Rolling Out the White Carpet

Cadillac blankets visitors with warm welcomes and outdoor delights
Fat-tire bikers hit the wooded Cadillac Pathway. // Photos courtesy of Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau

In Cadillac, a ton of snow really is a good thing.

“We’ve been blessed with being in a little pocket of some of the best snow in the Lower Peninsula,” says Pete Finch, owner of Coyote Crossing Resort, which welcomes snowmobilers, ice fishermen, skiers, and snowshoers when the temperature plummets each season.

Tucked into northwest lower Michigan, about three and a half hours from Detroit, Cadillac is a popular and affordable hub for snowmobiling and other winter sports. With 200 miles of carefully groomed snowmobile trails, three scenic lakes, clear rivers, and the Caberfae Peaks ski resort, energetic Cadillac blankets visitors not just with snow, but with warmth.

Want to try paddling in winter? Pine River Paddlesports owners Jacob, Mark, and Alaney Miltner will offer guided winter rafting trips down the Pine River.Spend 60 to 90 minutes on a rubber raft floating amid crystal splendor, then either hike back on the Silver Creek Pathway trail or ride in a warm car. The fast river doesn’t freeze, so rafting is possible.

The winter trip (usually December through March) is magical, especially after a heavy snow. “It’s the beauty — it’s hard to explain; it’s the constant changing of the river in the winter and the quiet,” Jacob Miltner says. “It’s a totally different experience than summer.”

Lucky skiers take in the amazing winter views from the top of Caberfae Peaks and on its South Peak chairlift.

Snowmobiling might sound a bit intimidating, but K&R Outfitters in Cadillac arranges guided snowmobile tours for beginners, snowmobile included. Most trails wind through the million-acre Huron-Manistee National Forests, often stopping at the tiny Boone Country Store.

Serious snowmobilers appreciate the meticulous grooming that makes Cadillac trails so smooth, according to Finch. “The trails are our pride and joy,” he says. “Snowmobilers want to ride where trails are smooth and cared for.”

For confident sledders, independent snowmobile rentals are available at spots in town. Many visitors seek a classic “Up North” experience, so the Coyote Crossing Resort has 10 wood-paneled, two-bedroom cabins, a bar-restaurant, and plenty of space to park your snowmobile or off road vehicle (ORV). A rule that became effective in 2021 allows ORVs onto national forest roads.

Not far from Coyote Crossing is the oldest ski resort in the Midwest, Caberfae Peaks. With 34 runs, five lifts, and a 485-foot vertical drop, it caters to both novices and experienced snowboarders and skiers. The family-friendly resort offers 39 rooms of lodging at Mackenzie Lodge, a steaming outdoor pool that’s open in winter, and family-friendly ski packages. Yes, the resort has challenging black diamond runs, but it also has easy hills. Caberfae gets an average of 140 inches of snow per year.

You may not know a rod from a reel, but if you’d like to give ice fishing a try, swing by the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center. They offer equipment and classes for newcomers to the sport  — and, who knows, maybe a pike or bluegill will bite your line in Lake Cadillac or Lake Mitchell.

Because Cadillac’s snow is more reliable than other places in the state, its fluffy powder attracts quiet winter sports fans, as well — fat-tire bicyclists, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and hikers like to roam the national forest and other trails.

The Cadillac Pathway is maintained in the winter with two trails, one groomed just for cross-country skiers and one winter sports trail for fat-tire cycling, snowshoeing, or walking. Another option, Mackenzie, is a 10-mile multi-terrain trail for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing near Caberfae.

The good thing about Cadillac is that it’s small, and everything is within easy reach. Although you’re never far from the great outdoors, you’re always close to a restaurant or resort. In addition to lodging at Coyote Crossing and Caberfae Peaks, try Evergreen Resort or one of the many other affordable choices in town. Catch a meal and brew at Clam Lake Beer Co., dig into a specialty steak at The Timbers, or enjoy farm-to-table European fusion cuisine at Raven Social. Snowed in? It’s definitely possible in Cadillac. Just make sure you’ve picked up a good read from the local Horizon Books or Book Nook shops.

While many Michiganders dream of warm beaches at this time of year, Cadillac has other aspirations. Says Finch: “We’re hoping for a snowy, cold winter.”

Plan It!

Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau

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