Door County is blessed with a robust winter season, and one of its hallmarks is our Lake Effect Snow. This snow is unlike the sparkling dustings seen in flatter, land-locked areas. This snow blows in from the north and can dump white stuff at a rate of two or three inches an hour. While road transportation may be slowed for a time, it is possible to get out on foot with a handy pair of snowshoes. The popular metal frames are the ideal vehicle to get out and explore a recently-blanketed winter wonderland.
Donning a pair of snowshoes and getting out on some of Door County’s miles of specially-marked trails gives you the opportunity to see the landscape of the peninsula in the winter season. Door County’s state parks, Newport, Peninsula, and Whitefish Dunes, have clearly marked snowshoeing trails that are separate from their groomed ski trails. These are a great place to get started snowshoeing, though after a few days of use the trails tend to get tracked-up, rendering the snowshoes somewhat unnecessary.
For some paths less-traveled, venture onto Door County’s 8,000-some acres of land protected by the Door County Land Trust. These parcels of farm or private land-turned sanctuary are now public, open for visiting, hunting, hiking and, under a fresh coat of snow, snowshoeing. Loved by locals and visitors alike, their shorter looped trails are less-used in the winter months, leaving freshly-fallen snow unscathed and perfect for a metal-framed tromp. Check the Land Trust’s website for a full overview of all of the public areas. Read on for more detail on a few of this snowshoer’s favorites.
Kangaroo Lake Nature Preserve just west of Baileys Harbor off of County Road E contains 700 acres of forest, meadow, swampland and former orchard. In the winter enjoy a glimpse of Kangaroo Lake through the leafless trees. The hardwood forest becomes pine on the hike down the ridge to where softly trickling Peil Creek flows into Kangaroo Lake. Get your heart rate up trekking back up the ridge in your snowshoes.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 6 minutes (3.6 miles)
Heins Creek Nature Preserve is a small but special place nestled just north of its namesake, right on Highway 57. The three-quarters-of-a-mile trail loops next to the healthy fish-filled creek and opens onto prairie land. This flat preserve makes for a leisurely walk.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 6 minutes (3.9 miles)
Harold C. Wilson Three Springs Nature Preserve is considerably flatter than the Kangaroo Lake area, but it is no less unique and delightful to discover. Located just east of Sister Bay off of County Road Zz, the preserve has almost two miles of trails that meander through coniferous forest and once-fruitful orchard. Make your way down the lane to the log cabin and wood barn that were part of the farm that nature is gradually reclaiming as its own. Tromping through the pine trees is a magical experience after a fresh snowfall. Branches dip low under the frosty weight, and a hush settles over the forest.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 15 minutes (11.1 miles)
In addition to the land trusts, The Ridges Sanctuary, just a few steps from the Blacksmith Inn, is a perfect setting for a slog on snowshoes. Miles of trails take you through the small ridges and swales that make up the sanctuary’s terrain. Better still, if you don’t have your own snowshoes, the Ridges offers very reasonable rentals. Check the schedule of guided hikes to see if a guide is available for your visit. Bay Shore Outfitters in Sister Bay or Nor Door Sports and Cyclery in Fish Creek also offer hourly or daily snowshoe rentals. The Blacksmith Inn offers use of traditional wooden snowshoes free of charge to guests.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Walkable in 1 minute (.1 miles north on Hwy 57)
Pre-registration: Recommended to call ahead
Cost: $5 to hike, $5 snowshoe rentals
Anyone who says that snowshoes make winter trekking easier has clearly never tried them. While it’s certainly easier to stay upright on snowshoes when hiking through a foot or more of fresh snow, snowshoeing is definitely a cardiovascular workout. A few key reminders will help make your experience a great one. First, make sure the boots you wear fit well with your snowshoes and won’t pinch your toes. Second, especially if you’ve never snowshoed before, consider using poles to help you balance. And third, dress in layers; the outside temperature may be below freezing, but once you get going you’ll be toasty.
Check availability at the Blacksmith Inn for your snowshoe adventure here. With a fireplace and hot tub in each room, the Inn’s an ideal wind-down location after miles on the trails.