Drummond Island,snowmobiling

Drummond Island Snowmobiling

By Mike Olmstead, Contributing Writer

To be sure, when winter hits and the snow finally flies there are a lot of great places to ride your sleds in Michigan’s awesome upper peninsula (UP). But one of the more unique venues has to be the Drummond Island snowmobile trail system. Here’s a quick peek at that venue!

Drummond Island sits quietly at the north end of Lake Huron, and is accessible by a short ferry boat ride from little DeTour Village on the mainland.  The Island is 129 square miles of rocks and forest, has 150 miles of shoreline, and even has 36 inland lakes on the island itself! It is the seventh largest ‘lake’ island in the world and fifth-largest island in the contiguous United States.

The Drummond Island trail system consists of 69 miles of groomed trails that wind through a scenic mixture of northern hardwoods, deep cedar and pine forests, meandering forest meadows, and even brushing up against the Lake Huron shoreline at times. The system’s trails are routed through a combination of public and private lands with 52 private landowners who have signed leases with the State for exclusive snowmobile-only use of the trails crossing their property.

Drummond Island,snowmobiling

There are a couple unique features about Drummond that set it apart from other snowmobile venues. The first is that it IS an Island! Yup, there’s water on all four sides! Although the frozen lake and river afford other possible avenues of access to the Island (you can’t just go ashore from the lake or river just anywhere, for both legal and practical reasons!), the predominant way folks get to the Island is the Drummond Island ferry that runs the 10 minute (15 sometimes in the winter!) trip across the St. Mary’s River. Of course you can trailer your sled across the river on the boat, however, the really cool thing about the Island is that you can drive your sled right onto the ferry in DeTour, take the boat across, and hit the trails right at the ferry dock!

Next is the Marble Head lookout and bluffs. This can be found on the very eastern tip of the Island, on the 496 Trail. Marble Head is a special place year round, and gets lots of visitors. But come winter it is uniquely distinctive in its winter attire! There’s nothing quite like the brilliant white blanket of snow under a deep azure sky accented by the silvery streaks of winter sun sparkling off the surface of everything!!

From the top of the bluffs you look out over the naked aspen treetops to the stony beach 90 feet below. Gaze to the north you’re looking out over the North Channel, and you can see the Canadian shoreline most days.  Turn your attention to the southeast and you’re looking at Cockburn Island out over the False Detour Channel. And on a super clear day you might – might – even be able to make out the little Canadian town of Blind River 30 miles to the northeast!

Drummond Island,snowmobiling

And finally, unique to Drummond Island is the annual Ice Bridge to Canada! The Drummond Island community and the Canadian town of Milford Haven on St. Joseph Island collaborate to create a snowmobile trail between the United States and Canada! As the crow flies, the two Islands are about 10 miles apart. The trail is commonly referred to as the Christmas Tree Trail because for years it’s been marked with the cast-off Christmas trees from the recent holiday season! In recent years however, some of the Ice Bridge is marked by dedicated markers made of PVC pipe and outfitted with a reflective marker. The trees & markers are placed about every 1/8th mile to ensure that there’s always several in sight for ease of navigation.

The communities shoot to open the Ice Bridge by late January to run through late March, but obviously both ends of that time frame are weather dependent. On the US side the Ice Bridge starts at Yacht Haven, on the northeast side of the Island.  It winds north through Potagannissing Bay near Harbor Island, cutting through Burnt & Wilson Islands, and on to Milford Haven on St. Joseph Island.

Drummond Island,snowmobiling

It’s also important to note that riders in both directions must check in with Canadian and US customs and carry the appropriate identification for international border crossings. A quick internet search on “ice bridge between Drummond Island and St Joseph Island” will get you all the information you will need.

As soon as there is sufficient snow the trails are groomed on a regular basis, with regular updates. The Drummond Island Tourism Assn. manages the trail maintenance and trail report updates.  They have two John Deere groomers, and volunteers do all the grooming work to keep the trails open and safe.

Drummond Island,snowmobiling

A couple final thoughts about sledding on Drummond:

• Lodging is available in the winter season! Drummond Island Resort and the Drummond Island Motel are two establishments that are open. There are others but it varies with the demand. Best bet is to contact the Drummond Island Tourism Assn. for information (906 493-5245).

• A good meal is another requisite for a good time, and Drummond has several very good eateries that are open for the cold weather crew! Three good ones that come to mind are the Northwood, Chuck’s Place, and the Pins. They are all uniquely and delightfully different and have plenty of parking for sleds.

• All snowmobiles using the Drummond Island trail system must have an annual trail permit and be registered with the Michigan Secretary of State.

And don’t forget Drummond Island once you’ve put your sleds up for the season! The Island is a four-season outdoor person’s wonderland that has offerings for a number of activities – ATVs and Jeeps are very popular, not to mention hunting, fishing, boating and much much more! Give it a shot!! •

Here’s where you can get trail updates, grooming reports, and other Drummond Island information:

On Facebook:

Drummond Island Snow & Groomer Report

“Michigan Interactive”


Drummond Island Tourism Association (DITA):


Drummond Island,snowmobiling

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