Grab your snowshoes (or borrow some!) and take in the wild, snow-laden sights of the Sturgeon River Preserve. Get ready to head just north of Gaylord for this Northern Michigan snowshoeing adventure.

While it’s accessible year-round for hiking, the Sturgeon River Pre-serve truly shines in the winter. Just north of Gaylord, HeadWaters Land Conservancy’s flagship pre-trail along the scenic Sturgeon River and into the surrounding forest—an easy hike or snowshoe that’s perfect for families. (The preserve’s boardwalk is ADA accessible as well.)

In the North’s winter months, snowshoers can meander along the river and enjoy the varied terrains of this protected riparian habitat—old cedar and hardwood swamps and upland maples bearing elk rubs (marks from one of the largest elk herds east of the Mississippi).

Sturgeon River Snowshoeing

Photo by HeadWaters Land Conservancy

Related Read: Searching for more winter outdoor activities? Visit our Northern Michigan outdoors page!

In 2013, with the help of local Eagle Scouts, the conservancy was able to permanently protect this property, which became HeadWaters’ first public preserve. Since then, HeadWaters has been hosting annual winter snowshoe hikes at the site (RSVP on the HeadWaters website) or follow HeadWaters Land Conservancy on Facebook for event details.

Snowy hills of Sturgeon River

Photo by HeadWaters Land Conservancy

The conservancy also offers a free snowshoe borrowing program, made possible through a grant from United Healthcare. Families can borrow shoes—adult, children and toddler sizes—for a day or even a weekend, so long as they’re returned before any scheduled hikes.

Sturgeon River Preserve is open year-round for low-impact recreation: running, hiking and dog walking (no mountain bikes or hunting permitted). Please note: the trail is not groomed in the winter. The trailhead is located at 3749 Whitmarsh Rd. in Vanderbilt, and visitors can park on the shoulder of the road.

For more info on Sturgeon River and HeadWater’s other preserves, visit

Trees on the Sturgeon River

Photo by HeadWaters Land Conservancy

Photo(s) by HeadWaters Land Conservancy