The Grayling area of Michigan might be one of the busiest snowmobiling destinations in the state, but is also a perfect base for the cross-country skier. With an average annual snowfall of 105 inches, and numerous cross-country trails around, it provides many opportunities to a serious, as well as, casual cross-country skier.
The first location on the way up to Grayling from the south of the state along the I-75 freeway, is Cross-Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon. In 2015, the Outside Magazine called XC Ski Headquarters a “Nordic Ski Mecca”, and you know that a distinction like this does not go to just anyplace. The facility is located southwest of Roscommon, between the freeway and Higgins Lake. The Headquarters feature 19 kilometers of well groomed trails. They are groomed for both – classic and skating styles.
Of course, the place wouldn’t be called “Headquarters” if it didn’t have gear rental, gear store, full service day lodge and ski instructors. It is a great destination for the beginners, with most trails having only gentle hills. There are also trails long enough, that you will see many serious skiers there. It is a great place to go skiing with kids. This winter (2018/19), you can ski there for $9.00 and kids for $5.00.
Hanson Hills is the next cross-country skiing destination and it’s located in Grayling, just five minutes from downtown. Besides, Nordic skiing trails, Hanson’s also has a downhill area, so it doesn’t have that typical cozy atmosphere of a cross-country ski lodge, like Headquarters or Forbush Corner. However, they have some great trails. The total length is over 40 kilometers. There is also a variety of them, from easy ones for beginners, to long ones, with some serious hills for intermediate and advanced skiers. The trails are groomed for both, classic and skating skiing. Hanson has a lodge with food court and warming area, and also a rental, but does not have a gear shop (There is a cross-country ski shop on the way to town.) You can ski at Hanson’s for $12.00 this season (2018/19 prices).
Another great cross-country ski place around Grayling is Forbush Corner in Frederic. Located just 12 miles north of town, on the east side of the freeway, Forbush Corner has trails for all skiers, from beginner to advanced, from classic to skater. The total length is about 37 kilometers. The facility has day lodge, gear shop, small warming area, rental and instructors. The place is run by XC skiers, and like Headquarters, has that ski lodge atmosphere. It is said, that Forbush sets the world standard for grooming, and I can attest to that. You can ski at Forbush for $15 this season, or $30 for the weekend (2018/19 prices). It might seem a little steep, but is totally worth it! TAKE A NOTICE: Forbush is ONLY open from Thursday to Monday!
This is still not the end of the list. There are many other places around Grayling where you can ski. About eight miles north of Grayling, on the east side of the freeway there is Hartwick Pines State Park. Hartwick Pines has about 20+ miles of trails that are groomed only for classic skiing. To ski at Hartwick, you need to have a Michigan Recreation Passport ($11.00). Also, on a windy day, you might want to avoid the big loop, as there is an open, flat area in the middle, which exposes you to elements.
Another place, in the area, is Mason Tract Pathway (map only), located about 16 miles southeast of Grayling. Mason Tract is a linear trail that requires you to go out and back. It is an 11.5 mile un-groomed trail, mostly flat with few little hills. It is listed as trail that is good for beginner as well as intermediate skiers. There is no fee to ski the tract. Consider going there with a company though, as it is remote and not very busy, especially during a week. I would consider Mason Tract more for backcountry skier, but I have seen people on regular XC skis there.
There are still more trails in the area. Your next skiing destination is in North Higgins Lake State Park. The total length of the trails is about 10 miles. They are groomed for classic and skating style. The trails are considered good for beginners and intermediate skiers. There is no fee to ski at North Higgins Lake.
One more place that I would like to mention is Wakeley Lake. The trails there are un-groomed, with the total length of 16+ miles. They are good for skiers rating from novice to intermediate. Again, I would consider Wakeley Lake more for backcountry skier, but I have seen people on regular XC skis there.
Of course, if you choose to go skiing in any of these destinations, you need a place to stay. If you are coming with a group of friends or a large family, the best place to stay at is Borchers Bed & Breakfast. There are some nice motels in the area, but I recommend Borchers for few reasons. It is B&B, so delicious breakfast is included. It will save you time and you get skiing faster. But the main reason (at least for me) is the fact, that there is a common area in the house, where you can socialize with your company. With two fireplaces/wood burning stoves, it provides for some cozy atmosphere in the winter.
DISCLIMER: While I recommend some of the above destinations, I don’t have any material interest in any of them, nor am I related or in any way or associated with the owners/operators. My recommendations are based solely on personal experiences while visiting the area.