One great feature of snowshoeing in Northern Michigan, but certainly not the lone upside, is how easily one can transition from sitting on the couch to full-on motion.
Snowshoeing certainly scores high on this simple scale, and is one of the reasons my family and I have always enjoyed the simple way we can enjoy the quiet exhilaration the sport provides.
Whether making our way along the trails behind North Central Michigan College, or somewhere through a Little Traverse Conservancy property, we appreciate how the dogs can easily join a winter walk in deep snow, and how we can avoid crowds in the woods or along the river bottoms.
Snowshoeing allows trekkers to visit places harder to get to in warmer weather, such as those rivers or swamps, where summer or fall trails sometimes fill with mud and other knee-deep obstacles.
Before you take to the trails, however, there are few preparations to make. First, start with a good pair of boots. You are likely to work up a sweat regardless of the cold, and you’re also bound to get wet, and getting wet in the woods, especially with wet feet, can be uncomfortable. Choose waterproof boots that reach above the ankles (or higher for deeper snow). Look for a boot that also offers a sole and a welt that will take well to snowshoe bindings.
Next, pick the right gear. Hiking snowshoes, the most common style you’re likely to see on a recreational hike through local forests, tend to come with web-based bindings, in lengths between 22 inches and 25 inches. Longer lengths support heavier hikers. Many manufacturers like Tubbs or Atlas, for example, also make lighter weight and shorter shoes for women and lighter hikers. There are also plenty of snowshoes designed for children, again in lengths to coordinate with height and weight.
Many snowshoers also opt to utilize hiking poles or ski poles, mostly to aid balance. Leki, among other brands, offers adjustable length poles to accommodate hikers of varying heights, or moving on uneven or changing inclines. Other common accessories include daypacks or flotation tails that can be added to shorter, faster snowshoes when the snow turns deeper and requires more length.
Local experts are easy to locate, such as those at Petoskey’s Bearcub Outfitter on Lake Street, Latitude 45 on West Mitchell, or at The Outfitter in Harbor Springs. Staff at all of these local shops can help you find the right snowshoes, point you to good local spots for hiking or climbing, and answer your other questions about this favorite winter sport.
Wherever you wind up in Northern Michigan this winter, you can be ready for more fun for sure if you have an eager companion, an afternoon or more to enjoy, and a well-chosen pair of snowshoes for the hiking.