Snow Trekking in the Straits

According to, “From Europe to North America to Asia, people began using snowshoes over 4,000 years ago out of a basic need explore new territories and to find food in the winter…the great success of snowshoes for winter travel was first observed by European explorers with Northeastern tribes such as the Huron and Algonquin, which led subsequent trappers, hunters, and surveyors to adopt snowshoes as their own.”

Here in Michigan, early French explorers and missionaries are said to have learned of these winter accessories from the Native Americans who had been well established throughout the Great Lakes region. While today snowshoeing is more of a winter pastime, it was vital to survival here centuries ago.

Craig Wilson, historian with Mackinac State Historic Parks, created a short YouTube video which shares a bit more information: “Snowshoeing at the Straits of Mackinac”

In our modern era, Iverson’s has been handcrafting snowshoes in the Upper Peninsula village of Shingleton (115 miles from Mackinaw City) since 1954…celebrating 65 years in 2019.

“It started back in 1954 when Clarence Iverson began building his snowshoes for the State of Michigan,” according to the company’s website. “His premise was simple: reduce expended energy by walking on top of the snow, not through it. His designs provided maximum weight distribution for optimum flotation. News soon spread of the Iverson snowshoe, and demand expanded the company into the consumer market.

“Clarence was very picky. He only used the finest materials–premium Michigan White Ash, full grain rawhides, and pure copper hardware. These components are expensive, but well worth the cost when you find yourself in extreme conditions, or when it’s time to pass your Iverson’s on to the next generation.”

Today, Iverson’s handcrafts 17 models of snowshoes which can be purchased online or at retail outlets including The Locker Room in St. Ignace or Kings Fish Market in Naubinway (50 miles northwest of Mackinaw City, in the Upper Peninsula).

Michigan is home to thousands of miles of trails open to snowshoeing and according to the Michigan Department of Transportation, “you can snowshoe anywhere on state land that is open to the public,” but please, if you’re using trails groomed for cross country skiing walk net to the tracks so as to not disturb them for skiers.

So, where can you snowshoe in the Mackinaw City area?


Created in 1980, the longest hiking trail in the U.S. is managed by the National Park Service and passes through 10 National Forests, with some 800 miles in Michigan. The 46-mile section between Petoskey and Mackinaw City (which skirts the lakeshore through Harbor Springs, Good Hart and Cross Village) includes 14 miles of trails within Wilderness State Park. With varied terrain and four seasons of beauty, the trail is a popular route for snowshoers. The village of Mackinaw City is even one of the handful of “Trail Towns” throughout the state, offering a haven for recreationalists to relax before or after a day on the trail.


An Emmet County Park on the Straits of Mackinac, the Headlands property is made up of nearly 600 acres of forested lands, four miles of trails and two miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline including Michigan’s only Dark Sky Park. The trail network offers hours of inspiration among hardwoods and ferns in the warmer months, and spectacular snowshoeing throughout the winter. There is even a guided trek planned for Saturday, February 3 at 2pm.


Located along the shoreline southwest from downtown Mackinaw City, this state park boats over 20 miles of winter trails throughout the 10,000-acre wilderness, with over 26 miles of shoreline open for exploring. It is advisable to bring a compass since this State Park is, as its name implies, in the wilderness especially in the winter months. It is possible to get lost if you venture off the trails or if you get caught in a winter-time squall off Lake Michigan, and cell service is often limited.


While there is no access to the regular parking lot at this seasonal attraction, you can park near the entry area and access the hiking trails from there (at no charge). Situated on over 600 acres of beautiful forests, wildflowers and scenic views, this property has 1.5 miles of trails including a half-mile nature trail that borders the creek and passes two scenic overlooks from where the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Island can be viewed.


In addition to offering winter canoeing, kayaking or rafting trips down the Sturgeon River, this Indian River company (just 30 miles south of Mackinaw City) also offers snowshoe rentals for those looking to hit the trails or get off the beaten path.


Looking to keep warm while out on your trek? Be sure to outfit yourself in stylish hats, gloves and apparel (including the noted Mackinaw coat) made by Stormy Kromer (also a UP company). Read more in our Facebook Note: What is a Mackinaw? (including three local retailers who sell Stormy Kromer items).

NOTE: Saturday, January 11, 2020 is the 28th Annual “Pure Michigan Winter Trails Day” presented by the Great Lakes Winter Trails Council …a chance to get out and explore all that the state’s natural wonders have to offer!


Photo Source: Experience Michigan magazine.

Experience Winter in the Mackinaw Area

Photo credit: Petoskey News Review

While often thought of us just a summer destination, the Straits of Mackinac is known to roll out the white carpet during the winter season with special events and outdoor activities like hiking, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

The season kicks off on Friday, December 1 at 5pm with the Christmas Parade starting at 5pm at the Marina parking lot and traveling north on Huron Avenue to Central Avenue, to Nicolet Street and ending at Indian Pathways Park for the lighting of the city Christmas tree.

Christmas in Mackinaw is planned for Saturday, December 2 from 2-4pm at the Mackinaw Area Historical Society Heritage Village, just west of downtown. Between Noon and 4pm on Saturday, a series of fun-filled family events are offered including sleigh or hay rides (12-2), a Christmas program at Heritage Chapel (3pm), crafts at Freedom School (2-2:45pm) and visits with Santa at the 1869 McGulpin Point Lighthouse (1-3pm). All programs are free, but donations are welcome.

On Saturday, December 16, the 2nd Annual Antique Snowmobile Mighty Mac Bridge Crossing will take place, starting in Mackinaw City and traveling five miles across the Mackinac Bridge to St. Ignace. This is the only time of the year that sleds are allowed on the bridge and certain rules and regulations apply. The Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway is organizing the event and has details available online at

The award-winning Headlands International Dark Sky Park is hosting several events over the next few months, including:

The 25th Annual Mackinaw City Winter Festival is scheduled for January 19-20. Highlights of this event include both amateur and professional snow sculpting competitions, sleigh and wagon rides, outhouse races, a poker walk, arts and crafts, a chili cook-off, Euchre tournament and more.

Just 30 miles south of Mackinaw City, Big Bear Adventures in Indian River offers 90-minute guided winter rafting trips along the Sturgeon River—note as the fastest in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Offered for group up to 12, with three trips a day, seven days a week, this is a great way to experience the winter season in a unique way. Big Bear also offers cross country ski and snowshoe rentals, and will help coordinate packages for all their seasonal activities.

Throughout the winter season, trails for hiking, snowshoeing and even snowmobiling welcome visitors to the area. While there is no access to the regular parking lot at Historic Mill Creek, you can park near the entry area and the hiking trails from there – at no charge. Wilderness State Park offers not only winter hiking and cross-country skiing along 20 miles of trails in addition to snowmobiling, but overnight accommodations in rustic cabins or in your own tent area allowed.

Mackinaw City is centrally-located to provide snowmobile access to the Straits area. Utilize the north central State Trailhead located off of Crossing’s Drive to experience the DNR’s groomed routes, connecting Mackinaw to Cheboygan, Petoskey, Gaylord, Rogers City, Alpena and places south. The Mackinac Bridge Authority offers a ride for you and your sled north across the Bridge for $10 plus $2 additional for an extra passenger to access the trails north of the Bridge.

For lodging reservations throughout the remainder of the fall and into the winter season, visit