Ride with Yooupers
The spray of snow flying over your windshield while mountain sledding (snowmobiling off-road) is a rush akin to that a skier experiences going through deep powder. But even if you prefer to stay on snowmobile trails, instead of powering through the woods, you’ll still get your kicks. Imagine your surprise as you come around a corner and a moose is blocking your way!
Yooupers, residents of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is commonly referred to as the U.P., know they live in some of the best snowmobiling country in the nation. In many parts of the U.P., which covers almost 16,500-square-miles, snowfall exceeds 20 feet during a winter. This makes for excellent snowmobiling and mountain sledding conditions.
With fewer than 350,000 people in the U.P., most of the communities are small and in the winter the economies are heavily dependent on snowmobiling. Locals have built and maintain thousands of miles of snowmobile trails throughout the U.P. More adventurous types are eager to explore off-road, so mountain sledding in the powder has also become a popular pastime and tourist interest. More physically demanding than trail riding, there are dangers associated with mountain sledding and it should be done in groups only after safety training.
Newberry, Michigan, designated the official Moose Capital of Michigan and located in the eastern third of the U.P, has hundreds of miles of groomed, marked snowmobile trails and it’s surrounded by state and national forests. It’s a great place to go for a ride. If you go snowmobiling around Newberry, take a ride to the Tahquamenon Falls. Whether the falls are frozen or running, when there’s snow on the trees and ground both the upper and lower falls are gorgeous and a photographer’s dream. A ride through the Tahquamenon Falls State Park could result in sighting moose, black bear, deer, otter, mink, and beaver. Early in the morning or in the evening you might even see eagles fishing at the lower falls when they’re not frozen. It was along the shores of the Tahquamenon River that Longfellow’s Hiawatha built his canoe.
From Newberry, you can also go snowmobiling at the gorgeous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, with its sandstone walls and formations. In the winter, unplowed roads are often open to snowmobiles, including the roads to the famous Miner’s Castle formation. The frozen waters of Lake Superior and Grand Sable Lake are also open to snowmobiles—ice conditions permitting—and the wide-open terrain can provide for a thrilling time. If you want to take a break from snowmobiling, there are numerous opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and dog sledding.
Upper Peninsula Snowmobiling (upsnowmobiling.com). Newberry, Michigan (www.newberrymichigan.net). Tahquamenon Falls State Park (www.exploringthenorth.com/tahqua/tahqua). Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore ( 906/387-4025; www.nps.gov/piro).
Tour: U.P. Rental, Newberry ( 906/293-5515; www.uprental.com).
When to Go: Dec–Mar.
Chippewa County International Airport (68 miles/110km). Sault Ste. Marie (67 miles/108km).
$ Sno-Shu Inn, P.O. Box 67, Hulbert ( 906/876-2324; www.exploringthenorth.com/snoshu/sno).