Aperfect way to appreciate the glories of winter is to slip on cross-country skis and glide into the night when even a thin crescent of moon is enough to overlay the glistening snow with soft shadows from the trees.
“Definitely the biggest draw for me is the silence and peacefulness of the evening,” said Isaac Stone, trails operation coordinator for Michigan Technological University’s Nordic trail system. “It’s just quiet, you’re alone, you’re able to listen to the sounds of the night and just kind of enjoy the outdoors in a way that’s very different from the day. I love skiing at night.”
Several Michigan cross-country ski trails are lit for night skiing and others may be lit on occasion with luminarias for a scheduled and intimate treat. Some of the not-to-miss, lighted cross-country ski trails in Michigan include:
Michigan Tech’s Nordic Trail, Houghton:
Seven kilometers of its 32.5-kilometer trail system is lighted. The lighted trail is groomed for classic and skate skiing, and winds mainly through hardwood forests. It ranges from easy (flat) to intermediate (rolling hills) with a short, slightly more challenging section that is part of its Olympic-caliber racecourse.
Cost for trail use is $10/day or $100/year. Two parking areas off Sharon Avenue (near the AE Seaman Mineral Museum, 1404 Sharon Ave.) provide access to the lighted trail. More information at michigantechrecreation.com/trails.
Muskegon Winter Sports Complex and Muskegon State Park, Muskegon:
Cited as the longest lighted cross-country ski system in the Midwest, it includes three lighted loops totaling approximately 9 kilometers that pass through mixed forests that include 100-foot pines. Another 4K of groomed and unlighted trails also are available. The trailhead is off the parking lot of the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, 462 N. Scenic Drive, Muskegon. The trail fee is $10 on weekends and $5 weekdays. Trails are groomed for skating and classic skiing. More information at msports.org.
Al Quaal Recreation Area, Ishpeming:
With its granite cliffs and lake overlooks, Ishpeming’s Al Quaal Recreation Area has 22 kilometers of beautiful, groomed cross-country skiing. This includes the lighted 4-kilometer Teal Lake Trail, which has both easy and intermediate sections. Parking for the Teal Lake trailhead is on Hickory Street north of Poplar Street. The trail fee is $7/day. Trails are groomed for skating and classic skiing. More information at bit.ly/AlQuaal.
Aspen Park and Michaywé, Gaylord:
Two lighted options in the Gaylord area are Aspen Park and Michaywé. Aspen Park is close to downtown and has a lighted, classic-groomed 4-kilometer loop, sections of which may offer views of elk from the neighboring Elk Park. Michaywé is about 7 miles south of downtown and offers a 2-kilometer lighted trail hugging picturesque Michaywé Lake. It is part of Michaywé’s 18.5-kilometer trail system, all of which is groomed for skating and classic skiing. Skiing at either is free, but donations are
accepted. More information about Aspen Park at bit.ly/AspenParkGaylord. ≈
More lighted cross-country skiing trails in Michigan
Unless otherwise noted, all are groomed for skating and classic styles of cross-country skiing and are open daily during the ski season, snow permitting.
Swedetown Trails, Calumet. 35K overall; 5K lighted. swedetowntrails.org
Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville. 30K overall; 4K lighted. crystalmountain.com
Pigeon Creek Park, West Olive. 16K overall; 4.8K lighted. miottawa.org/parks/pigeoncreek.htm
Algonquin Ski Trails, Sault Ste. Marie. 12.8K overall; 3.2K lighted. bit.ly/AlgonquinSki
Madeline Bertrand Park, Niles. 4.8K overall; 3.2K lighted. Groomed for classic only. Open for night skiing on Fridays and Saturdays and occasional special events. facebook.com/madelinebertrandpark
Blueberry Ridge, Marquette. 21K overall; 2.7K lighted. Most, including the lighted trail, are groomed for skating and classic. bit.ly/BlueberryRidge
Fit Strip, Marquette. 2.7K overall; 2.7K lighted. bit.ly/FitStrip
Charlevoix Cross Country Ski & Snowshoe Trail, Charlevoix. 8K overall; 2K lighted. charlevoix.org/pages/winterfun
Cross Country Ski Headquarters, Roscommon. 18K overall; 1.8K lighted. Open for night skiing during special events. cross-country-ski.com
Midland City Forest, Midland. 11K overall; 1.6K lighted. cityofmidlandmi.gov/267/cross-country-skiing
— Leslie Mertz, Michigan BLUE Magazine.
*Photography courtesy Michigan DNR