This post and its photos may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure policy.
You’re going to want to pack your snow gear and head north after reading this guide to winter activities in Cadillac, MI. Located in northwest Michigan’s lower peninsula, Cadillac is about 90 minutes north of Grand Rapids and only 4 hours north of Chicago.
In my opinion, this makes it a great “up north” weekend destination without the long drive.
As a long-time Cadillac resident I’m sharing my favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors during the winter months.
The bonus of enjoying your winter in Cadillac is you get all the modern amenities (great places to stay, eat, and play) without the high costs and long drive of our northern neighbors.
Ultimate Guide to Winter Activities in Cadillac, MI
Take A Snowshoe Hike
Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center, located at Mitchell State Park between Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell, offers Friday night lantern lit hikes from the end of December until the snow melts.
If you don’t have snowshoes, you can borrow a pair from the center to walk the 2.5-mile Heritage Nature Trail. The lantern lit trail leads you through woodlands and marsh.
Beyond the nature center, you’ll find thousands of acres to explore in the Huron-Manistee National Forests. From marked trails to backcountry exploration there is no shortage of space to take a snowshoe hike.
If you don’t have your own gear you can rent snowshoes at Caberfae Ski Resort, located about 30 minutes west of Cadillac. There are marked trails available to use at the ski resort, the 10-mile MacKenzie Trail that starts at the resort’s base and is a favorite.
Float the Pine River – Yes, in the Winter
Even in the winter, you can enjoy the rivers near Cadillac. Head over to Pine River Paddlesports and enjoy a leisurely 75-minute float down the river with a guide.
No special equipment needed. Simply suit up in your normal outdoor winter gear, grab 4-5 of your friends and get ready for an amazing adventure.
If you are a very confident paddler and have a lot of experience on the water, you can have a guide float in a kayak alongside your raft.
Otherwise, the guide will join you on the raft and help ensure that everyone safely makes it down the river.
Winter rafting is one of our favorite winter activities. We’ve haven’t floated the Pine River yet, but we’ve been on the Jordan River in East Jordan several times and loved it.
Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding, AND Cross-Country Skiing
There are two places to go downhill skiing in the Cadillac area. About 30 minutes west of Cadillac you’ll find Caberfae Peaks Ski Resort ,and about 25 minutes east of Cadillac you can ski at Missaukee Ski Mountain.
With ski runs, a ski school, terrain parks, a rental shop, and lodging, Caberfaehas one of the highest vertical drops in Northern Michigan at 485’ vertical feet, 27 runs, 3 peaks, 5 lifts, and night skiing throughout the season. Fun fact – Caberfae is the second oldest ski resort in Michigan (and the first major ski resort in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula) and one of the oldest in the Midwest.
The independently-owned resort has a state-of-the-art snow making operation and has a backcountry terrain area for those who enjoy breaking their own trail. There is also cross country skiing available at the resort.
Caberfae has also updated many of their buildings and amenities include:
- ski-in/ski-out accessibility
- outdoor heated pool/hot tub
- fire pit
- on-site dining
Caberfae is a great winter hot spot in the Cadillac region at the first signs of snow, through the last 40-degree days in the spring.
If you’re in the Cadillac area to ski AND snowmobile reserve a cabin across the road at Coyote Crossing Resort. They are a great staging area for snowmobiling, have individual cabins, an on-site restaurant and bar AND it’s a quick 5-minute drive from the slopes.
Missaukee Ski Mountain
The Missaukee Ski Mountain is open on the weekends and all of Christmas break, depending on snow conditions. It offers a bunny mound, beginner runs, intermediate slopes, expert challenge, and moguls galore with 3 tow ropes.
The mountain also has more than five miles of cross-country trails. Snowboarding is also welcome at the Mountain. If you don’t own ski equipment, no worries, the mountain has lots of downhill and cross country ski equipment for you to rent.
If you want to take out your own sleds or tubes, a sledding hill is available for your enjoyment at no cost. When you’ve had enough fun or need to warm up, stop in the lodge which offers a comfortable common area and public restrooms.
Enjoy some hot chocolate, coffee, or soft drink or a bite to eat and head back out to the slopes.
Cross-Country Skiing Cadillac Pathway
Starting from the Cadillac Pathway trailhead you can choose distances from just over 1 mile to as many as 11 miles. There are varying levels of terrain encompassing easy, intermediate, and advanced.
The trails that are east of Seeley Rd (nearest the trailhead) will offer up easy to intermediate XC ski trails.
Once you cross Seeley Rd and head west the terrain becomes much hillier for the intermediate to advanced skier. There will be something to please the entire family.
We recommend that only XC skiers use the main Cadillac Pathway to preserve the tracks for those two skinny long boards. In perfect conditions, the trails are groomed twice a week.
The Wexford Civic Center (locally known as “The Wex”) offers Open Skate on most Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm-4pm during the ice skating season (please check ice calendar for possible conflicts). Cost is only $3 per person including skate rental!
Winter Fat Tire Biking
Fat bikers are going to love riding the trails in Cadillac. The Cadillac Pathway Winter Sports Trail Network (WST) is perfect for both activities.
During the winter a 3-foot-wide base is groomed for you to use. During the winter season trails are groomed daily. The trailhead is located at the Cadillac Pathways Seeley Road location.
You can do the full 11-mile loop or a nice 5-mile loop (aka Polar Bear Loop) that leaves from trailhead and does not cross Seeley Rd.
The terrain on the east side of Seeley Rd. is for beginners and intermediate level. Once you cross Seeley Rd it is for the intermediate to advance level. Nothing too technical just some hefty climbs.
The trails are easy to follow. Simply follow the groomed path. There are trail maps at key intersections.
Keep in mind there are a few spots where the WST crosses the XC ski trail – PLEASE yield to the XC skiers.
Avid cyclists with a competitive streak may want to compete in the 10 and 21 Mile Fat Bike Race Feb. 24 at Cadillac Pathway. In only its second year, this Cadillac’s first and Northern Michigan’s newest fat bike race.
The Cadillac area has a regional snowmobile trail network that spreads through the region’s state and National Forest. With more than 200 miles of groomed trails you’re in for a great day of fun in any direction you’d like to go.
A great place to stop while you’re out is the Boon Country Store for gas and snacks.
If you need to rent a snowmobile, there are 3 outfitters:
- Greater North Powersports & Rentals
- Westside Rec. Rentals
- K&R Outfitters
- K&R also offers guided snowmobile tours.
If you have your own equipment, you can access the National Forest trails from any one of these staging areas:
- Cadillac West Area: 33 Rd*
- White Pine Trail Staging Area off 44 Rd
- Caberfae Area: 13 Rd (off W M55)
- Boon Area: By Boon Grocery (off 25 Mile Road)
By January, the winter season should be in full swing, and the ice should be thick enough for fishing.
Ice shanties can be seen dotting the frozen Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell. Both lakes are known for pike, walleye, bluegill, and crappie.
By the way, Pilgrim Village is the go-to place for all things ice fishing in the area.
I love that the winter activities in Cadillac aren’t taking place only outside. There are plenty of indoor opportunities as well.
From Rock Star Bing0 (my fave!) and Trivia Nights to live music and special events. Check out all the happenings here so you don’t miss a thing while in town.
One, not to miss, event in the area is the Midwest Snow Kite Jam, which is an awesome specator sport as well! It’s being held in Cadillac in February 2024
Where To Shop, Dine, and Stay in Downtown Cadillac
Cadillac has a pedestrian-friendly main street with some to the best places to shop and eat. If you have littles you have to check out the nicest toy store, Toy Town and do not leave town without stopped in at the Sweet Shop.
You can find a number of other suggestions of where to shop and dine here. Downtown parking is free!
For lodging, Coyote Crossing is the perfect place to stay for all the outdoor winter sports. Of course, Caberfae Ski Resort also has lodging.
If you’d like lodging closer to Cadillac, be sure to check out Holiday Inn Express.