These Northern Michigan winter destinations from Marquette to Ludington prove snow beauty satisfies like no other.

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Sugarloaf Mountain // Photo by Aaron Peterson

Stand atop Marquette’s Sugarloaf Mountain, and to the east, take in Lake Superior’s crescent beaches, rocky headlands and pine-studded islands; to the west (pictured) scan Huron Mountain ridges. Expect a 20-minute climb with two route possibilities from the parking lot. In the winter I prefer the route to the left, which, though signed “more difficult,” is easier because the other route gets packed into luge-like conditions. Snowshoes with cleats are recommended for grip on the packed, sometimes steep trail. (Get there: from Marquette, take M550/Big Bay Road north about 5 miles. Trailhead on right.) Warm up at Blackrocks Brewery on Third Street. Order a pint and settle in on Blackrocks’ heated open-air back porch to let the winter hike buzz linger Marquette style.


Harbor Springs // Photo by Beth Price

Harbor Springs is renowned for the iconic downhill ski resorts Boyne Highlands and Nub’s Nob, but Emmet County’s hills and plentiful snow make for fab cross-country exploration, too. Trace the groomed trails at the Highlands or Nub’s or follow user tracks at Wildwood Pathway or Wilderness State Park. Warm up at Tap 30 in downtown Petoskey. Thirty taps (eponymous connection noted), hearty menu, old brick walls, big window with soft light. You, your sweetie-pie and hat hair welcome.


The Manitou, Ludington Harbor // Photo by Brad Reed

As I walked the 1/8th mile out onto the ice mountains in front of Ludington City Beach to prepare for photographing the sunset, I heard the roar of diesel engines on the tug Manitou in the Ludington harbor. I was amazed at the courage of the crew and captain as they rammed the small tug up onto the ice and let the weight of the vessel weaken the ice below. Then they would back up and come charging full steam ahead into the ice. It was slow but steady progress and fascinating to watch. Warm up downtown at Jamesport Brewing Company or Ludington Bay Brewing Co., or go for perch at Scotty’s—outstanding.


Jordan River // Photo by John Mccormick

The untamed spirit of the Jordan River has been nurtured for four decades under the protection of the Wild and Scenic Rivers act. See it; feel it. Launch a canoe and float the snowy scene or snowshoe/xc-ski some or all of the 18-mile Jordan River Pathway. McCormick captured this image a short walk from where he parked on Old State Road. Warm up at Charlevoix’s Bridge Street Tap Room. Expect 32 beers on tap and a diverse menu trending toward inspired, elevated comfort food.

old mission

Old Mission
 Peninsula // photo by Shane Wyatt

On a February afternoon I went to explore and photograph the ice at Old Mission Point hoping for sunlit mounds of heaved ice. The entire Grand Traverse Bay was frozen over with a foot of crystal clear ice, and the sounds of the ice expanding was both eerie and amazing—like gunshots, like hoodoo groans. Turning back south toward Old Mission Point Park, I saw the low angle of winter’s sun made the entire point shine with a brilliant glow. (Get there: From Traverse City, take M37 north to its end.) Warm up at Jolly Pumpkin restaurant, near Bower’s Harbor. Artisan ales go great with one of the inventive pizzas.

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Otter Creek Beach // photo by John Mccormick

An enchanting hidden beach in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This photo looks north along the Lake Michigan shore to Empire Bluff dressed in a snowy scrim. (Get there: 4 miles south of Empire turn west on Esch Road from M22). Complete the experience by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing the lovely and not-too-difficult 3/4-mile trail to the top of Empire Bluff. (Get there: From Esch and M22, head North a couple miles on M22 to Wilco Road. Turn left and look for trail parking in half a mile.) Warm up at Joe’s Friendly Tavern in downtown Empire.


Arcadia Overlook // photo by John Mccormick

On a morning after a big snowfall, I drove north of Arcadia on M-22 and pulled off at the Arcadia Overlook. Known by locals as Inspiration Point, it is the highest promontory on the entire Lake Michigan shore. The view from the parking lot is unforgettable, but it becomes even more astonishing as you climb the 120 steps to the top of the viewing platform, where I shot this photo. Warm up with lunch or dinner at downtown Manistee’s Bluefish Kitchen & Bar (a pretty half-hour drive south).

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan magazine in 2015. It has recently been updated for you to continue to enjoy.

Photo(s) by John McCormick