To many people, winter offers the suggestion of staying indoors, but the Michigan State Parks system encourages people to get outside during the snowy months by offering its visitors opportunities for camping, skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, photography, quiet walks, and even bird watching.
There are 17 Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas that offer the winter camping experience. They are Algonac, Hartwick Pines, Ludington, McLain, Muskegon, Mitchell, Sleeper, Sterling, Straits, Tahquamenon Falls, Traverse City, and Warren Dunes state parks and Bay City, Fort Custer, Proud Lake, Rifle River, and Waterloo recreation areas. "Winter camping is more fun and much warmer than you can imagine," says a Ludington State Park Camper. "The quietness and solitude is unbelievable compared to the crowded summer months. We love to cross country ski the miles of trails, ice fish on the lake, watch the hundred of birds on the river, and spend time together, truly alone." If you're not into pitching a tent during this winter season, then there are other options for you in most of these parks. Many offer heated mini-cabins, rustic cabins, and RV electrical hookups for those preferring the comforts of home.
Albert E. Sleeper State ParkPark is located on the "thumb" of Michigan with 223 modern campsites. In the winter, the park offers cross-country skiing and can be used as a camp for those wishing to ice-fish or snowmobile nearby. Candlelight Trail evenings held at the park enable the skier or hiker to enjoy established recreation activities in a unique and fun way. Unit Supervisor at Albert E. Sleeper State Park says "The beauty and romance of a candlelit trail cannot be described in words - they must be experienced. Imagine a row of lighted luminaries stretching off into the distance, beckoning."
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State ParkThe 60,000-acre park also offers lantern-lit cross-country skiing. It began the program four years ago to provide their winter visitors the opportunity to get out and enjoy the quiet beauty of an Upper Michigan winter evening. The Superior Loop trail (rated as a beginner trail) is lit using 60 vintage-style kerosene lamps. Completing the entire loop is just over one mile. About half way out on the loop there is a campfire ring set up with rustic benches. Here, skiers can warm up and visit with the park interpreter. Winter campfires are a great UP tradition and park visitors often get a kick out of it, since its something that most people dont get to do very often.
The lantern light ski program at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is very popular with park visitors and local residents alike. If the weather is good, 60 or 70 skiers stop by the fire. Families and groups especially appreciate the chance to get out and have a little adventure. The Porcupine Mountains area is sparsely populated and once the ski area closes for the day things get pretty quiet. This program extends an invitation to all to savor the stars, the snow, and the still of a winter night.