When Cori-Ann Cearly assesses the outlook for the Upper Peninsula snowmobiling season, there’s zero worry about what it will produce: “There’s never really a problem or a question if we’ll have enough snow,” she says with a laugh.
Alger County averages 230 inches of snow each winter and while the season has started slowly in the southern reaches of Michigan, the U.P. is ahead of schedule having gotten hit by heavy accumulation in November.
Munising, where Cearly is the president of the visitors bureau, is branded the Snowmobile Capital of the Midwest and is the place to be for sled riders looking for a complete trail system that allows travel between towns, through magical woods and to majestic ice caves and ice structures that daring climbers scale daily.
The Munising region is home to more than 300 miles of groomed terrain – more about that later – that can match any snowmobiler’s taste for adventure or an easy day on the packed surfaces to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Miner’s Castle. There are also opportunities for off-trail excursions for a more rugged ride.
Trail reports show an average snow depth and base of 40 inches already, and the snowiest months of the winter are still ahead of the area. Here are four reasons to visit and stay in Munising in January and beyond:
Crowds are smaller: Now, to be fair, with 300 miles of trails and countless off-trail spots to ride, there’s rarely snowmobile gridlock. History, however, shows that February is the busiest time of the year for people to visit and stay in Munising while snowmobiling. By beating the masses going to the Michigan Ice Fest or the UP 200, Midnight Run & Jack Pine 30 sled dog races, you’ll have more room to roam – and slide easier into area bars and restaurants to warm up and enjoy a refreshing beverage or a tasty meal. All that said, February is fun, too!
Groomed trails: Members of the Snowmobile & O.R.V. Association of Alger County have been preparing the 300-mile trail network for months, and once the snow accumulates the group goes out every night with heavy machinery to perfect the trail. Cearly said the ride is so smooth “it’s like a highway in the woods.” The bump-free surface is easier on the rider and on the sled.
Better rates: Lodging rates fluctuate with demand, and as noted earlier, February is the high-traffic season. That means there are even better deals to be found at area hotels. If you don’t have your own machine, you can potentially find rental sleds available at a lower cost as well. It’s the perfect time for a quick winter weekend up north.
Shake off the holiday stress: The holiday haze is real as we spend much of November and December rushing around shopping and going to gatherings only to hunker down with the turn of the new year. Break out of the cabin fever doldrums and see natural beauty that will relieve all the pent-up pressure.