalls, closing many of the park’s roads which make this a classic cross-country skier’s paradise — sorry no skate skiing allowed. Scenic high points include Munising Falls and Sable Falls. Grand Marais Ski Trails and Munising Ski Trails
- Presque Isle Park, Marquette. Miles of trails through central woods or to some of the most scenic Lake Superior overlooks. They groom trails for classic and skate skiing.
- Rapid River National Cross-Country Ski Trail, Rapid River. There are over 17 miles of fun for all levels — five loops for classic skiers and two loops for skate skiers.
Eastern Upper Peninsula
- Algonquin Pathway, Sault Ste. Marie. Traverse a 9-mile trail along ridges and through hardwood and conifer forests. Adults and children will like the nightly illuminated 1.6-mile loop.
- Drummond Island. Spend hours cross-country skiing on miles of trails.
- Mackinac Island. The entire north and east side of the Victorian-era island is available for cross-country skiing with 5 to 10 miles of trails always groomed (weather permitting). See natural wonders such as Arch Rock or reach the island’s highest point, Fort Holmes. All cross-country skiers should add the island to their bucket list.
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Paradise. Glide along well-marked, groomed cross-country ski trails to see some of the most picturesque scenery in Michigan. The highlights of this adventure are the frozen Upper (Michigan’s version of Niagara Falls) and the Lower Tahquamenon Falls.
Cross-country skiing tours
- Marquette Country Tours | Marquette | Ski on scenic, groomed trails
- Marquette Recreational Tours | Marquette | Tours based on ability level; great for beginners
- U.P. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum | Ishpeming | Over 15,000 square feet of exhibits dedicated to these snow sports
Annual Cross-Country Skiing Events in the Upper Peninsula
- Early January | Lantern-lit Ski & Snowshoe | Blueberry Ridge Pathway, Gwinn | 1.7-mile lighted loop
- January | SISU Ski Fest, Ironwood | 15K and 30K Ski Races & 5K Fun Ski
- January | Noquemanon Ski Marathon, Ishpeming | Race between Ishpeming and Marquette
- Mid-January | Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — FREE Entrance into National Parks | Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
- Mid-January | Midwest Telefest | Porcupine Mountains Winter Sports Complex | races, gang skiing and demonstrations
- January & February | Lantern-Lit Trail Hike | Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
- January, February & March | Twilight Turtle Trek | Mackinac Island State Park | Lantern-lit snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trek
- March | Taste & Glide | Valley Spur Trails, Munising | Skiing, a lodge-full of food plus booths on B Trail