Now that the snow has arrived, join a Park Ranger on snowshoes and explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) in all its winter splendor! To kick off the season, a special holiday vacation snowshoe hike will be held on Wednesday, December 30. Because the hikes were so popular last year, these programs will be offered every Saturday and Sunday beginning January 2, and continue through the end of February or later, if conditions permit. Each hike will start by meeting at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire at 1:00 p.m. If you do not have your own snowshoes, you can reserve and borrow a pair from the park, free of charge.
At the Visitor Center, a Park Ranger will distribute snowshoes to those who need them and provide basic snowshoeing instructions. Then the Park Ranger will lead everyone in their own cars to the trailhead of the day. On the trail, the Park Ranger will help participants identify flora and fauna, learn more about the National Lakeshore’s unique features, and witness the effects winter has on them all. Visitors should arrive prepared to be outside for about an hour and a half. To be most comfortable and warm, wear waterproof boots and dress in layers so you can peel off clothes as you warm up. The program will conclude by 3:00 p.m. back at the trailhead. Note that the Visitor Center closes at 4:00 p.m., should you want to go back after the walk.
Snowshoeing is easy, fun, and good exercise! If you can walk, then you can snowshoe, so it is also an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages. The Park Ranger-led hikes are mildly strenuous, yet they proceed at a leisurely pace for only .5 to 1.5 miles. This allows visitors an opportunity for discovery, adventure, and to look for signs of wildlife or evidence of ancient glaciers. Some snowshoers simply want to experience and enjoy a winter wonderland, and that is what you will find at the National Lakeshore. Park Rangers try to select a different location each week, so it is never the same hike twice!
The walk and snowshoe loan are free. However, participants need to purchase a park entrance pass or display an annual pass in their vehicle to join in the fun. Park passes cost $10 per vehicle and are good for seven days. The annual pass costs $20 and is valid for a year from the month of purchase. Reservations are not required, but are strongly suggested, especially if you wish to borrow snowshoes or are with a group. Teachers and other group leaders may also schedule a Park Ranger to take their group snowshoeing this winter. Please call 231-326-5134, extension 328, for details and to make reservations.
Photo: Empire Bluff Overlook by dgrier1027