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Six reasons to brave West Michigan's trails this winter


You've all seen the billboards, and the mantra is true: "We choose this." Since we voluntarily live in West Michigan during cold and snowy winters, we might as well enjoy ourselves. So don't be afraid of the cold; embrace it this season on West Michigan's vast trail network with these six wintery activities.
You've all seen the billboards, and the mantra is true: "we choose this." Since we voluntarily live in West Michigan during cold and snowy winters, we might as well enjoy ourselves. So don't be afraid of the cold; embrace it this season on West Michigan's vast trail network with these six wintery activities.
 
Fat Tire Bikes

With super wide tires and deep treads, fat tires are the perfect vehicle for snowy surfaces. So if you're bummed about storing your road bike after a warm summer and sunny fall, grab one of these babies to continue cycling when the snow falls. In addition to a sturdy ride, you'll find a smooth, comfortable journey with their low pressure tires. Want to know more? Read about one West Michigan fat tire enthusiast who favors the Fred Meijer Grand River Valley, the Musketawa and the Fred Meijer Clinton-Ionia-Shiawassee trails, here.
 
Snowmobiling

So you might have to travel a little north for this one, but with a bevy of ice crystals collecting on West Michigan tree branches, you'll enjoy the drive to snowmobile havens like the Pere Marquette State Trail. A proud equipment owner? Join a snowmobile club and join fellow enthusiasts all winter for trail cruising fun. Just dipping your toe in the water? Head up north and rent a snowmobile for the day or the weekend. You can find a variety of equipment purveyors here.
 
Snowshoeing

Quiet. Space. Reflection. Brave the cold for the soft steps of a snow shoe. Hit up a groomed path or pick any of the hundreds of trails throughout the state to explore by foot. AllTrails.com has a great list complete with maps, photos and user reviews, here.
 
Hiking

People still do that in the winter? With the proper gear (think Northface cold weather leggings and SmartWool socks), you can too. Though the end of your day may involve more hot chocolate with marshmallows than camping and swimming, winter hiking can still provide a great workout and a perfect tour of the West Michigan wilderness. Looking to stay close to civilization but still enjoy nature on your hike? Check out the Fred Meijer Standale trail, with a recently completed tunnel at Lake Michigan drive. For winter hiking tips, check out these great articles on Hiking Michigan's website.
 
Training

West Michigan prods itself on a plethora of races, everything from 5k's to full marathons, starting in early spring. This means that many runners start training in the dead of winter, usually desperate for safe, fun spots to stretch their legs and get in the mileage. Many choose to take to the trails for a respite from the traffic and the noise of the city. Check out a few trail trainers from last winter, here.
 
Cross-Country Skiing

An oldie but a goodie, cross-country skiing combines the serenity of nature with some stressful exercise. Don't have the right equipment? Just ask another Michigan family member, and you're sure to find a pair of boots and skis that you can borrow for the afternoon. The next part is easy, since virtually any trail will do for this unobtrusive sport. A favorite for Grand Rapidians would of course be the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park, but don't be afraid to branch out to others in the area, like the Millennium Park, Reeds Lake, or Fred Meijer M6 Trails.
 
So there you have it. With the right gear and a little bit of gumption, you too can beat seasonal effective disorder, getting the blood and endorphins pumping on the trail.
 
This article is part of an ongoing series, Moments on the Trails, and was made possible by the West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition. For more information about the WMTGC, visit wmtrails.org.
 
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