Enjoy Michigan’s State Parks with a “Shoe Year’s” Habit

When the VanWyck family moved from Lansing to Ludington last year, they knew their winters would be snowier. However, like the rest of West Michigan, they weren’t quite expecting the epic snow levels the region ended up with.

Instead of lamenting the polar vortex that thrust feet upon feet of snow their way, the VanWycks decided to use their feet to enjoy it. They bought snowshoes and didn’t look back.

“We decided rather than worry about the 139 inches of snow we have, to really try to embrace it,” said patriarch Chris VanWyck.

Going for walks in the local state park or just in the backyard became a way to explore their new home, get some winter exercise, and bond as a family for Chris VanWyck, his wife Corinn, and their children Eva, 13, Amelia, 11, and Dominic, 9.

“We were just one of those annoying groups of people who were giddy about the snow,” Corinn added.

Eva, Corinn, Amelia, and Dominic VanWyck pause for a picture.
Eva, Corinn, Amelia, and Dominic VanWyck embrace the snow in Michigan.

If you want to find a way to tolerate and maybe even learn to embrace and love the snow that comes with living in Michigan, taking up snowshoeing at a state park isn’t a bad way to do it.

The Department of Natural Resources is offering Shoe Year’s Hikes, which are free, guided hikes taking place at Michigan’s state parks on New Year’s Day and throughout the first week of January. The hikes are part of the America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative taking place in all 50 states.

“We are excited to host First Day Hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into our parks,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson. “First Day Hikes are a great way to cure cabin fever and burn off those extra holiday calories by starting off the new year with an invigorating walk or hike in one of our beautiful state parks.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor of the state hikes. Events will be offered at the following locations:

  • Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Ontonagon County): Dec. 31, 6 p.m.
  • Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County): Jan. 1, 11 a.m.
  • Warren Dunes State Park (Berrien County), Jan. 1, 10 a.m.
  • Mitchell State Park (Wexford County): Jan. 2, 1 p.m.
  • Bay City State Recreation Area (Bay County): Jan. 3, 10:30 a.m.
  • Brighton Recreation Area (Livingston County): Jan. 3, noon
  • Maybury State Park (Wayne County): Jan. 3, 10 a.m.
  • Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Ontonagon County): Jan. 3, 1 p.m.
  • Ludington State Park (Mason County): Jan. 3, 6 p.m.
  • Sterling State Park (Monroe County): Jan. 4, 1 p.m.

Try on a pair of snowshoes at one of the guided hikes or take a walk through your local state park this winter. A number of Michigan state parks will also have plowed campgrounds you can use for winter walking, including:

  • Bay City Recreation Area
  • Rifle River Recreation Area
  • Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park
  • Fayette Historic State Park
  • Waterloo Recreation Area
  • Sleepy Hollow State Park
  • Straits State Park
  • Fort Custer Recreation Area
  • Mitchell State Park
  • Muskegon State Park
  • J. Hoffmaster State Park
  • Ludington State Park
  • Maybury State Park
  • Burt Lake State Park
  • Grand Haven State Park

According to the VanWyck family, snowshoes can take you farther than you ever imagined.

Chris VanWyck on a snowshoe hike last winter.
Chris VanWyck on a snowshoe hike last winter.

A weekend trip for Chris, Amelia, and Eva to Big Sable Point Lighthouse was particularly memorable.

“It was like walking across a diamond field,” Chris VanWyck said.

Snowshoeing is also an activity the entire family can enjoy together, regardless of varying levels of athletic ability. Corinn took Dominic out to the dunes and was amazed at how high they were able to get and how spectacular the views were. The family also loves that wildlife can be more visible on winter walks thanks to a lack of foliage.

“We hike a lot in the summer, so it’s a lot like that,” Eva VanWyck explained.

“I love the fact that our season was extended thanks to the snowshoes,” Chris VanWyck added.

For more information about Michigan’s Shoe Years Hikes, visit www.michigan.gov/gogetoutdoors.

Photo credits: The VanWyck family

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