MANISTEE COUNTY, MI – Winter may have already arrived on our doorsteps, but unless you put a little planning into your next adventures, this season of deep powder and snow-covered forest trails might just zip by without you grabbing your chance to get outside and play.

Whether you’re a sled head ready to tackle new trails with your snowmobiling friends or a cross-country skier in search of some stride-and-glide bliss, Manistee is one spot where a handful of fun wintertime adventures can intersect. It’s even got something new this year – guided winter rafting trips.

Travel experts in Manistee County have pre-packaged some of that fun inside a 2021 Winter Guide. It gives you a snapshot of each activity – from downhill skiing to snowshoeing – and information on where to do it. It is crammed full of trail maps as well as tips for where to grab a bite to eat or a craft beer or cocktail once you’re done playing in the snow. Want to really relax and stay for a bit? You’ll also find hotel recommendations in the guide, as well as rental links for homes and condos.

“With families seeking fun, safe outdoor winter activities (especially this year), we want to make it easy to see all the choices in Manistee County and book a trip,” said Kathryn Kenny, executive director of Visit Manistee County, also known as the Manistee County Visitors Bureau. “We especially encourage people to try a new winter activity this year, and we’ll even help you find the rental equipment – whether for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or fat biking.”

The area has 20 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, more than 30 miles of trails ready for fat tire biking, 80 lakes and four rivers for winter fishing and paddling, and access to hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails. It’s also close to two downhill ski resorts, one of which features a gorgeous spa for some pampering, and an outdoor art park for winter hiking.

Manistee County

Lake Michigan views are just as spectacular covered in snow. Photo courtesy of Visit Manistee County and @jessamaeb on Instagram.

Plan Your Winter Adventure

We’re sharing some highlights from Manistee’s Winter Guide below, with links to online webpages that include trail maps, tips for where to park at trailheads, and which restaurants are nearby.

  • Snowmobiling – “The region features 250 miles of groomed trails in Manistee County, plus access to 450-plus miles in a five-county trail network connecting all of the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula. Snowmobile rentals and tours: Crystal Adventures, Thompsonville.
Manistee County

Hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails await in Manistee County. Photo courtesy of Visit Manistee County and @winfieldscottcreative on Instagram.

  • Winter fishing – “Once ice forms, anglers flock to 80 inland lakes and four rivers of Manistee County, casting lines for pike, walleye, perch, smelt, bluegill and crappie. Fishing equipment rental/purchase: Osborn’s Sport Shop, Bear Lake.”
Manistee County

Winter fishing heats up when anglers flock to 80 inland lakes and four rivers in Manistee County. Photo courtesy of Visit Manistee County and @northern_michigan_angler on Instagram.

  • Winter paddling – “Paddlers can enjoy the Big Manistee and Pine Rivers throughout winter and see scenery from a new perspective. NOTE: Winter paddlers should take caution and dress appropriately. Paddling the river in the summer first is recommended for safety. Kayak or canoe rental: Pine River Paddlesports Center, Wellston.” New this season: Pine River Paddlesports is offering guided winter rafting trips along the Pine River.
Manistee County

Paddle sports and rafting can be wintertime adventures, too. Photo courtesy of Visit Manistee County and @59rat on Instagram.

  • Snowshoeing – “Manistee County’s diverse hiking terrain becomes a snowshoe paradise when the snow flies. Hiking trails make perfect snowshoeing destinations, whether along Lake Michigan at Arcadia Dunes/Old Baldy Trailhead or Magoon Creek Nature Area, or inland on the North Country Trail and Manistee River Trail Loop. Snowshoe rental: Crystal Lake Adventure Sports, Beulah.” Want to get really adventurous and try an overnight, multi-day snowshoe or winter hike along the Manistee River Trail? There’s a map and tips for that.
Manistee County

Hiking trails make perfect snowshoeing destinations. Photo courtesy of Visit Manistee County and @upnorthviews on Instagram.

  • Fat tire biking – “Manistee County offers two groomed fat bike trails: Big M Recreational Area (one of the state’s first groomed bike trail systems) with 25 miles of single-track trails at various levels of difficulty, and the Non-Motorized Park including the MTB Terrain Park boasting 5.4 miles of trails featuring boards, trails and obstacles for the beginner to intermediate biker. Fat bike rental: Crystal Mountain Resort, Thompsonville.”
  • Cross-country skiing – “Manistee County is home to more than 20 miles of groomed skiing trails in two major trail networks – Big-M Recreation Area with 18 miles of groomed classic skiing trails, and Manistee Non-Motorized Park with 4 miles of classic and skate-style skiing trails. Cross-country ski rental: Crystal Mountain Resort, Thompsonville.”
Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain all lit up at night, under a blanket of fresh snow.

  • Snowboarding/Downhill skiing – “Manistee County has two popular downhill skiing options with nearly 100 ski runs within a 30-minute drive from Manistee County – Crystal Mountain Ski Resort and Spa in Thompsonville and Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac. Both rent equipment.”

Outdoor Dining, Drinks and Takeout

While there are lots of local places to grab a bite to go, here are a few not to miss with outdoor dining options this winter:

  • Base Camp Iron Fish, Iron Fish Distillery, Thompsonville – “This outdoor ‘village’ of heated, breathable canvas tents with lights overhead gives guests an outdoor space to enjoy spirits, cocktails, wood-fired pizza and snacks. Nine tents accommodate groups of 2-4 or 6-8. Available by reservation for 90 minutes, the tents are refreshed and sanitized between use. Iron Fish also offers seating at outdoor picnic tables with bonfire pits nearby. A heated outdoor spirit tasting and merchandise area also is available. Outdoor live music continues throughout the winter.” RELATED: Drink cocktails in heated tents at this Michigan distillery’s new winter ‘base camp’
  • St. Ambrose Cellars, Beulah. “This meadery in neighboring Benzie County offers four heated igloos for up to six people of the same household that can be reserved for one-hour sittings at $10 (covers cleaning and maintenance). Igloos are disinfected with an electrostatic fogger and cleaned between use. In addition to offering locally-made mead, cider, and beer, St. Ambrose sells snack picnic baskets and features food trucks on select dates. Check its Facebook page for details.”
  • Stormcloud Brewing Company, Frankfort. “This microbrewery in adjacent Benzie County features heated geodesic domes – or ‘Thunderdomes’ – on the patio, which are available by reservation for a 75-minute session (each holds up to six people of the same household). Domes are sanitized between each seating, and the $10 rental fee is applied to the bill. Seating also is available on the heated patio.” RELATED: How a photographer’s darkroom hobby became one of the best breweries in Michigan
Outdoor dining

Stormcloud Brewing has “Thunderdomes” that can be reserved.Courtesy Photo, used with permission.

Want to pack a handy guide with you for your next adventure? You can request a printed guide through the Visit Manistee website or by calling the visitors bureau at 877-626-4783.


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