5 Things to Do This Winter in Munising
| 4 min read
Located in the Upper Peninsula, Munising is a popular destination in the summertime. But during the winter, this little city along Lake Superior's pristine shoreline also has plenty of family-friendly recreational options. It has been named a top winter family getaway and has been dubbed the “Snowmobile Capital of the Midwest.” Munising is located in Alger County, which has a groomed snowmobile trail system that has 10 trails and covers 300 miles. The annual snowfall for Munising averages about 140 inches. Snow usually starts to accumulate by mid-November and lasts until late April.
Munising Falls sits in the westernmost portion of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, within the city limits of Munising. It is one of the most easily accessible frozen waterfalls in the U.P., and it completely freezes in the winter. From the plowed parking lot, it’s less than a half-mile hike on the paved trail to the falls. Two sets of stairs lead to platforms for additional views of the 50-foot waterfall as it drops over a sandstone cliff. Wheelchairs may be able to get up the slightly sloped trail to the main viewing platform. Leashed pets are allowed on trail and viewing platforms. The falls used to be a popular spot for ice climbing, but now is closed to climbing due to hazardous rockfalls. Alger County is home to more than 15 waterfalls, several of which are around Munising and relatively easy to get to, such as Wagner Falls and Alger Falls.
During the winter, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore becomes a snowy wonderland with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, viewing ice formations, winter camping, and ice fishing. This geological masterpiece stretches 42 miles along the pristine, southern coast of Lake Superior between Munising and Grand Marais. This natural treasure was the first designated national lakeshore in the United States, established in 1966, and is one of only three national lakeshores in the country. The mineral-stained sandstone cliffs that give the park its name stretch for 15 miles along the Lake Superior shoreline. When groundwater from the cliffs’ cracks drizzles down the rocks, stunning colors appear. In addition to the rocky cliffs, there are miles of beaches, woodlands and 100 miles of trails to explore.
The Ice Curtains at Sand Point is one of Munising's most popular ice climbing areas. It is in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore between Munising Falls and Sand Point along Sand Point Road and is the main area where ice climbers go for Michigan Ice Fest. The 20- to 50-foot ice curtains are created as water trickles out of sandstone cliffs, freezing into curtains and columns of dark blue and white ice. The ice generally forms by mid-December and remains until early April. Ice cleats – which can be purchased or rented from several local businesses – are critical to avoid slipping or falling while adventuring to and around the formations.
4. Valley Spur
This is a favorite destination for many dedicated cross-country skiers, hikers, and mountain and snow bike enthusiasts. It is on M-94 about 5 miles west of Munising in the Hiawatha National Forest. The 27-mile cross-country ski trail system is groomed daily or as needed from December through March. All trails are groomed for both skate and classic skiing. Downhill trails are designed with run out and good sight distance, keeping safety in mind. Valley Spur usually enjoys a deep snow base with heavy accumulations from the lake effect snow off Lake Superior, making for a unique skiing and snowshoeing experience.
Michigan Ice Fest (February)
In mid-February, almost 1,400 people from around the world venture to Munising during the chilliest time of the year to take part in the annual Michigan Ice Fest. They come to take classes taught by the best ice climbers in the world, expand their skills and have an adventure. Over the past three decades, the Michigan Ice Fest has grown into the country’s second-largest gathering of ice climbers, thanks in large part to the passion of its organizer, Bill Thompson, co-owner of Down Wind Sports. The numerous waterfalls that make up Pictured Rocks make the area a unique place for ice climbing.
There’s lots to see and do in Munising this winter. Check out the highlights in this video.
Photo credit: Getty Images