Winter Night Hikes Across Michigan 

Shandra Martinez

| 4 min read

Winter mountain adventure. Young couple on a trail. Night blizzard
Walking in the winter has its own kind of charm. The soft snow underfoot. The hush of the woods in the coldest season. The frosty air putting a spring in your step. But set out on a hike at night, and it raises the adventure level up a few notches. It can be a treat for your senses. And when these evening walks are illuminated with solar lights, luminaries or other light sources, they can feel magical. Here are some of our favorite places for winter night hikes.
Mt. McSauba in Charlevoix: This summertime vacation spot also is home to some amazing winter offerings. Hike the candle-lit trails at this community ski hill. Follow the lighted trail and you’ll reach a roaring fire and hot chocolate for all. From the tourism experts at Visit Charlevoix: “We can’t say enough good things about the candlelight hikes at Mt. McSauba. They happen every Friday from 5-8 p.m. from Dec. 23 to Feb. 24. This mile-long loop is a family fun activity that is free and something you should add to your bucket list!”
Enchanted Trail, Highlands at Harbor Springs: This four-season resort really shines in the winter, and their recent addition of an Enchanted Trail through the woods has been a popular draw for locals and overnight guests alike. The two-mile round-trip hike travels a marked trail through the woods where lights wrapped around tree trunks lead the way to a midpoint gathering spot. A rustic yurt offers hot cocoa and adult beverages with a cozy place to relax. Outside, there is seating around a bonfire and fixings for s’mores. When you’re ready, make the return trip through woods with a well-lit trail to guide you. For more information, check here.
Ludington State Park: One of Michigan’s most popular state parks invites people to enjoy the beauty of a wintertime night sky with their lantern-lit hikes. Park staff describe it this way: “A lantern-lit half-mile trail through the wooded sand dunes and over the Big Sable River culminates at the Park Amphitheater where a campfire greets participants with a free cup of hot cocoa and marshmallows to roast or put into the hot cocoa. Park Staff and the volunteers from the Friends of Ludington State Park will greet you and help you throughout your walk. Dress warm for outdoor winter conditions.” You can hike the route or bring snowshoes or cross-country skis. Dates for the 2023 events: Jan. 7, Jan. 21, Feb. 4, and Feb. 18. A recreation passport is required for entry to the park. For more details here. 
Island Lake Recreation Area in Brighton: Another season of lantern-lit hikes along the state recreation area’s Hickory Ridge trail are planned this winter. It’s a two-mile round-trip route, with a campfire warming station set up at the half-way point. Participants are asked not to bring headlamps or flashlights. Instead, the lanterns and moon will provide enough light to guide the way. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed. It’s a self-guided winter hike and can be done anytime between 6-9 p.m. on Jan. 7 and Feb. 4. On March 4, the hike will be from 7-9 p.m. A recreation passport is required for entry to the park.
Chippewa Nature Center in Midland: Home to 19 miles of trails, this family-friendly nature center has lots of winter events. Some of the night hikes have themes. January, February and early March will feature evening snowshoe hikes. “Come discover the beauty of a winter night,” staff said in the event description. “We will look for signs of animals, study tree silhouettes and enjoy the winter sky. Bring a headlamp or flashlight. Pre-registration is required. During those same months, come out at night for the Full Moon Stroll, to be guided by an interpretive naturalist. “Learn how the tradition of naming moons began and what makes each moon month special.” For more details on dates and times, check the nature center’s events calendar here.
For more fun night-time events, check the Pure Michigan events calendar.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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