Midland's City Forest-winter destination

Just because it’s wintertime and the temperatures are cold, that doesn’t mean outdoor recreation should be booted off your calendar. Midland offers a variety of activities that showcase the beautiful winter weather. 

Owned and operated by the City of Midland, the City’s website notes that City Forest is the region’s premier winter recreation destination, with the state’s only hand-packed toboggan runs, 7.5 miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, mountain biking trails, ice rink, sledding hill, and a chalet with refreshments. 
The City Forest chalet is a warm place to gather on a winter day.
According to Assistant Director of Public Services, Marcie Post, City Forest has been around for decades. Located north of the Midland Mall at 2840 E. Monroe Road, “City Forest is the city’s largest park, comprised of 520 acres of hardwoods and pines, and is perfect for year-round activities.” 

There is no charge to enter the park. One of the most unique aspects of the park is the hand-packed toboggan runs. Post says, “Each at a tenth of a mile long, these four snow-packed, iced, and elevated toboggan runs are a fan favorite.”  

Beautiful day for a toboggan ride at City Forest.“To our knowledge, we are the only unrefrigerated toboggan run in the state,” she says. “Echo Valley offers tobogganing, and there is a luge in Muskegon, but there aren’t many features like the toboggan runs around.”

City Forest also has a sledding hill, offering rental equipment for $4 for a two-hour rental, or you can use your own equipment. Steel runner sleds, toboggans and snowboards are not permitted.

Sledding hill at City Forest is a fun place to spend a winter afternoon.On Saturday, Jan. 22, the park hosts the third annual Cardboard Sled Races from 1 to 4 p.m. Awards are given in each class and division, and sledders can register online

If the trails sound like more your speed than a thrilling sledding ride, City Forest has 7.5 miles of groomed trails, including a 0.7 mile lighted loop for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The facility also includes 13 miles of year-round mountain bike trails. 
Emerson Park ice rink has lights for nighttime use.
Another popular wintertime activity, ice skating, is available at City Forest, too. “A large rink in front of the Chalet is ideal for ice skaters of all levels,” Post says. “Emerson Park is home to our hockey rink; there is a light-timer on site for use in the darker hours of the day.”

After a full day of activities, the Chalet offers warm refreshments like hot cocoa and a perfect spot for people-watching. 
If the temperatures are cold enough, the City makes snow at City Forest.
“Everything we do is based on weather; we don’t have any sort of refrigeration methods to keep our attractions frozen,” Post says. “We always recommend that our visitors call our rainout line at  989-399-0506 to check on the status of our attractions. We do make snow, but it needs to be very chilly out (15-17 degrees) with just the right humidity.”

You can also check online for an updated status, and follow City Forest on social media for news and park announcements. 


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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at sarahspohn.news@gmail.com.