Seattle – the land of Starbucks – may have met its match in Marquette.
The Upper Peninsula city is home to more independently owned coffee shops per capita than the Pacific Northwest area that is synonymous with java culture. The local roasters and craft coffee brewers are ideal for a morning wake-me-up, a mid-day break or an afternoon warm-up following a day outdoors.
And that’s important as winter snow and cold loom, a change of seasons that offers more opportunity to relax as the crowds get smaller while the fun never stops. This Lake Superior shoreline city is known for its summer outdoor adventure and its innovative food and beer scene, but it can be overlooked for winter getaways.
The region has an extensive network of trails that lend themselves to hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and fatbiking. Marquette is also recognized as the birthplace of North American organized skiing, and the hills remain incredible.
Before learning more about winter outdoor recreation, it’s smart to game-plan for what you’ll do to enjoy the culinary and craft cocktail scene.
Here are five must-stop coffee shops to think about visiting.
There are dozens of places to grab a great meal and a cold beer – craft brews know no season and visitors can even continue the outdoor theme in a heated igloo at Blackrocks.
Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing
The Noquemanon Trail Network offers unmatched outdoor experiences with 50K of maintained trails that can be used recreationally for point to point or looped outings. Trail experts recommend snowshoe users start on the singletrack at the Forestville Trailhead, and they ask that people steer clear of the trails groomed from classic and skate skiing. Rentals are available at Forestville, and as a bonus to dog owners, your furry friend is welcome to get outside with you.
The outdoor outfitter Down Wind Sports say the difficulty of snowshoeing is often overestimated.
“If you can walk you can snowshoe,” they remind users. “(It’s) one of the easiest ways to get outside in the winter and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has no shortage of places to explore.
Down Wind recommends hitting the Eben Ice Caves, Yellow Dog Falls and Hogsback Mountain as other potential outings.
If you’re still more comfortable in your own two boots, the trails up Sugarloaf Mountain and Blueberry Ridge remain popular in the down season. The majestic views of snow-covered terrain from atop Sugarloaf are just as mesmerizing as the other three seasons. The half-mile trail is well marked, and while it will be slower-going with snow, the terrain is manageable for people of all fitness and skill levels. The city’s 12-mile multi-use trail is another great option to get those steps in.
In a two-week window last winter, three separate snowstorms each dumped between 12 and 24 inches around Marquette. Add in an icestorm of “legendary proportions” and the dreaded below zero temperatures of the polar vortex, and it would have led most people to hunker down and stay inside.
Marquette threw a party and held a fatbike race.
Todd Poquette, who runs the Polar Roll winter adventure race with 30-mile and 15-mile bike routes and a 10K snowshoe event, chuckles when recalling heading into the woods to clear choked off trails that were battered by fallen and hanging trees and a base buried by ice and powder.
“Miraculously, the show went on,” said Poquette. “I think it’s part of the culture. We don’t slow down just because the summer ends. We still have a lot of cool events that happen throughout the year, and people really enjoy getting out and getting together.
“Everyone understands that the conditions are part of the experience.”
For the Polar Roll, Poquette says there are roughly 450 race participants – they’ve had riders from nearly every state, including California and Arizona since its 2015 inception – and hundreds more who come for the festivities. The atmosphere is built around the collective experience.
On the course, there are areas with people grilling food, handing out drinks and the “Hugs and Bacon” aid station that has developed into a favorite. There’s a post-race party with live music.
“We make it a good time for everyone,” Poquette said.
Marquette also activates for these key winter events, but the area’s full scope of entertainment options can found here.
Staged on the Noquemanon Trail Network, the “Noque” is a point-to-point cross country ski race that offers varying lengths of competition, including 50K individual, 50K relay, 24K and 10K events. There are also snowshoe and snowbike options that traverse rolling hills, frozen lakes and majestic woods. The 22nd annual event in 2020 will be held Jan. 24-26 and has become a fixture in the outdoor landscape of Michigan and its Midwestern neighbors. The scenic terrain promises a lifetime of warm memories. The race’s non-profit status is dedicated to furthering non-motorized trail development, preserving all-season outdoor recreation for future generations.
This sled dog race, in its 30th year running from Marquette to Grand Marais and back, marks its territory as the third-longest event in the continental United States and provides a glimpse at what happens in the renowned Iditarod race. Mushers powered by 12-dog teams welcome crowd support from the start in downtown Marquette, along the way at checkpoints during the race and a raucous environment as they return to the finish line along Lower Harbor Park. The trail actually clocks in at 230 miles long despite the race name, and it’s a testament to the endurance and drive of the team. Head to Marquette to experience it for the first time from Feb. 13-17, 2020.
Visit Travel Marquette to learn more about the region and plan your visit.