Part of a series of articles on winter activities available in Michigan.
Although early man invented the first form of snowshoes as a necessary aid in walking across snow-covered terrain, today modern snowshoeing has evolved into a popular recreational winter sport. It’s fun, easy and also known for its cardiovascular benefits; many folks do it as an invigorating exercise. And since no special training is needed, any age group can participate and it makes a great family activity. According to research provided by Snowsports Industries America (SIA), 40.8 percent of snowshoers are women (a number that is increasing rapidly), 9.4 percent of snowshoers are children (ages 7-11) and 44.2 percent of snowshoers are ages 25-44.
Theresa Neal, a Tahquamenon Falls State Park naturalist, said her favorite thing about snowshoeing was that “Snowshoes allow you to explore areas that are not accessible during other times of the year, such as wetlands and peatlands. Once these areas are covered with snow, it’s easy to ‘walk on water’ and check out what is on the other side. Snowshoeing is also a great way to stay active during the winter and burn off calories!”
When asked what sets snowshoeing apart from other outdoor winter activities, she added: “Snowshoeing can be a quiet activity, giving you the ability to hear birds calling nearby or wildlife rustling through the brush. It allows you to move about without disturbing the wildlife that lives in the area. It is also nearly impossible to get lost while snowshoeing, because you can always follow your tracks back to where you started!”
Another great thing about snowshoeing is that it doesn't take much gear. Warm outerwear, boots, a pair of snowshoes and you’re good to go. Snowshoes come in a wide variety to choose from, but most sport shops carry a good selection depending on your budget and ability. New to the sport? Neal offers this advice: “Try out different types of snowshoes to see what kind works best for you. Many of our state park visitor centers offer guided snowshoe hikes and have a variety of styles that you can try free of charge. Porcupine Mountains, Tahquamenon Falls, Hartwick Pines and Ludington all have snowshoes that visitors can check out and staff that can answer questions about snowshoeing.”
In addition to the guided trail hikes and visitor centers across the state, many of the parks mentioned above also feature classes on how to make snowshoes.
Rob Burg, a historian and educator at Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling teaches traditional wooden snowshoe building classes every winter in the park’s visitor center. You can check out this link from Pure Michigan on how to make a pair of snowshoes yourself.
Michigan has hundreds of miles of groomed trails perfect for snowshoeing located throughout the state. Many local metro and state parks offer snowshoe hiking trails and many cross country trails also allow snowshoeing. Click here for a list of some of the snowshoe trails in Michigan. In northern Michigan, Boyne Highlands Cross Country Center offers a ‘snowshoe only’ trail through a beautiful wonderland of mature spruce and pine hardwoods, perfect for nature lovers and dogs are allowed.