Cross Country Ski Northern Door County

Classic cross country skis take a rest on the trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park.

Classic cross country skis take a rest on the trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park.

Mother Nature has been generous thus far with Northern Door County’s snowfall. Sturgeon Bay and towns to the north have a good six to twelve inches on the ground, and the forecast is promising that the white stuff will stay, forming the skiers’ sought-after base layer. Conditions like these usually don’t arrive until January, so the winter of 2019-2020 is shaping up to be a red letter year for cross-country skiing. 

Clipping oneself to long straight boards while bundled in winter layers may not seem like an elegant vacation. However, cross country skiing is arguably the most graceful of the silent sports. Once the initial slips and wobbles are out of the way, it’s possible to find a rhythm and glide through the scenery. A hushed chorus of swooshes and scrapes accompanies your strides as you pursue the trail. The movement keeps you warm despite the crisp air, and it’s hard to argue that the woods aren’t lovelier without mosquitos. 

Northern Door County boasts miles of trails all within a 30-minute drive. Most are located within state parks, where views of Lake Michigan and boreal forest are abundant. Newport State Park has over 20 miles of ski trails that ribbon through the northeast tip of the Door Peninsula. Park at parking lot three to jump on several different loops of trails groomed for classic skiing. Newport and Europe Bay trails offer glimpses of lovely Lake Michigan and the crystalline ice formations that appear along the shore when temperatures drop. Trails at Newport tend to be sparsely populated, especially during the week. Most are flat and straight, making for a meditative ski experience. 

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 27 minutes (19.5 miles)

Cost: Vehicles must have a state park sticker

 

Peninsula State Park has the greatest concentration of groomed ski trails in Northern Door. Select from three different starting points and choose your own adventure on nearly 40 miles of trails. Loops vary from easy one-mile coasts to tours of five to seven miles. Review the trail descriptions and conditions before setting out to make sure your route has a comfortable amount of hills for your experience. Trails from parking lots one and five are groomed for classic skiing, and parking lot three has trails groomed for skate skiing. Peninsula’s trails tend to be more festive as they are popular with locals and visitors alike. 

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 12 minutes (7.9 miles)

Cost: Vehicles must have a state park sticker

 

Further south is Whitefish Dunes State Park which features diverse trails even in its smaller area. Easy, gentle classic ski trails range from just under two miles to almost four and a half miles long, and they snake through forest and dune valleys, permitting peeks at Clark’s Lake and Lake Michigan. 

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 18 minutes (10.9 miles)

Cost: Vehicles must have a state park sticker

 

Crossroads at Big Creek just north of Sturgeon Bay takes pride in their expertly-groomed classic and skate ski trails. Ski the five miles of trails through this nature preserve that surrounds Big Creek. 

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 28 minutes (21.2 miles)

Cost: Free, donations appreciated

If you’re just getting your cross country skiing feet wet and want to rent skis, several Northern Door establishments have your back. Bay Shore Outfitters has locations in Sister Bay, closest to Newport State Park, and Sturgeon Bay, closest to Crossroads at Big Creek, and rents skis and snowshoes. Nor Door Sport & Cyclery in Fish Creek rents skis, snowshoes and fat tire bikes and is located just across Highway 42 from Peninsula State Park. 

After a few miles or more on the trails, a decadent soak in a whirlpool tub is what the doctor ordered. Visit here to reserve your ski headquarters at the Blacksmith Inn. 

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