Michigan Winter: Best Places to Sled, Ski, Skate, Snowshoe, Snowmobile & Experience Sled Dogs

Michigan Winter Sports Guide skiing kids at Crystal Mountain

All the Ways to Have the Best Michigan Winter Fun

At the sight of the first falling snowflake, my kids begin shouting for joy and digging out their snow-pants, winter hats, boots… all that dreaded gear!

Meanwhile, my brain goes another direction.

How am I going to keep my kids busy now that the weather is cold and wet? For me, snow means shoveling, cursing my hilly driveway and cleaning up snow-melt from the kids coming back in.

But winter also means cozy family times by the fireplace, sledding with neighbors, lots and lots of hot cocoa, and venturing outside to try new things.

Get Outside and Play this Winter in Michigan

You may wish for some hot chocolate (or coffee) and a warm blanket when it feels impossible to get out of the house, but I think you should take a look at the list below, throw off that blanket and have some fun!

This list chronicles tons of activities to get you and your family out of the house and ready to brave, and dare I say — enjoy the winter!

Thank you to our sponsor, Grand Rapids Public Museum!

Now open, Sean Kenney’s Wild Connections Made with LEGO Bricks only at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Explore the relationship between animals, plants and humans through larger than life sculptures made with LEGO bricks, perfect for the entire family! Learn more at grpm.org.

Snowboarding & Skiing in Michigan

How Kids Can Ski Free in Michigan

I have been skiing since I was three years old and last year I was able to introduce all three of my kids to the sport.  We signed them up for ski lessons at Crystal Mountain and we were shocked by the improvements they made in just two days!

This year we purchased them each their first set of skis and we can’t wait to hit the slopes!

In Michigan we have so many choices when it comes to terrific learn to ski programs. There’s even a program that lets 4th and 5th graders ski free in Michigan. You pay $20 for a passport and that gives you access to three free lift tickets at 25 participating ski areas.

The entire month of January is learn to ski month in Michigan and most ski hills offer great deals throughout the month.

Crystal Mountain skiing 1

Even if you’re not seasoned on the slopes, you can enjoy Michigan’s snowy hilltops. (And the exhilarating ride down!)

Most ski resorts offer lessons from kids to adults, making it even more accessible to winter adventurers.

Read on to see where your family can go skiing and snowboarding in Michigan this winter.

Places to Ski & Snowboard – and Get Ski Lessons – in Michigan

Where to Ice Skate in Michigan (Indoors or Out)

Oh, the memories I have of ice skating on the frozen pond behind behind my house growing up! Trudging through the fields to the pond, shoveling off the snow, putting on cold ice skates, and whirling around on bumpy, uneven ice.

While it was good old fashioned fun, it’s been a lot easier to skate at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids. Someone else clears the ice and keeps it smooth, and I can just happily glide around as much as I want.

If you want that same smooth experience, here’s where to ice skate in Michigan.

Sledding, Toboggan Runs & Luge Tracks Around Michigan

For those who want snowy adventure from a lower vantage point than skis, you’ve got to try the luge! I’d argue that it’s more thrilling than skiing, because you can really fly down some of these area luge tracks.

I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of adrenaline rush yet. For now, I get plenty of kicks out of tubing. Here are the places where you can slide down those snowy slopes, at whatever speed you’re comfortable with:

luge at muskegon winter sports complex 2 1
Muskegon Winter Sports Complex – Luge

Anytime my kindergartener sees a dusting of snow on the ground he asks to go sledding. And ever since my kids got a super nice sledding tube for Christmas, the desperation for a sledding day is reaching new heights. Whether you’ve got a fancy snow tube or just want to grab a cookie sheet from the cupboard, here are the hills where kids can sled in West Michigan.

Snow Tubing in Michigan

If you like sledding, you’re going to love snow tubing in Michigan.

Combine the thrill of speeding down a snow-covered hill on a cushy tube, with the ease of a ride back up to the top and you’ve got a winning combination.

Check with property owners before sledding and tubing and follow all local laws and regulations.

Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing in Michigan

Snowshoeing in Michigan can be done almost anywhere you can find public property and some snow. Most parks will let you snowshoe through the woods or across open fields, blazing your own trail. There are places to snowshoe with dedicated snow shoe trails as well. Snowshoeing on a trail is easier because the trail will already be compacted.

Please note: Snowshoeing open/closed status fluctuates with the weather, and this year, also with State Health Department orders. Advance equipment rental reservations are highly encouraged. 

Snowmobiling in Michigan

Take in the beauty of the Michigan wilderness as you fly across the snow in a snowmobile. Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are popular spots for snowmobilers, with thousands of trails crisscrossing the state. You can check out all the Michigan snowmobile maps here.

A big draw for snowmobile fans in Michigan is the International 500 race, touted as the toughest snowmobile race in the world. Professional snowmobilers race at speeds over 100 mph in Sault Ste Marie in this huge yearly event.

Where to Rent Snowmobiles in Michigan

  • And no, you don’t have to own a snowmobile yourself to enjoy this sport! There are local places that offer rentals, including these:

Michigan Snowmobile Trails

Here’s where you can take that picturesque snowmobile ride on snowy trails in Michigan. The trails are endless.

Snowmobile - Upper Peninsula
Snowmobile at Big Snow Resort Indianhead / Blackjack Mountain - Wakefield, MI
500 Indianhead Rd.
Wakefield, MI 49968
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Snowmobile - Upper Peninsula
Snowmobile at Ski Brule - Iron River, MI
397 Brule Mountain Road
Iron River, MI 49935
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Snowmobile - Northern Lower Peninsula
Snowmobile at Treetops Resort - Gaylord, MI
3962 Wilkinson Road
Gaylord, MI 49735
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Snowmobile - Northern Lower Peninsula
Snowmobile at Blue Sky Rentals - Traverse City, MI
525 High Lake
Traverse City, MI 49686
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Snowmobile - Northern Lower Peninsula
Snowmobile at Crystal Mountain - Thompsonville, MI
12500 Crystal Mountain Dr.
Thompsonville, MI 49683
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Snowmobile - Northern Lower Peninsula
Snowmobile at Snow Blitz Snowmobile Rental - Kalkaska, MI
1437 Island Lake Rd
Kalkaska, MI 49646
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Snowmobile - Northern Lower Peninsula
Snowmobile at Shanty Creek Resort - Bellaire, MI
5780 Shanty Creek Road
Bellaire, MI 49615
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Snowmobile - Northern Lower Peninsula
Snowmobile at Wolf Lake Motel & Resort Snowmobile Rentals - Baldwin, MI
1197 N M-37
Baldwin, MI 49304
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Dog Sledding in Michigan

Looking to do something a little different this winter with your kids, but you can’t think of anything. Have you ever thought about taking them up to Alaska to watch the start of the Iditarod Race? No? Ok, me neither. But you can find some amazing places in Michigan that offer a dog sledding experience.  Some of these places even offer educational tours about dog sledding and the Iditarod, and others will even let you become a “Musher” for a day. 

 So, if you are looking for something a little different this year, we have created a list for you, with a variety of different dog sledding experiences.  If you are just wanting a simple ride, we have you covered, and we have two locations listed in the Lower Peninsula for your family to enjoy. If I have your wheels turning, and perhaps you have older children, may I suggest looking into a family weekend getaway to one of our two locations listed in the Upper Peninsula.

Dog Sledding - Upper Peninsula
Dog Sledding at Husky Haven Sled Dogs in Shingleton, MI

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Destination Offers
  • Dog Sledding

Owned by Kim Darst, who in 2009 became the first musher from New Jersey to embark on Alaska’s Iditarod, brought her team to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to be able to train her team. Now you and your family can learn about this unique and fascinating mode of travel and feel the incredible power of dog sledding for yourself.

Winter tours, about 8-10 miles long, are available with a double driver sled so our guests can get to drive with another person explaining the driving process. The area boasts miles of picturesque trails, complete with waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife. Pictures and hot chocolate are available at the end of the tour, while they answer all of your questions. Tours last about 3-4 hours and start at $150 per person.

Note: Summer tours are available if you want to learn about them.

Dog Sledding - Upper Peninsula
Dog Sledding at Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Adventures in McMillan, MI

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Destination Offers

Owned by Ed and Tasha Stielstra, who have owned sled dogs for more than twenty years and love sharing this magical sport with others. They offer adventure tours for guests of any age and ability. If you are up for the trip, they are located in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, near McMillan, Michigan.

They offer a variety of packages. Starting out with a half-day 10-mile trip, perfect for families, and then they also have a 20-mile all day trip. Prices will vary depending on the length of your trip, if you are a rider verses a driver, and weekday vs weekend, but plan on spending over a couple of hundred dollars for these rides. If you are looking for a weekend family getaway, overnight packages are available as well.

Note: Summer camps are available too.

Dog Sledding - Northern Lower Peninsula
Dog Sledding at Shemhadar Kennels in Cadillac, MI

cropped cropped 2010 Shemhadar Sled Dog Adventures 1 1


Destination Offers
  • Dog Sledding

“The Dog Sled Kennel Tour” for 1-7 people:
See all the dogs, the dog sleds, and learn all about the wonderful world of Dog Sledding. It is $75 for the hour and that includes the whole family or friends.

There are no rides with the tour, but it is a great time learning and playing with the dogs, and sometimes puppies if it is the right time. Come out and learn everything about Dog Sledding.

You may have an opportunity to see the Mushers train the teams if you are here on one of those days.

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“The Musher Experience” for 2 to 4 people - NOT OFFERED IN 2020 / 2021
You’ll spend time visiting the kennel where you’ll learn to harness, all about the sleds, how to hook up dogs, and which dog positions to put the dogs. After that, you will get to drive with a trainer on a special touring double sled that allows guests to stand and drive. Then, you’ll get your own team and enjoy driving your own dog sled team for two rides on the beautiful and adventurous trails.

Each musher will get one guided ride and then they will Drive their own sled 2 more times. If there are 4 people, then each person will get a half guided ride, at the beginning and only get to take their own sled once. This is only for those that are physically fit and want the adventure of a lifetime!

You will be driving a traditional authentic dog sled with 2, 3, 4, or 6 dogs, depending on snow conditions!

Dog Sledding - Northern Lower Peninsula
Dog Sledding at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, MI

treetops dog sledding


Destination Offers
  • Snow Tubing
  • Dog Sledding
  • Snowmobiling
  • Fat Tire Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowboard Ski Lessons
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Snowboarding
  • Sleigh Rides
  • Winter Event
  • Lodging

Dog Sledding at Treetops Resort

Join Iditarod pro, Liza Dietzen and her team of dogs from Evergreen Kennel for a thrilling dog sled adventure at Treetops Resort.

Recommended for adventure seekers for all ages! Minors must be accompanied by parent/guardian.

A “sled load” consists of the following:
1 adult under 200 lbs.
1 adult and 1 child under 200 lbs.
2 children under 200 lbs.
A separate time slot must be booked for each “sled load.” To accommodate families, it is recommended that you reserve time slots that are back to back.

Dog Sledding - Northern Lower Peninsula
Dog Sledding at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, MI

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Destination Offers
  • Snow Tubing
  • Dog Sledding
  • Snowmobiling
  • Fat Tire Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Lodging

Dog Sledding at Shanty Creek Resort

Sarah Dobbrastine, a local nurse who rescues Sled Dogs, brings her Second Chance Mushers to Schuss Mountain on the weekend for Dog Sled Rides when trail conditions permit.

The dog sledding trail is about a mile long and is located at Schuss Village (based out of the Nordic Center). The ride itself lasts about 15-20 minutes and are scheduled in 30-minute time slots. This allows additional time for a dog meet-and-greet, instructional time, and sanitization between rides.

Rides are $65 each and have a strict 200-pound rider weight limit (mix and match your sled occupancy up to the weight limit with 1 adult, 1 adult + 1 child, or 3 children.

Natures Kennel Sled Dog Racing Girl on Sled
Nature’s Kennel Sled Dogs

Want to meet a Musher?

Now that I’ve brought up the Iditarod “The Last Great Race”, you may be wondering if we have any sled dog races here in Michigan.  And yes, we do. There are a few, mostly in the Upper Peninsula, but I did find one in the Lower Peninsula. Most are held over a weekend, and have activities going on to help promote the sled dog sport.  The larger races have different distances to run, which means you get to watch multiple starts. 

 If you’re unsure your family will enjoy a dog sled ride, but think they may enjoy watching a sled dog race, check out the links to some races below. Who knows? You may influence a future Musher.

Michigan’s Dog Sled Races

Natures Kennel Sled Dog Racing Dogs Running

Michigan Winter Festivals

Build your own sled in Grand Haven, throw some frozen fish in St Joseph – these are only a few of the unique and fun outdoor events in the area this winter.

Michigan knows how to celebrate all that winter has to offer.

Sleigh Rides in Michigan

It doesn’t have to be Christmas to dash through the snow in a one horse open sleigh. Michigan horse-drawn sleigh rides are around all winter!

High energy Michigan winter sports are pretty exciting, but some of us prefer a more leisurely winter escapade. Michigan winter enthusiasts can swap downhill skis for cross country, opt to tube downhill instead of luge, or trade that high speed snowmobile ride for a nice, low-key sleigh ride over the snow.

More Michigan Winter Adventures

Still looking for more? Michigan has some crazy winter activities across the state. Explore frozen waterfalls, sled our gigantic sand dunes or climb ice towers. If you can dream it, it’s probably already being done somewhere in Michigan – we never say no to thrills!

3 thoughts on “Michigan Winter: Best Places to Sled, Ski, Skate, Snowshoe, Snowmobile & Experience Sled Dogs”

  1. This was very helpful for creating a list of things to do and ways to connect with people when everything is closed thank you Mary!

  2. Zion Christian School

    Please do not use Zion Christian School’s sledding hill anymore. We have had construction over the summer and our hill now has a brick wall with a 4 foot drop to a cement walkway at the bottom.

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