Michigan Ice Fest, the Midwest’s largest ice climbing festival that brings outdoor adventure opportunities to the masses and professional-level athletes to Munising, sadly, is over for 2022.
But that doesn’t mean this year’s seasonal winter fun is done in Munising, the U.P. city that is also the home base for getting outside at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Before highlighting why and how visitors should plan an Ice Fest trip in 2023, let’s look at the ability to extend winter in the Snowmobiling Capital of the Midwest, where snow, ice caves and ice structures formed in majestic waterfalls can last into April.
While snow melts downstate in early March, the 330 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and the 230+ inches of white stuff that falls in an average Munising Winter will keep you on the move on your sled, on your skis along the Valley Spur Trail System in Hiawatha National Forest or in your boots at multiple popular hiking trails of varying difficulty.
Here’s what to consider:
Late February storm systems have let members of the Snowmobile & O.R.V. Association of Alger County continue to build the perfect snowmobiling conditions and terrain across the vast network of paths that allow people to travel through magical woods, between towns and amazing countryside and Lake Superior views.
There’s nothing better than a leisurely ride that lets people take in the natural beauty of the area or ramping up the speed for a little burst of adrenaline on the trail. The well-marked trail system is easy to follow for first-time visitors while also giving repeat guests new room to roam.
Winter waterfalls are every bit as amazing as other seasons, providing a unique frozen backdrop for photos. There are 17 waterfalls in and around Munising and the outing can be tailored to the user’s activity level as all require a hike to reach the destinations.
Three recommendations include:
Munising Falls: In the city of Munising, this 50-foot waterfall is only ¼ mile into the woods and is accessed via a paved trail and a viewing platform. Interesting rock formations are highlighted in the winter.
Wagner Falls: A short walk on a gravel path takes you to a peaceful spot where you can take in the 20-foot drop of the Wagner Falls, which is fed by Wagner Creek. This is one of the most photographed falls as it features stepped areas with multiple rock ledges.
Most challenging hikes:
Chapel Falls: One of the larger straight drops, the 60-foot falls are at the end of the Chapel Road Drive and about a 2 1/2-mile hike to Lake Superior, where the famous tree and rock formation is found.
Visitors are blown away by the stillness of the serene settings.
When the snow finally does melt, the waterfalls become the epicenter of excitement as water powers its way from elevation to the ground or to the water beneath cliffs.
The recent cold snap has helped form this year’s version of the popular Eben Ice Caves, which are found 15 miles west of Munising in the Hiawatha National Forest. Porous sandstone walls leak water through the rock and the liquid freezes to build the large icicle-like structures. The ice caves have built a reputation as one of the most stunning winter visuals in the U.S.
Large ice caves also form along Munising’s Grand Island National Recreation Area and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which is the centerpiece of the annual Michigan Ice Fest, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year after a one-year layoff.
The Ice Fest is the one-of-a-kind celebration of all things ice-climbing, and it includes professional climbers showing their talents, adventures for new and returning recreational climbers, exhibits, courses and clinics.
The 2023 version of the festival runs from Feb. 8 to Feb. 12 and organizers are well underway planning the event. Here’s a tipsheet to see what’s available, how to make your visit more enjoyable, and most importantly, start planning today.