Winter Activities in the U.P.

Game for a winter holiday? These U.P. destinations offer a smorgasbord of snowy fun, from tubing and fat-tire biking to dogsledding and more.
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The U.P.’s Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum hosts popular meetups that attract riders from all over. // Photograph courtesy of Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum

Metro Detroit may not be amping up for winter just yet, but the Upper Peninsula is already feeling the chilly effects. Pack your snowsuit, skis, or even a tube and mush on up to the U.P. for Thanksgiving or the winter holidays.

Sled with Some Furry Friends

Distance from Detroit: 371 miles; 5.5-hour drive

With over 20 years in the mushing business, Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Adventures offers multiple ways to live out your Iditarod fantasies. Owners Ed and Tasha Stielstra are former competitive dogsledders with many humanitarian awards for their dog care. They’ll teach you to drive a team of Alaskan huskies, or you can just go along for the ride with a guide.

Options include 10-mile, 20-mile, and overnight adventures. The 10-mile trips are suitable for the whole family, while 20-mile and overnight are best for adults and children over 12. Other adventures include an ice climbing/dogsledding tour for hard-core winter enthusiasts and a five-day Winter Photography Tour with lessons from award-winning photographer Shawn Malone — not to mention snowshoeing, a brewery visit, and mushing.

Dates: Dogsledding day and overnight trips are available seven days a week beginning Dec. 15. The Winter Photography Tour takes place March 3-7, 2024; the ice climbing/dogsledding tour is March 10-13, 2024. Online booking is unavailable — you must email info@natureskennel.com or call to plan your trip (advance notice is strongly recommended).

Located in McMillan; 906-748-0513 or natureskennel.com.

Live out your Iditarod fantasy at Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Adventures. // Photograph courtesy of Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Adventures

Try Tubing and Fat Biking

Distance from Detroit: 519 miles; 8-hour drive

Ski Brule, a family-friendly ski resort in Iron River near the Michigan-Wisconsin border, is known for its downhill and snowboarding trails and terrain parks, but the resort’s two tubing parks round out the snow-sliding options. Homestead Snow Tubing Park offers tubing for all ages, whereas thrill seekers may prefer Whitewater Snow Tubing Park — a larger hill where riders are towed to the top (a signed waiver is required).

Ski Brule also dedicates 15 kilometers of trails to the sport of “fat biking,” riding on snow-packed trails on specialized bicycles with fat, stable tires. There are also 15 kilometers of snowshoe and cross-country ski trails.

Dates: The resort aims to open Nov. 10. Thanksgiving festivities include a race camp on Nov. 23, Thanksgiving dinner, and half-price lodging on Nov. 22 when you stay four nights. The tubing parks open in late December.

Located in Iron River; 800-362-7853 or skibrule.com.

Play in the Porkies

Distance from Detroit: 584 miles; 9-hour drive

Skiing and snowboarding are classic winter sports in the U.P., and with 20 downhill trails and a natural terrain park, the Porcupine Mountains Winter Sports Complex is one of the best places to do both.

Located in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the slopes offer breathtaking views of Lake Superior and the 60,000-acre park. (A Michigan Recreation Passport is required to enter; lift tickets start at $10.) But alpine skiing/snowboarding is only the start in the Porkies; you can also go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing or take a snowmobile or fat-tire bike out for a snowy spin.

Cabins and other rustic lodging are available in the park and nearby. For extra fun, time your trip to coincide with the Snowburst Winter Carnival for fireworks, live music, lantern-lit trail hikes, and kids’ activities.

Dates: The hill’s opening day is slated for the end of December. The Snowburst Winter Carnival is held in February.

Located in Ontonagon; 906-885-5275 or michigan.gov/skitheporkies.

Ski Brule offers 15 kilometers of fat biking trails, ski hills, and more. // Photograph courtesy of Ski Brule

Ride into Snowmobile History

Distance from Detroit: 336 miles; 5-hour drive

Located in Naubinway about 40 minutes west of St. Ignace, the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum displays a large collection of antique and vintage sleds from the early 20th century to today, all testaments to the ingenuity of snow-machine lovers in the Midwest.

The museum’s annual “Snowmobile the Mighty Mac” event lets participants drive their vintage sleds across the Mackinac Bridge. For true machine enthusiasts, the 32nd annual Top of the Lake Snowmobile Show & Ride is a two-day event that starts at the museum.

Dates: The museum is open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Snowmobile the Mighty Mac takes place Dec. 9; the 32nd annual Top of the Lake Snowmobile Show & Ride is Feb. 16 and 17, 2024.

Located in Naubinway; 906-477-6298 or snowmobilemuseum.com.

Lodging

While Ski Brule Resort has on-site accommodations, the other venues listed here do not. Here are some suggestions for where to stay.

Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn

Located 18 miles from Nature’s Kennel; 23 miles from Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum

Built in the 1800s, this bed-and-breakfast once housed loggers and homesteaders traveling to the U.P. (it still has much of the original woodwork). Overlooking Big Manistique Lake, the inn has 12 bedrooms with unique Victorian designs (two with a Jacuzzi) and a spa room. Its restaurant serves pub-style fare and elevated options like steaks and seafood Wednesday-Saturday from 4 to 9:30 p.m. Rates start at $250 per night.

Located in Curtis; 906-586- 6000 or chamberlinsinn.com.

Root Cellar Resort

35 miles from Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

For a peaceful and secluded getaway, this all-season destination on Lake Gogebic offers a range of lodging options, from cozy cabins to a new 13-room inn. The restaurant serves up delicious food and drinks (including all-you-can-eat shrimp every Wednesday), and there’s easy access to a snowmobiling trail. Rates start at $115 per night.

Located in Marenisco; 906-813-1600 or therootcellarresort.com.


This story is from the November 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.