Cruising snow country trails

The best rent and ride snowmobile destinations in the state of Michigan.
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Snowmobile Michigan Winter
Photography courtesy thinkstock

Michigan is snowmobile country. There are 202,000 registered snowmobiles and an estimated additional 50,000 that are unregistered and just used on private property. Snowmobiling is a Michigan thing.

With some 6,200 miles of designated snowmobile trails open to the public across the state, traversing state, federal, and, in some cases, private land, Michigan is one of the top snowmobiling destinations in the United States. The state’s annual trail permit ($48) pays for grooming and maintenance of the trails. 

“We asked Bill Manson, executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile Association, where the best trails are with rentals available, and his biggest problem was limiting it to five. Here are his recommendations”

The Jordan River Valley Trail

Is “the most scenic, nicest, prettiest trail in the Lower Peninsula,” Manson said.

A windy trail that runs from Mancelona to East Jordan along the pristine Jordan River, the trail offers about a 40-mile ride with great photo opportunities. There are several notable stops along the way, including Larry’s Seven Skis, along U.S. 131 near Elmira, which can provide a great hamburger.

Snow machine rentals are available from the Mancelona Motel (231-587-8621; mancelonamotel.com).

The Harbor Springs Trail

Though nowhere near Harbor Springs, runs through hardwood forest on hilly terrain. Also known as the Moose Jaw Trail, it runs from west of Alanson, up through Cross Village and backtracks to Pellston. 

“It’s a beautiful day trip, with bigger hardwoods than most of the state’s ownership,” Manson said, “and you can take railroad grade all the way to Mackinaw City.”

Rentals are available from Indian River Motor Sports (231-333-3600; ir-sc.com) or Burt Lake Marina (231-238-9315; burtlakemarina.com).

The Munising Area Snowmobile Trail

Is a well-marked, well-maintained destination voted the top trail by most Midwestern snowmobile magazines and is accessible directly from a number of hotels and motels in Alger County. You can motor past Miner’s Castle to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and keep going to Grand Marais or visit any of numerous waterfalls in the area. 

Rentals are available from Renze Power Sports near Wetmore (906-387-3920; renzepower.com).

Paradise Trail

In the eastern Upper Peninsula, takes you a lot of places, offering several trips over hundreds of miles or trail. It’ll take you to casinos (in Brimley or Sault Ste. Marie), the Shipwreck Museum or directly to Whitefish Point. 

Rentals are available from Fish & Hunt Shop (906-586-9531; fishandhuntshop.com) and they’ll drop off the sled where you’re staying.

The Bill Nichols Trail

In the Keweenaw Peninsula will take you from Hancock to Copper Harbor, or you can go south all the way to Wisconsin. There are numerous scenic side trails for all the little towns — Calumet, Gay, Eagle River — and the Brockway Mountain Trail along Lake Superior is “one of the best scenic views in Michigan,” Manson said. 

Rentals are available at Houghton Power Sports (906-483-4841; houghtonpowersports.com).

For more information, go to msasnow.org. The Trail Report page is updated almost daily beginning in December.

Bob Gwizdz is an award-winning outdoor writer who works for the Department of Natural Resources and resides in East Lansing.

1964 Polaris K65 Snowmobile
1963 Polaris K95 – (Photography) by Marla R. Miller

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