Hiawatha National Forest

Cross-Country Skiing
Gorp.com

Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and ice-fishing are all popular winter sports in the Hiawatha National Forest. Hiawatha National Forest has one developed cross-country skiing facility, Rapid River, but offers many other places to ski as well, particularly if you're willing to lay your own tracks. Plus, many of the forest's wonderful hiking and horseback trails become cross-country skiing venues. Under a blanket of snow, the North Country Trail is beautiful and day trips for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing are enjoyable. Snow depths of 48 inches provide good snowshoeing and smowmobiling mid-December to mid-March across the forest. The Bay de Noc-Grand Island Trail lends itself to those interested in the increasingly popular winter sport of dog sledding.

Rapid River
The Rapid River National Cross Country Ski Trail offers skiers five loops of Nordic ski opportunities as well as two skating loops. The trail is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful in the Upper Peninsula as it winds through pine-covered dune ridges and drops into lowland swamps. The topography offers beginner through expert skiers a wide range of challenges, from gentle, flat terrain to long, steep hills.

The trail is located six miles north of Rapid River on U.S. Highway 41. The access road and parking lot are on the west side of the highway. A bulletin board, rest benches, and toilet can be found at the trailhead. All loops are groomed, but trail conditions will vary based on weather and time of the week. The trail is well-marked and location maps are posted at all trail intersections.

Trail Loops

Tot Loop (1.2 miles) - The Tot Loop bisects Loop A, offering skiers the shortest and easiest segment of the trail system.

Loop A (2.7 miles) - This segment covers relatively flat terrain for the beginner, or may serve as a warm-up for the advanced skier planning to travel on to the more difficult loops.

Loop B (6.8 miles) - Designed for intermediate skiers, this distance includes both Loops A and B. By taking the "shortcut trail" from the parking lot, skiers can reduce the loop distance to 5.7 miles.

Loop C (6.4 miles) - Loop C is actuary a shortcut across Loop B. Although shorter than Loop B, it is designed for more advanced skiers. By taking the "shortcut trail " from the parking lot, skiers can reduce this loop distance to 5.3 miles.

Loop D (10.0 miles) - Recommended for only the most advanced skiers, this loop should be approached with caution. It's distance, coupled with its steep slopes makes this loop a real challenge to even the most experienced skiers. On the "home stretch" skiers have the option of taking either the intermediate loop B or the more difficult Loop C. By taking the "shortcut trail" from the parking lot, skiers can reduce this loop distance to 8.9 miles.

S1 Skating Loop (4.7 miles) - Built in 1992 in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, this loop is designed for the intermediate skier who prefers the skating style of skiing over the traditional Nordic style. Skiers should take the "shortcut" trail from the parking lot to S1. This skating trail intersects Loop B in two places so skiers can switch from one trail to another to practice both techniques.

S2 Skating Loop (7.4 miles) - Built in 1993, this loop is designed for the more advanced skater. This distance includes both S1 and S2. There are numerous intersections with Loop D that will enable skiers to switch from one trail to another to practice both techniques.

Other Areas to Ski
All lands on the Hiawatha National Forest are available for cross-country travel unless specifically marked closed. When skiing unplowed and ungroomed trails or roads, be on the alert for hazards such as steep hills, curves, windfalls, stream crossings etc. Remember, only developed ski trails have been designed and maintained for reasonably safe cross-country skiing.

Hiawatha, U.S. Forest Service
Fee: No fee
Loops/distance: 4 loops 5 miles (8 km) not groomed, classical/telemarking
Location: 15 miles west of Munising off M 94
Trail attributes: Trail located at the base of Hiawatha Slopes downhill area
Unique features: Hiawatha Slopes downhill ski area (with rope tows) open weekends providing telemarking opportunities

Christmas Lighted, U.S. Forest Service
Fee: Daily and annual passes available (required)
Loops/distance: 4 loops 2 miles (3 km) classical
Location: 5 miles west of Munising on M-28
Trail attributes: Flat easy terrain short loops; for beginners and relaxed skiers
Unique features: Convenience store and toilets available at trailhead; night skiing

Valley Spur, U.S. Forest Service
Fee: Daily and annual passes available (required)
Loops/distance: 11 loops 11 miles (18 km), classical 14 miles; (22 km) skating
Location: 6 miles south of Munising on M-94
Trail attributes: Gut-buster uphills long winding downhill; many different segments for all skill levels
Unique features: Day lodge open Saturday and Sundays 10 a.m. until dark; toilets on site; snacks and beverages available

Buckhorn, U.S. Forest Service
Fee: Daily and annual passes available (required)
Loops/distance: 2 loops 4 miles (16 km) classical
Location: 3 miles south of M-94 on Buckhorn Road 8 miles south of Munising
Trail attributes: Gentle rolling hills wind around the headwaters of the Indian River good for beginners
Unique features: Restaurant and lounge at trailhead; good wildlife viewing

McKeever Hills, U.S. Forest Service
Fee: Daily and annual passes available (required)
Loops/distance: 3 loops 8 miles (13 km) classical
Location: 15 miles south of Munising on FH-13
Trail attributes: Challenging hills with beautiful vistas around Pete s McKeever Wedge and Kimble Lakes.
Unique features: Convenience store and toilets available at trailhead; rustic cabins available to rent.

Rapid River, U.S. Forest Service
Fee: No fee: donations accepted
Loops/distance: 7 loops 10.5 miles (16.8 km) classical: 7 miles 111.2 km) skating groomed
Location: 7 miles north of Rapid River on US-41
Trail attributes: Trails to suit beginner through expert level; skating trails separate from classical trails.
Unique features: Trail winds through natural pine covered dune ridges with birch and maple. Good wildlife viewing opportunities. Toilets.

Munising Ski Trail, National Park Service
Fee: No fee
Loops/distance: 8 loops 10.7 miles (17.1 km) classical groomed
Location: 3 miles east of Munising on H-58
Trail attributes: Novice to advanced - rolling to steep hills through secondary growth and old farm fields along Pictured Rocks escarpment.
Unique features: Narrow windy trails wildlife viewing opportunities - fox, coyote and ruffed grouse.

Indian Lake Pathway, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources
Fee: No fee; donations accepted
Loops/distance: 3 loops 8.5 miles (13 2 km) classical groomed
Location: 11 miles NW of Manistique on M 149
Trail attributes: Flat to rolling topography: mixed hardwoods and pine plantation cover.
Unique features: Palms Brook State Park (Big Springs) nearby groomed as needed.

Grand Marais National Park Service
Fee: No fee
Loops/distance: 6 loops, 10 miles (16 km) classical groomed
Location: H- 59 west of Newberg Road in Grand Marais
Trail attributes: Novice to intermediate skiing through rolling terrain; winds through old logging roads and secondary growth.
Unique features: Views of Lake Superior from maple woods and old farm fields, abundant wildlife.

Northern Hardwoods, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Fee: No fee
Loops/distance: 6 loops 9 miles 114.4 km) classical groomed
Location: 6 miles south of M-28 or 10 north of US-2 on M-77
Trail attributes: Beginner to advanced mature hardwood stands beautiful vistas of old growth timber and virgin white pine.
Unique features: Great wildlife viewing opportunities, adjustable benches at beautiful vistas.

Canada Lakes Pathway, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources
Fee: No fee; donations accepted
Loops/distance: 6 loops 22.7 miles (36.3 km) classical 8 miles (12.9 km)
Location: 7 miles SE of Newberry on CR-403
Trail attributes: Rolling terrain mostly hardwoods forest cover with some pine plantation.
Unique features: Site of Tahquamenon Falls Nordic Invitational race, groomed as needed. Toilets available.

Giant Pines Loop, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources
Fee: State Park motor vehicle permit required for entry
Loops/distance: 1 loop 3.7 miles (6.0 km) classical groomed
Location: In Tahquamenon Falls State Park 15 miles west of Paradise on M-123
Trail attributes: Slightly rolling terrain winds through old growth hardwood forest mixed with conifers
Unique features: Views of Tahquamenon Falls, giant old white pine. Toilets.

McNearney, U.S. Forest Service
Fee: No fee
Loops/distance: 4 loops 9 miles (14 km) classical groomed
Location: 5 miles NE of Strong's Corner (Jct M-28 and Salt Point Road)
Trail attributes: Located on ancient sand dunes; winding hills forested countryside -secondary hardwoods.

Sand Dunes, U.S. Forest Service
Fee: No fee: donations accepted
Loops/distance: 7 loops 8 miles (13 km) classical groomed
Location: 0.4 miles north of US-2 on Brevoort Lake Road (H-57)
Trail attributes: Beginner to advanced; loops through old Lake Michigan sand dunes.
Unique features: Rustic cabin at trail head serves as a warming hut. Toilets on site.

Algonquin Pathway, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources
Fee: No fee; donations accepted
Loops/distance: 5 loops 5.4 miles (42.8 km) classical 3.0 m, (4.97 km) skate groomed
Location: With city of Sault Ste. Marie on 16th Street 2 miles west of I-75
Trail attributes: Located on old beach ridges flat topography mixed age aspen cover with pine and hardwood on back loop.
Unique features: Night skiing available within city. Toilets available. Groomed regularly. Benches at each loop junction.

Pine Bowl Pathway, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources
Fee: No fee: donations accepted
Loops/distance: 3 loops 16.9 miles (27.2 km) classical
Location: 4 miles east of Kinross on Wilson Road
Trail attributes: Located on the ancient shores of preglacial
Lake Algonquin rolling topography mixed pine and hardwood cover.
Unique features: Chippewa County airport within 2 miles. Groomed weekly. Benches at loop junctions.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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