Sleeping Bear Dunes offers new snowshoe hikes

From staff reports

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is planning something new this winter for their free ranger-led snowshoe hikes. Whether you are an experienced snowshoer or have never tried snowshoeing, the National Lakeshore invites you to join a ranger-led snowshoe hike to explore the park. There will be two hikes each Saturday, one for beginners called the “Snowshoe Saunter” and one for more experienced snowshoe hikers called the “Snowshoe Trek”. Each hike starts at 1 p.m. with an introduction at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire. 

These Saturday snowshoe hikes begin on January 4 and continue each Saturday through March 14. Reservations are required. Please call 231-326-4700, extension 5010, for details and to make reservations. When making your reservation, be sure to specify if you would like to join the “Snowshoe Saunter” or “Snowshoe Trek”. If there is not enough snow, winter hikes will be offered.

This holiday season, ranger-led snowshoe hikes will be offered on Thursday, December 26 at 1 p.m. and Tuesday, December 31 at 1 p.m. The ranger-led snowshoe hike on December 26 will be for all experience levels. The snowshoe hike on December 31 will be the first opportunity to choose a ranger-led “Snowshoe Saunter” or “Snowshoe Trek.”

Snowshoes will be loaned at no charge to participants that do not have their own. The National Lakeshore has traditional and modern snowshoes available. These hikes are free, but participants do need a park entrance pass or have an annual pass to join in the fun. Reservations are required whether participants borrow snowshoes from the National Lakeshore or have their own. To cancel a reservation, please call the National Lakeshore so visitors on the waiting list can be contacted to participate in the hike.

Snowshoe hikes are fun for all ages. Inside the visitor center, rangers will first provide an introduction and basic snowshoeing instructions, and then everyone will travel by car to the trailhead or area of the National Lakeshore pre-selected for that day. Once there, the ranger will help participants learn about the park’s unique features and winter’s effect on them by exploring and discovering clues on site. Be prepared and plan to be outside for about two hours. Dress in layers and wear waterproof boots to be most comfortable.

Not only is snowshoeing easy, fun, and good exercise, it is also an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages. The ranger-led hikes are mildly strenuous, yet they proceed at a leisurely pace for one and a half miles at the most. The “Snowshoe Saunter” will allow for more time to put on the snowshoes and to practice using them, and will go at a slow pace with multiple stops along the way. It will be a leisurely exploration through the National Lakeshore’s cool spots. The “Snowshoe Trek” will be slightly faster-paced and the terrain might be a little more rugged. There will still be interpretive stops along the hike to discover the park’s resources. Both of these hikes will involve exploration and adventure.