Way up north, on the southern shores of Lake Superior sits Marquette, Michigan. This charming Upper Peninsula town was built on iron ore. The Marquette Ore Dock is a behemoth that rises from the water dominating the shoreline with its interesting and graceful design. Abuzz with nature-focused outdoor activities in the summer, visitors happily make the trek for Marquette’s exciting winter outdoor activities too.
Cross-country skiing marathons, ice fishing, ice racing, snowshoeing, and all things snow can be accessed in the area. Grab your charcoal hand warmers, electric jackets, and fashionable faux fur hat — it’s time to venture outside on the Lake Superior edge of the Upper Peninsula.
Note: Some information in this piece was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
1. Noquemanon Ski Marathon
The Noquemanon Ski Marathon has run for over two decades, welcoming novice and experienced skiers alike. Known as the Noque to avid cross-country skiing fans, the racers enter 1K, 3K, 12K, 24K, and 50K classic and freestyle cross-country ski journeys. There is even a 15-mile snowshoe race. Imagine skiing 50K (approximately 31 miles) in the freezing cold — a true test of stamina and internal fortitude. Bravo!
I had the opportunity to connect with one seasoned racer, Anja Erickson. I think her sentiment is shared by many of the racers I spoke with. Erickson said, “I competed in the 12K skate race. My family has made the trek up to Marquette every year for the past 4 years, since my freshman year at NMU, to compete in the race. As a senior now, I am happy to have this tradition and continue it even after my time at Northern. For us, it’s not about how we place, it’s about spending quality time together, doing what we love.”
In temperatures below freezing, sometimes way below freezing, these hardy souls pump their arms and glide their skis across a frozen trail to the finish line at the Superior Dome on the Northern Michigan University campus.
2. Cross-Country Skiing
According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, cross-country skiing is thought to have originated in Scandinavia over 5,000 years ago. Used mainly as a source of transportation, cross-country skiing has morphed into an outdoor winter season activity that can be a solitary adventure or a family-friendly experience. Enjoying quiet winter moments while breathing clean, fresh air and exercising your muscles is a wonderful way to enjoy pristine snow-covered scenery.
Well-drafted cross-country trail maps outline the Marquette County area and highlight 17 different trails to explore. You may just fall in love with Marquette County’s cross-country trails and sign up for the next Noque race (highlighted above).
3. Ice Racing
Upper Michigan Ice Racing Association
Fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping, wheels skimming a snow-covered track — and that’s the spectators’ experience — is ice racing at its best.
The Upper Michigan Ice Racing Association organizes bike and quad races during the winter months. Large trailers towed by massive pickup trucks house an assortment of motorized toys ready to take on the slippery track. While the trucks and trailers line the buzzing pit area of the track, spectators arrive early for front-row parking allowing them to keep warm while watching the whirling madness of vehicles whizzing past.
Most of the ice races are during the daylight hours, however, several times a season night races are scheduled. Under the black northern Michigan sky with track lights illuminating the way, intrepid drivers put the pedal to the medal for winners bragging rights. Nighttime ice racing is a must-do for any vicarious thrill seeker. You will feel the need for speed.
4. U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame Ishpeming
The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame is in the nearby city of Ishpeming. Ishpeming is recognized as the birthplace of organized skiing in America with the 1905 founding of the National Ski Association.
Rows of inductees’ photos create a maze-like experience as you meander through the Hall of Fame. Punctuated with antique skis, gear, and a replica of an old ski shop, the stories and history of skiing and snowboarding come to life. Many recognizable sports people grab your attention along with stories of unsung heroes and people behind the scenes.
5. Downhill Skiing
Marquette Mountain Resort
A few miles outside of downtown Marquette is a local ski resort perfect for a fun day of downhill skiing. Marquette Mountain Resort offers day skiing and nighttime under-the-lights downhill. When you are ready for a break, head over to the T-Bar for some apres ski munchies and adult beverages.
For a reasonable fee, you can rent all the ski gear you need to ride the lift and swoosh down beginner, intermediate, or black diamond runs. With 29 trails and three chairlifts, the resort is manageable for even newbie downhillers.
6. Snowshoe The Noquemanon Trail Network
Michigan’s upper peninsula is heaven for snowshoe enthusiasts. The Noquemanon Trail Network is the perfect resource to plan your snowshoe adventure. Simply placing one snowshoe-covered foot in front of the other is a solid cardio workout. Use poles for balance and plod along beautiful woodland trails for a few hours of outdoor fun.
If you don’t want to pack your snowshoes, you can rent them at the Forestville Trailhead. They are available on a first come, first served basis, so you’ll want to get on the road early to discover the fresh tracks.
7. Ice Fishing
Colorful ice shanties dot frozen lakes sheltering huddling winter anglers enjoying a chilly day on the water. There is a varied assortment of fish being caught including walleyes, northern pike, perch, and others depending on your ice-fishing lake of choice.
Lake Superior rarely freezes over, so it is not entirely safe for ice fishing. However, many of the area’s lakes are perfect for casting a line through the frozen water. You can see heavily dressed fishermen and fisherwomen dragging shanties across the ice in search of the perfect fish-are-biting spot.
8. Iron Ore Dock
A stroll around Marquette’s historic waterfront will ultimately lead you to the massive Iron Ore Dock. Still in operation, the Iron Ore Dock was built in 1911 and has a hold capacity of a whopping 50,000 tons of ore.
The imposing dock has a graceful winged design that disguises its functional quality. Standing like a giant guard over Marquette’s harbor, it is a symbol of the history and fortitude of the Upper Peninsula and her people. Known fondly as Yoopers, the local Upper Peninsula residents are the friendliest people on the planet.
9. Presque Isle Park
In the summer, Presque Isle Park is a hub of outdoor fun in the sun. During a winter trip, the park is perfect for enjoying the view of the harbor’s breakwater lighthouse with your morning coffee and a handheld pie from IronTown Pasties.
The park is a lovely spot for enjoying the hiking trails, even in winter. Fat tire bikes, hiking, and other outdoor winter adventures are ready and waiting for you to explore. It can be very cold, so dress with keeping toasty warm in mind.
Stay At The Landmark Inn
Perched at the top of downtown Marquette is the charming brownstone, the Landmark Inn. Opened in 1930 as the Northland Hotel, it became the Landmark Inn after an extensive renovation in 1995. Walking distance to the center of everything Marquette’s busting center has to offer, the historic hotel has housed many famous guests. Celebrities staying at the historic hotel include Amelia Earhart, Abbott & Costello, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, and George C. Scott.
With beautiful views of Lake Superior from the sixth-floor Crow’s Nest, it is the perfect spot to relax and rejuvenate after a day of exploring winter in Marquette.
Visit Downtown Marquette
Along with the waterfront, downtown Marquette is full of charming shops: unique and interesting music shops, souvenir stores, and an assortment of other whimsical boutiques.
The dizzying array of restaurant options in Marquette will fill your tummy and warm your soul. Visit our Marquette dining favorites for a taste of Upper Peninsula cuisine.
Visit Travel Marquette to explore all your adventure possibilities. You will be surprised at the variety and amount of activities available.
Pro Tip: It can be seriously cold on the Upper Peninsula, so weather-appropriate outerwear is key to enjoying your visit. Fashionably warm snow boots, along with other top-notch gear will enhance your outdoor enjoyment.