Local trails and outdoor adventures provide student fun


‘CATS PULL THE UPSET—This beautiful view overlooks Harlow Lake in Marquette. This is one of many places in the outdoors that the community can visit to take advantage of what the U.P. has to offer. Photo courtesy of Jack Green

Dallas Wiertella, Staff Writer

Northern Michigan University is one of few campuses where outdoor adventures are just a couple of blocks away, and even in winter, there are many opportunities to get out and enjoy nature. With options ranging from a hike on a trail near campus to visiting ice caves in the U.P., there are activities for all students.

The Noquemanon Trail Network maintains over 80 miles of single-track trails and over 60 miles of nordic ski trails. From Big Bay to Munising, there are 35 miles of groomed cross-country trails in its network. It also provides information and offers rental equipment for hiking, snowshoeing and skiing. One of its most popular trails for students begins at the North Trails Trailhead, across from Dead River and next to the Powder Mill Disk Golf course on Big Bay Road. NTN-NMU trails partnership not only promotes and supports the trails, but hiking also encourages students to explore. 

“It’s important for students to get to know and appreciate all seasons as it often contributes to their success at NMU and potential to become permanent residents after college,” NTN Executive Director Lori Hauswirth said.

The NTN provides NMU facilities with equipment from both the Wildcat Fit Zone, located between Magers and Van Antwerp Hall, and the PEIF’s Outdoor Recreational Center. Equipment such as snowshoes, cross-country skis and fat-tire bikes are free after the first few days with a student ID and can be rented at a cost for further use. Information on the rates for equipment from NMU can be found on the rental website.

It’s easy to grab a pair of skis or snowshoes from the Fit Zone and head out on the North Trails right from campus. Students can also grab equipment from the NTN Forestville Trailhead down Forestville Road after the train tracks by asking the volunteer trail hosts for trail recommendations and head out from there, Hauswirth said.

Equipment can also be acquired for free from NMU students with their ID as well as rented for extended use, their equipment list and rates can be found on the NTN rental page.

“There are lots of adventures to enjoy in the greater Marquette region, it is what makes this area a winter wonderland,” Hauswirth said. “Grooming for winter activities is a huge investment so having respect for that effort and fellow trail users helps make sure everyone has a great day outside.”

Heading north from campus, and taking a short drive down  Big Bay Road, students can find the Harlow Lake trails. The area surrounding Harlow Lake is home to many trails available for hiking including the Hogback Mountain Loop, which provides an exceptional view of the surrounding nature if the weather allows the climb to the top, and Little Presque Isle, which provides great views of the coast of Lake Superior. Hiking gets students away from campus, and schoolwork and jobs are a lot to keep track of but when people go out hiking it’s just walking alone or with friends.

“I like winter hikes more than summer hikes because it’s just quite out there,” sophomore Jack Green said. “Most people out in winter want to experience the same thing.”

The U.P. also offers many other outdoor experiences for students to travel to and enjoy. A popular destination this time of year is the Eben Ice Caves, a 30-mile drive from Marquette located north of Chatham. The Ice Caves provide a unique experience found in the U.P .that attracts visitors through the winter season. It is definitely worth a student going to the ice caves, and the ice melts and changes shape giving the caves a different look every time and visitors can even hear the water running down through the ice, freshman Darcy Resch said. Cleats are not necessary, it’s advised to bring hiking boots and not just winter boots. Dress warmly in layers, wear snow pants or just two pairs of pants. Make sure to bring friends who are adventurous and supportive, Resch added.

“You will be sliding on your butt. It’s like a water park but with snow,” Resch said.

Trail conditions, what activities are allowed on the trails, and where to start can be found on www.noquetrails.org. A detailed map of trails in the Harlow Lake Trailhead can be found at Michigan.org’s website.