Snowmobiling in the Keweenaw
On average the Keweenaw receives over 250 inches of snow annually. From meticulously maintained trails to adrenaline-packed experiences through the pines and along Lake Superior shoreline, there’s no shortage of sledding adventures. With over 230 miles of snowmobile trails and award-winning restaurants and lodging along the way, the Keweenaw is a snowmobiler’s dream destination!
Before You Go…
Before you’re legally allowed to operate a snowmobile in Michigan you must purchase a trail permit. The trail permit allows you to ride state-designated trails and (where authorized) public land and roads.
In addition to having a trail permit, you must register your snowmobile with the Secretary of State. The registration is good for three years.
There are so many incredible side loops and backcountry jaunts. Start your planning by downloading or requesting a copy of a Keweenaw snowmobile trail map. Note that the Keweenaw snowmobile trail system is made up of state-owned and privately-owned trail segments. It’s through good trail stewardship and private-public partnerships that the Keweenaw is able to offer a world-class snowmobile experience.
Here are just a few of our favorite excursions.
- Trail #3 from Mohawk takes you up and over Brockway Mountain. A beautiful route with plenty of places to stop and stretch your legs. Enjoy a Vollwerth’s footlong hot dog grilled to perfection at The Cliff View Bar & Cabins, head further north and stop by The Phoenix General Store, a Copper Country landmark. The Phoenix General Store serves up ice-cold beverages and a wide variety of snack foods. Check out the old coolers, over a century old.
- Take “Mandan Trail”/Trail #134 out to High Rock Bay where Lake Superior awaits. This trail is a still-in-use logging road that opens to snowmobile traffic generally in early January. Trail #132 is a popular trail that treats you with spectacular overlooks of Lac La Belle. It’s arguably one of the best trails in terms of unparalleled views and beautiful terrain. While in Lac La Belle don’t forget to stop in the Bear Belly Bar & Grill for something to eat. They have an amazing Steak Caesar Salad and delicious two-handed sandwiches. Don’t feel quite like jumping back on the sled right away? Head over to the brand-new Nordic Spa at Mount Bohemia. Did you know Mount Bohemia is home to the largest hot tub in the Upper Peninsula?
- The Bill Nicholls Trail passes through the Twin Lakes/Toivola area and Krupps Resort is right there awaiting your arrival! They have some of the best pasties! The Bill Nicholls Trail is over 40 miles and runs parallel for several miles alongside M-26. Several lodging establishments and places to grab a bite to eat are right on the trail.
- Running on the south side of the Portage Canal the Bill Nicholls Trail becomes walking distance away from downtown Houghton. Plenty of places to park right off the trail including under the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. Go check out the recently reopened Library Restaurant & Brewpub—it’s amazing! Order the famous tostado pizza at the Ambassador Restaurant, stop in The Downtowner for a game of pool or to watch a hockey game on one of the large flatscreens. Want to pick up a souvenir to bring back home? Chickadees, Apple Blossom Mercantile, and Michigan Made are just a few stores carrying really great gift ideas located in this beautiful downtown.
If you need to rent a snowmobile, look no further. Not only do these family-owned and operated businesses provide snowmobile rentals, they have years of experience and valuable insight, and a passion for all things snowmobiling.
- M&M Powersports is located in Hancock, Michigan, near the Ramada Waterfront Inn and Trail #17.
- Copper Country Rentals is conveniently located off US-41 in Calumet, Michigan and Trail #17.
- Keweenaw Snowmobile Rentals is located right on Trail #17 in Hancock, Michigan.
- When it comes to snowmobiling, there is safety in numbers. In case of an accident, medical emergency, mechanical trouble, or poor weather, don’t ride alone. On the plus side, riding with friends is more fun!
- Stay up to date on current trail conditions, trail closures and the weather forecast. Keweenaw Trail Reports is a great source for all things related to snowmobiling in the Keweenaw. Keweenaw Convention & Visitor’s Bureau updates trail conditions and provides downloadable trail maps.
- Slow down. Even if this isn’t your first time snowmobiling in the Keweenaw and you feel you know the trails like the back of your hand, slow down! Trees fall, heavy snowfall or ice can create uneven terrain and unexpected moguls. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 80% of U.P. snowmobile deaths and accidents were due to speed during the 2017-18 season.
- Occasionally, groomers suspend trail maintenance due to inclement weather. Rain and warm temperatures cause grooming equipment deterioration and performance challenges.
- Stay off the ice! For your safety as well as others, stay off the ice!
- Passing the Snowmobile Safety Certification Course is required for all snowmobile operators who are between 12 and 16 years of age. You can take it online here.
- Respect private property. If you don’t have the property owner’s permission to ride on it, don’t ride on it.
- If you come across an obstacle that could be a hazard to other riders, please report it.
What Will You Need?
If you are from out of state you may be wondering what you need in order to legally ride your snowmobile in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Here are a few helpful bits of information to make sure you not only enjoy our trails but do so legally.
1. If the snowmobile is owned by a nonresident, before operation in Michigan, a snowmobile must display a valid registration from the operator’s home state or province, or be registered in Michigan.
2. A person who desires to operate a snowmobile in this state shall obtain a snowmobile trail permit sticker. The snowmobile trail permit sticker shall be valid for a period of one year, which begins October 1 and ends September 30 of the following year. Snowmobile permits can be purchased online, or use this map to find a local retailer to purchase licenses and permits.
3. The trail permit sticker shall be permanently affixed to the forward half of the snowmobile directly above or below the headlight.
4. Snowmobile trail permits are available from snowmobile dealers, DNR offices and retail license agents throughout Michigan. The Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau is proud to offer this service to you.
5. All persons operating or riding on a snowmobile must wear a Department of Transportation approved crash helmet.
6. All snowmobiles must display a lighted headlight and taillight at all times during operation. However, the headlight shall not be covered with a lens cap of any color.
For more information about snowmobiling in Michigan visit the Michigan DNR website.
Download the snowmobile map here!
Request a paper copy here!
Who Maintains the Trails?
The Keweenaw Snowmobile Club is a nonprofit organization responsible for grooming and maintaining 233 miles of snowmobile trails that run from Toivola (about 15 miles south of Houghton) to the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. They have a fleet of five state-of-the-art groomers and a select team of dedicated and experienced trail groomers that are out on the trails sometimes twice a day. They average 35,000 groomed miles each season. That’s one-and-a-half times around the world!
The Valley Sno Drifters is a nonprofit group that maintains the “Dreamland Trails” (Trail #122). These are beautiful backwoods trails in the Lake Linden area. They go right by The Dreamland Bar & Restaurant located on Bootjack Road. These spectacular tree-lined trails really showcase the beauty of the Keweenaw.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Hentz-Roller & Keweenaw Trail Reports
About the Author: Amber Van Karsen is a Keweenaw resident, local history enthusiast, and freelance author.
Keweenaw Snowmobile Club; Michigan DNR; M&M Powersports; Keweenaw Trail Reports