Five options for winter fun in Central Michigan

Finding ways to have fun and stay safe during summer 2020 was an adventure in itself. Now that winter has come along, the challenge is twofold. But, don’t let that stop you from getting out and enjoying the hidden treasures mid-Michigan has in store.

Here are five opportunities we found to enjoy the outdoors during the wintertime.

For families: The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy’s Passport to Adventure

The inaugural Passport to Adventure offers 50 ideas for outdoor exploration within the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy’s 20 properties.

The Passport lists the CWC’s 20 preserves as places to visit and provides creative activities, such as joining a mushroom identification hike organized by the CWC, creating a piece of artwork inspired by one of the nature preserves, or snowshoeing a trail.

“[We made the Passport to Adventure because] people were looking for things to do,” says Mike LeValley, CWC Director. “I hear from a lot of people, ‘I would never think to do this.’”

Start your adventure by visiting chippewawatershedconservancy.org/passport-to-adventure to download the guide.

For the patient and persistent: Ice fishing

If you have the mental temperament to fish in normal temperatures and the physical temperament to sustain your body heat in freezing temperatures, then ice fishing may be for you.

Sue Ann Kopmeyer, Director of the Isabella County Parks and Recreation Commission, says people have been ice fishing in Mt. Pleasant for years and ice fishing is allowed in any of the county parks.

However, park staff does not monitor ice thickness and it is your responsibility to exercise safe practices.

Those who enjoy downhill skiing can drive north to Snow Snake Ski and Golf located in Harrison, or visit Deerfield Nature Park where the ski trail is groomed as often as possible provided that there is enough snow.
For the athlete: Cross-country skiing

The 600-acre Deerfield Nature Park features trails where park visitors may walk, snowshoe, or even go fat tire biking during the winter season.

Those who are looking to enjoy cross-country skiing may visit the park’s south side where staff grooms ski trails during the winter, provided there is a sufficient amount of snow.

Kopmeyer requests those who want to walk their dogs at the park avoid using the ski trails, as it damages the track.

To check current ski trail conditions at Deerfield Nature Park, visit isabellacounty.org/departments/parks-recreation.

The Chippewa River is a popular destination for kayakers and casual tubing floats in the summer. Why not do the same in a kayak this winter?
For adventure-seekers: Winter river kayaking

Although Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes isn’t currently open for rentals, that hasn’t stopped owner Liz Busch, and her husband, Bob, from taking their product on the road – or, more appropriately, the river. The two have even taken their dogs with them on their winter kayaking trips.

“A nice option would be Winn to Meridian for a 2-3 hour trip right now, or Majeske to Deerfield for about 1.5 hours,” says Liz Busch.

She cautions prospective winter kayakers to watch out for ice and other debris that might get in the way of a smooth ride.

For winter paddling adventurers wanting to learn more about safety tips or appropriate attire, visit paddlinglight.com/articles/winter-kayaking-tips.

For those who want nature, but not quite: Hunter’s Ale House’s fire pits

If you want to get some fresh air but aren’t able or ready to commit to a physical adventure, Hunter’s Ale House has tents and fire pits available for outdoor diners to stay comfortably warm in the winter weather.

Pat Simons, General Manager at Hunter’s Ale House, says the fire pits have always been available but didn’t see much use until the second (COVID-19) shutdown.

“Currently we have two fire pits, but plan on getting more,” says Simons. “We will be adding more heaters and huts to continue to allow customers to enjoy being outside even after we’re able to allow dine-in service.”

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