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Gaylord, MI snowmobiling

Snow, Baby, Snow!

While we love all four seasons in Gaylord, Michigan, it goes without saying that winter holds a special place in our hearts. For approximately six months each year, we find ourselves blanketed under a hefty helping of SNOW. And, after wrapping up a sun-drenched summer and a picture-perfect fall, we’re ready to see the white stuff falling to the ground again.

“Hands down, Gaylord is the best winter vacation destination in Michigan,” said Paul Beachnau, executive director of the Gaylord Area Tourism Bureau. “Our abundant snow, interconnecting trail system and limitless amenities makes us a haven for snowmobilers. Not only do we have exactly what you’re looking for on your epic Up North adventure, but our area businesses also are known for hospitality and will give you the warm welcome you’re seeking after a long day on the trails.” 

Gaylord is known as the Alpine Village and once you experience our dramatic elevation changes, you’ll understand why, he says. Our inland sweet spot at 1,348 feet above sea level perches us right in the middle of the snowbelt, where we eagerly await an average of 152 inches of snow each year. And what does that mean for sled heads? More lake-effect snow than anywhere else in the Lower Peninsula throughout the entire season.

You’ll find some of the best riding conditions in all of Michigan right in Gaylord. From Dec. 1 through March 31, our expansive trails are expertly groomed and maintained by volunteers from the Gaylord Area Snowmobile Trails Council. The Gaylord Tourism Bureau staff is in daily contact with groomers for the most up-to-date trail conditions and riding reports, which are available 24 hours a day by calling 800-345-8621 or visiting www.gaylordmichigan.net. In fact, our office sits right on the trail and we can let you know when we’ve seen the groomer pass by!

Gaylord, MI snowmobiling

Jerry Beattie, owner of the Sled Shed and longtime Gaylord Area Snowmobile Trails Council member, said, “Our club grooms more miles than any other in the Lower Peninsula year over year. We have more snow than most areas and high demand for grooming due to the number of sleds riding our trails daily. We’re lucky to have such a dedicated group of volunteers working behind the scenes with the Trails Council and running our groomers.”  

Not only does our ideal location create some of the best snow conditions in the state, but it also puts Gaylord smack dab in the center of a network of trails running throughout eight northern Michigan counties. Using Gaylord as your home base, you can ride epic Up North trails in every direction. 

From our county lines, riders have the convenience of jumping on popular Trail #7 that runs straight up the middle of our beautiful state, connecting into the Upper Peninsula with a quick transfer from Bridge Authority. Not feeling quite that adventurous?  Maybe Trail #4 is more your style — start out by branching west and meandering through the quaint communities of East Jordan and Mancelona. If you’re up for it, point your compass east and follow trails through Johannesburg and Lewiston that zigzag north into Millersburg and Onaway. And don’t forget about our friends in the untamed forests surrounding Frederic and Grayling to the south. Newbies may find this all a little confusing, but don’t worry; we have free Snowmobile Trail Maps available through our office that will get you where you need to go!

Christy Walcott, director of marketing and communications for the Gaylord Area Tourism Bureau, considers the Snowmobile Trail Map one of the best resources available to riders. “I work with members of our local trail council, along with trail councils from the other counties featured on the map, to make sure we have the most current information available to snowmobilers,” she said. “Not only are the trails updated yearly, but we also feature advertisers throughout northern Michigan that have the resources and supplies snowmobilers are looking for. It’s great to know where you can stop and grab a burger or get fuel along the trail. You can plan out your day without needing to wait and see what businesses you might come across on the trail.” The Snowmobile Trail Map is provided to riders free of charge through the Tourism Bureau.  

If we’re going to pick favorite routes (and you know we are), we’ve got a few to share. One can’t-miss option is the North Branch, a seemingly never-ending story of snowmobiling, funneling riders south to Kalkaska’s well-known Blue Bear Trail, west to the heavily forested Jordan Valley and east to Lewiston’s Lovells Trail. To top it off, this sprawling route has multiple connector trails and access to free-range National Guard land that is open to riding.

While the North Branch may seem like every snowmobiler’s dream come true, Gaylord has even more to give. Hit up the North Central State Trail, a former railroad corridor that serves as a popular bike path during the warmer seasons. Ride for 73 glorious groomed miles through forests, farmland and villages all the way to the Straits of Mackinac. Conveniently stop off to refuel your sled and your stomach in a variety of small communities eager to serve the snowmobile population, then carry on to the Mackinac Bridge and beyond. 

Food, Lodging, Repairs

The current trailhead for the North Central State Trail is located just off Old 27 North on Fairview Road; however, a new trailhead is under construction right downtown. The downtown location will not only offer convenient parking just off Main Street, restrooms and other amenities, but also access to the growing number of local eateries offering up some of the best flavors in our Alpine Village!  

We know you’re here to ride, but you can’t beat the dining found in our neck of the woods. Snowmobilers gather in flocks at warm and welcoming locations, including Porter Haus, Alpine Tavern and Big Buck Brewery, just to name a few. A Gaylord landmark since 1953, Mama Leone’s serves home-cooked Italian meals and sits on one of our DNR-designated parking areas. You’ll see the parking lots filled with more sleds than vehicles on any given wintery day. Our Gaylord Area Snowmobile Trail Map features these fine establishments, along with many others that give snowmobilers the royal treatment when they enter the room.  

Keeping our guests well-fed is just as important as making sure they are well-rested, and Gaylord lodging properties cater to our snowmobiling friends. With 19 current lodging members and two new properties under construction, you’ll find the perfect place to rest your head after a day of marathon riding bliss. From resort settings to tried-and-true hotel chains and full home rentals with a view, we’ve got the best places for you to rest before heading out for more winter exploration. Many properties sit right on the trail and you can wake up and ride from your front door.  

Porter Haus, Gaylord, MI

“We have everything from cozy cabins to resorts to modern comfortable hotels,” Beachnau said. “Our hoteliers are used to working with snowmobilers and are excellent at accommodating their needs.”

The Gaylord community embraces winter and its adrenaline-seeking patrons, so along with restaurants and lodging perfect for the snowmobiler on the go, you’ll also find an unbeatable network of the amenities you need. Our dealerships represent all four major brands of sleds and have the latest technology and gear you’re looking for. You’ll have no trouble finding aftermarket parts for repairs, along with knowledgeable service departments ready to get you back on the trail. 

The best part is that most of our snowmobile-related businesses are conveniently located near one another, including The Sled Shed, Extreme Powersports and Mega Powersports.  And we wouldn’t be the snowmobiling Mecca of northern Michigan without rentals, which you’ll find at Boathouse Marine & Powersports. Finally, hop on and off the trails for gas station service, where rec fuel is, of course, always available. Gaylord-area businesses have all your riding needs covered!  

The Sled Shed specializes in all things snowmobile and is open seven-days a week throughout the winter. Along with being able to share vast knowledge about our trail system and how it came to be, Jerry Beattie’s conveniently located store has a little bit of everything. “We’ve got parts, clothing and accessories for all makes and models. We’re here for whatever our snowmobiling guests need.” 

Just a few doors to the north of the Sled Shed, you’ll find Extreme Powersports, true to its name and providing adrenaline junkies with knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff and a full selection of products. 

Sales team member Doug Warren shared, “What a great place Gaylord is for snowmobiling! Our town is located right on I-75, which makes it easy to locate and very convenient for travelers. The higher elevation and north woods together create excellent scenery on our snowmobile trails that is unmatched by others. With a combination of resorts and lodges in the area that provide skiing, tubing, snowshoe trails, winter bike trails and more, Gaylord is a great place for families to enjoy the sport of snowmobiling, along with these other winter activities. 

“At Extreme Powersports, we encourage all winter enthusiasts to stop in and see all the latest products and new snowmobiles from Ski-Doo, Polaris, Yamaha and others. With our ‘On the Trail’ location and extended winter hours of operation, we hope to see you soon!”

Gaylord, MI snowmobiling

Looking for a little camaraderie on your next trip to Gaylord? Head north for Michigan’s Richest Snowmobile Fun Run, part of the Michigan Snowmobile Festival and brought to you by the Gaylord Area Tourism Bureau. Held the fourth weekend of each February and now entering its third season in a revamped riding-centered format, this two-day event brings you more of what you love — snowmobiling!  

Scheduled for Feb. 26-27, 2021, Michigan’s Richest Snowmobile Fun Run is two days of riding at your leisure to participating area businesses offering a place to warm up and grab a bite to eat. The best part? Registration is FREE and you could win up to $1,000 in cash for doing what you love most — riding our scenic northern Michigan trails!

Register online at www.gaylordmichigan.net or in person during the event. Your registration packet will include slips to each participating business and a map showing each location. While it’s possible to hit all the stops in one day, we’re spreading it out over two so you can take in the scenery and enjoy yourself. Don’t worry if you’re short on time and can’t make it to each stop. The more stops you visit, the more chances you have to win, but even one slip turned in could be the lucky winner! 

If you’re new to the area or sledding in general, two guided rides are offered on Saturday from the Tourism Bureau office. The event concludes on Saturday evening with prize drawings from the participating businesses, followed by three cash drawings for $250, $500 and $1,000. Details are still being finalized so check our website as the event gets closer for more information.

“We want to keep this event fun and free of charge for both visiting and local snowmobilers,” said Walcott, who serves on the event committee. “Our goal is to make sure everyone can experience our network of trails, along with the hospitality Gaylord is known for. Michigan’s Richest Snowmobile Fun Run is a great way to sample what Gaylord has to offer, plus you could win $1,000 just for going for a ride.” 

Whether you’re heading our way for a weekend, weeklong getaway or settling in even longer, Gaylord has the trails you want, along with all the conveniences you need to make your trip worthwhile. Our location just off I-75 makes it easier than ever to get here from virtually anywhere, and you’ll marvel at the snow depth increasing the closer you get to our Alpine Village.  

So, what’s the forecast for this winter? We’ve heard it’s supposed to be a good one with a heaping helping of lake-effect snow and cold temperatures that will stop those frustrating mid-winter thaws. While we may not have a crystal ball (or, in our case, a magical snow globe) to show us what’s in store over the next few months, we’ve got an annual average of 152 inches of perfect powder backing us up when we say: GAYLORD OWNS WINTER! 

For more information on snowmobiling in the Gaylord area or to request your free Snowmobile Trail Map, please visit www.gaylordmichigan.net or call 800-345-8621.

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