Winter is a magical time in Michigan. The scenery changes. The crowds are no more. The land turns quiet. Yet the beauty of nature and attractions remains intact, as well as accentuated in a new way.
Driving Time: 2 hours, 47 minutes
Mileage: 142 miles
Tawas City: Lumberman’s Monument Park
This is one of the top attractions in the summertime for wandering tourists. Partially due to its history as an integral area for the lumber industry during its hey-day, partially due to its stunning views and overlooks of the AuSable River. However, winter brings its own charm and serenity. The land becomes draped in white and gives you a completely different sight, which is even more pronounced if you have ever visited during the warmer months of the year. There is a statue, a monument to the loggers of a bygone era, who worked this land and gave everything they had to do so. The park is 15 miles west of Oscoda, and it’s not plowed or shoveled so be prepared.
Sand Point: Nature Preserve
A protected coastal area of the Saginaw Bay Watershed, Sand Point Nature Preserve is 220 acres of the most biologically diverse sites along the Saginaw Bay shoreline. Birdwatchers flock here to view sandhill cranes, great egrets, wood ducks, great blue herons, songbirds, and bald eagles. There are five miles of trails well-worth a snowshoe trek. You can’t beat the pristine and untouched beauty of this area. The southern end can be reached by turning west on M-25 onto Dunn Road. The main parking lot is off M-25 north of Dunn Road.
Caseville: Long Pier
A well-loved walk – and fishing spot – for many people in the summer is along Long Pier in Caseville, which is within the Caseville County Park. The pier juts out 1800 feet into Lake The long sandy beach nearby is worth a walk, too. It’s important to remember that piers can become particularly treacherous in the winter, so be careful and try to go on a day after there’s been fresh snow.
Huron County Wilderness Arboretum (www.huronnaturecenter.org/index.html)
Located between Port Austin and Caseville is Huron County Wilderness Arboretum, which has more than 120 acres of woods, dunes, and marshes. Winter visitors can explore 120 acres of woods, dunes, and marshlands via the nearly two-mile trail system that has boardwalks, bridges, and viewing decks. Part of the trail is paved while the rest is covered with wood chips. You don’t need to pay any entrance fees or have a Michigan Recreation Passport, so you can visit any winter day from dawn until dusk.
Port Austin: Turnip Rock
Port Austin is best known for its octagonal lighthouse and for the most famous natural formation in the Thumb dubbed “Turnip Rock.” Turnip Rock is just off the tip of Michigan’s “fingernail,” the most northern point of the state’s thumb designated as Pointe Aux Barques. The unique rock is a sandstone island that has some trees, moss, and other vegetation growing on top of it. In the summer, you can go view the rock by kayak by putting into Bird Creek County Park, but in the winter, you can hike over the frozen lake to see the formation up close. The land around Turnip Rock is private so those are your only options.
More winter activities around northeast Michigan:
Sledding – There are well-known sledding hills in Harbor Beach (by Judge James H. Lincoln Memorial Park), Bad Axe (across from St. Hubert’s Sacred Heart Church, and Pigeon (the recreation park).
Cross-country skiing – Visit Corsair Ski Trails, a network of 26 miles and loops, as well as the Highbanks Trail System, particularly the seven-mile Highbanks River Trail. Both are located within the depths of the Huron-Manistee National Forest.