Snow Shoeing, Cross Country and Downhill Skiing
Trails filled with fresh fallen snow. Whisper of a breeze through tall pine trees. The rhythmic slap-slap of skis sliding along the track. Views of a winter wonderland in the central Upper Peninsula.
Delta County offers a number of options for the winter silent sports fan. Trails are available for the beginner to the experienced outdoor snow person. All are located within an easy drive of lodging and places to eat. Probably one of the best features of trails in Delta County is their low traffic. Even when the parking lot is full, you’ll rarely come across others on the trail. Yet none are so isolated that you might feel uneasy venturing out on an unfamiliar route. These trails described here are maintained by federal, state or local agencies and do not require a trail permit for use. All have a deposit box for contributions towards trail maintenance.
The most popular cross-country ski trail with the locals is the Days River Trail, maintained by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Located off U.S. 2 on Days River Road (approximately 3 miles south of Rapid River), this route offers several loops with trail lengths ranging from one to eight miles. It also provides a groomed ski skating track. Snowshoeing is possible alongside some of the routes although many are narrow and skiers would prefer their tracks not be damaged by snowshoes. There are a few challenging hills along the longer routes.
Also close to town is the Rapid River Trail maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. Located on U.S. Hwy 41, 6 miles north of Rapid River, this location offers one of the longest, and most challenging, ski trails. In fact, there are warning signs at the start of the long 10 mile loop warning that this trail is only for the most experienced skiers. But don’t be deterred by this. The remaining four loops offer some of the most scenic skiing in the area and are rated from beginner to intermediate level. Two ski skating loops are also available. Again, snowshoeing is also an option along these trails. This site provides a handicapped accessible toilet.
At the far eastern edge of Delta County is one of its most interesting historical sites, Fayette Historic State Park. Snowshoes make it easy to maneuver around the buildings and kilns that were part of a productive iron-smelting operation. Interpretive signs along the way explain the operations and day-to-day life during Fayette’s peak in the 1880’s. There is also a cross-country ski trail available to tour around the area. The park is located on M-183, 17 miles south of U.S. 2. The village of Garden is the largest community nearby and offers restaurants and convenience stores although some shops may not be open during the winter months.
The 40 mile Grand Island Trail parallels the White Fish River and extends from Rapid River to Ackerman Lake in Alger County. During the summer months it is a popular hiking and horse-riding trail. Wintertime finds skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers sharing various portions of the trail. The southern access point is located off County Road 509, 2 miles east of the village of Rapid River.
Escanaba has a gorgeous groomed non-motorized recreational pathway as well that is perfect for skiing, snowshoeing, and taking your fat tire bike for a spin. The trail sits between US 2-41 and North 3oth Street in Escanaba. North 30th Street has an access point and information about the trail at the trail-head. If you are looking for free snowshoe rentals and more information about the trail system in Escanaba, call the Civic Center at (906)786-4141.
Gladstone is home to the John & Melissa Besse Sports Park where you can downhill ski and go tubing on the weekends. Offering beginner and intermediate skiing, the hill also has three tube runs, with a lift, and a snowboard terrain park with a 1/2 pipe. The Ski Chalet includes a concession stand that is also rented out in the off season for wedding receptions, graduation parties, family reunions and other events.