While Michigan wineries are a prime destination in summer and fall, they’re also the perfect place to have an outdoor winter adventure. Wineries all around the state feature trails for snowshoeing, hiking, fat-tire biking, and cross-country skiing. Experience the beauty of the season and get some fresh air during the colder months — and then warm up inside with Michigan wine.
“So many people come up in the summer or in the fall, and it’s beautiful here in the winter,” says Chris Lopez, retail sales manager at Black Star Farms, of northern Michigan’s wine country. “I tell people all the time they should come up in the winter. It’s gorgeous, everything’s less expensive, it’s not as busy — you can get into restaurants and such. So it’s a great time to come up and enjoy what Michigan’s like year-round.”
Black Star Farms, among many other wineries, has a series of trails for guests to explore on snowshoes. The trails provide stunning views of snowy vineyards and surrounding scenery, as well as a means for exercise.
In short: “It’s fun — you get out there, you get a little exercise, you get some fresh air, and you come back and have something to eat and enjoy some wine,” Lopez says. “Sounds like a great Saturday to me.”
Here are some winter winery trails to visit this season in Michigan.
Winery trails and events:
45 North’s vineyard trail is open and free to use during business hours (winter hours are noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday). The 3-mile groomed trail begins near the tasting room and travels through the vineyards, up a hill — with a picturesque view — and through woods. Another 1.6-mile path is for snowshoes only. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, fat-tire biking, and hiking are permitted, with designated areas for each. A snowshoe or cross-country ski rental package is available seven days per week through Grand Traverse Bike Tours. Visit the trail’s Facebook page for information on trail conditions and events.
Aurora Cellars has three trail loops that range in length from a half-mile to a mile. The winery has partnered with Grand Traverse Bike Tours to offer a Snowshoes and Igloos self-guided tour. The package — which includes snowshoe rentals, an igloo reservation, a private outdoor stove fire to warm up near, and a warm lunch basket — is offered Thursday through Monday from December to March. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.
Black Star Farms, Suttons Bay
The winter trails at Black Star Farms are accessible to guests of all skill levels (“You don’t have to be any expert to do our trails,” Lopez says) and are open at any time. Join the winery on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. starting Jan. 8, 2022, plus every day Dec. 26–31 and select Sundays, for Snowshoes, Vines, and Wines. Suttons Bay Bikes will be on-site providing snowshoe rentals for $20, and the winery’s Hearth & Vine Café will offer hot snacks, including chili and soup to eat and mulled wine to drink. The winery has four trails, three up to a half-mile long and one that is 1.5 miles long, that traverse the 160-acre property. The longest trail starts at the top of a hill with a stunning view over the vineyard. “You can see the bay from up at the top,” Lopez says. “It’s really pretty.”
For guests at the Inn at Black Star Farms, the Winter Adventure Package provides a full day of winter fun. The day starts at 11 a.m., when guests are picked up at the Inn and driven to Suttons Bay Bikes to secure fat-tire bikes. Next is a 4-mile ride on the Leelanau Trail back to Black Star Farms, where a hot lunch is served. Then, guests will explore the trails on Black Star Farms’ property on snowshoes. The bike and snowshoe rentals last for 24 hours, which allows for leisurely exploration. Reservations must be made 24 hours in advance.
Brys Estate offers two winter trails, open Dec. 3, 2021, through March 6, 2022, for snowshoers and skiers of varying levels. The “casual” Green Trail begins and ends at the tasting room, leading guests around the vineyard and farmhouse. The intermediate-level Purple Trail heads off the Green Trail to form a loop that takes guests to the Secret Garden and lavender fields. The winery offers a $15 special that includes hot spiked apple cider in a souvenir mug, and visitors can purchase snacks and wine by the glass, as well as nonalcoholic beverages, to enjoy by an outdoor firepit on the property. Snowshoe and ski rentals are available through Brick Wheels.
Mt. Tabor Trails connects two southwest Michigan wineries: Round Barn Estate and Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant. The trails vary from easy to difficult and encompass a variety of terrains and views, including fields, woods, and vineyard. The trails — open year-round — are free to access and begin at both Round Barn and Tabor Hill. Snowshoes and cross-country skis are allowed on the trail, but bikes are not permitted.
Rove Estate offers a self-guided, easy snowshoe trail that reaches the highest point in Leelanau County and has spectacular views of the area. The trail is open whenever there is snow.
Shady Lane Cellars is a sponsor of TART Trails and has recently added a 3-mile groomed cross-country trail that loops around the property and connects to one of the TART trails. Fat-tire bike rentals for the TART trail are available through Grand Traverse Bike Tours.
Virtue Cider has a system of trails, each up to a mile long, with “plenty of entry and exit points along the trails to make the trek as short or as long as you’d like,” Virtue Cider reps say via email. Virtue opens and closes trails as needed, and the trails offer views of fields and woods. The trails are open year-round during the taproom’s hours, and snowshoes, cross-country skis, and fat-tire bikes are allowed at guests’ discretion. Snowshoe rentals are occasionally available and listed on AnyRoad. When there’s enough snow, Virtue will sometimes host a guided snowshoe tour. “It’s about an hour guided walk through our field trails while speaking on the history and story of VC, followed up by a mulled hard cider for adults,” Virtue reps say. Whether you take a self-guided or guided tour, “it’s West Michigan culture to want to be out and about during the frigid cold. We’re here waiting to keep you warm.”
Other trails and events:
Grand Traverse Bike Tours
Grand Traverse Bike Tours offers fat-tire bike rentals and a self-guided and a guided tour. The self-guided Bikes, Brews, and Igloos Tour includes fat-tire bike rentals and an igloo reservation at Hop Lot Brewing Co. as well as a souvenir water bottle and map of the Leelanau Trail, all for $59 per person. An Evening Lights Package upgrade ($8) is available for guests who wish to tour after dark.
The Vine to Wine Snowshoe Tour takes guests to three wineries in northern Michigan on a 3- or 5-mile snowshoe trail for a “full afternoon excursion,” says Nick Wierzba, co-owner of Grand Traverse Bike Tours. This guided tour includes a catered lunch and stops at bigLITTLE Wines, Ciccone Vineyards, and Suttons Bay Ciders. A van brings purchases to guests’ cars at the end of the tour. “We’re just trying to make it easy,” Wierzba says. “If you do purchase wine, you don’t have to worry about lugging it around. We make sure that it’s all brought to you back at the end.” Group tours take place on Saturdays, and private tours (with four to 12 people) are offered Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The tour is $69 per person, and advance reservations are required.
Touring wineries by snowshoe makes for a unique experience, Wierzba says. “What’s great about our tour is it’s a different way of experiencing the vineyards and the wineries than driving around,” he says. “You’re on foot; it’s a little safer, as far as if you’re tasting wine and going from one winery to the next. And we’re able to connect them all on a snowshoe trail. It’s a fun way of getting out and experiencing northern Michigan, soaking in the views, and sampling some wines.”
Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails has a variety of trails in the Traverse City area, including the Leelanau Trail, which runs from Traverse City to Suttons Bay, near many wineries. The Leelanau Trail is groomed in winter and has the proper conditions for snowshoeing, classic and skate skiing, and fat-tire biking.
TART Trails’ 12th annual Winter Trails Day takes place Jan. 8, 2022, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Timber Ridge Resort. TART is partnering with Suttons Bay Bikes, Brick Wheels, Vasa Ski Club, the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association, Timber Ridge Lodge, and the Record-Eagle to provide free guided snowshoe hikes, fat-tire bike demonstrations, introductory ski lessons, and equipment rentals. The event is free, but advance or same-day registration is required.
TC Brew Bus
Snowshoe, Wine, and Brew, presented by TC Brew Bus, is a snowshoe tour that brings participants to three wineries and breweries on the Old Mission Peninsula. Participants will board the TC Brew Bus at the Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant & Brewery, travel by bus to Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, and snowshoe to Bowers Harbor Vineyards and back to the Jolly Pumpkin. Each ticket costs $28 and includes spiked hot cider at Brys Estate, a glass of wine at Bowers Harbor, and a beer at the Jolly Pumpkin, along with discounts at each stop. The event is offered every Sunday from Dec. 5, 2021, through March 6, 2022. Participants can rent snowshoes in advance for $15 per pair.