Huron-Manistee offers a variety of winter opportunities

LAKE COUNTY — When the snow falls, most people think staying inside is their only option. However, there are plenty of outdoor activities people can take advantage of and Lake County residents have the perfect place to do them: the Huron-Manistee National Forest.

The forest stretches through areas of Lake, Newaygo, Wexford, Manistee, Mason, Oceana, Muskegon, Mecosta and Montcalm counties. There are large and beautiful stretches located in the portions in and around Lake County which National Forest Service member Dave Jaunese says can offer an entirely different view of nature than people may be used to.

"There are a lot of recreational opportunities in the forest in winter, especially since there aren't as many people in the woods so you can take advantage of the solitude," said Jaunese. "You will see views you won't see in the spring, summer or fall, and you will see animals which are only in this area in winter."

Many of the most popular winter activities include using the numerous trails within the forest.

"One of our most popular winter activities is snowmobling, which is welcome on several trails within the Huron-Manistee," explained Jaunese. "Cross-country skiing is another popular activity in the forest. Snowshoeing is a little easier and more affordable to get into than cross-country skiing. There's also fat tire biking which can be good for those looking to do something different. There are lots of different trails and paths within the forest grounds for people to use."

The Huron-Manistee has hundreds of miles of trails for visitors to explore. Some are very close to the Baldwin and Irons areas.

"The closest trail to Baldwin is the Sweetwater Trail, which is primarily for dog sledding, but skiers, snowshoers and other people are welcome on foot if they stay to the sides of the trails," said Jaunese. "There's also the Crystal Valley Trail which is specifically groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter. We keep the river landings plowed as well, so they are great places for snowshoeing or seeing winter wildlife."

Any outdoor activity requires a certain amount of concern and preparation. This is especially true of winter fishing in the Huron-Manistee. Jaunese said there are many great locations for it within the forest, but those taking advantage of them need to be aware of the dangers such as falling through the ice, overexposure or being stranded in unplowed areas.

"You can go ice fishing in the forest, but you need to be very careful," he warned. "You are often out alone or in a small group on a lake and we don't plow the areas around the lakes. We have a lot of great places for fishing enthusiasts so long as they take the necessary precautions."

Jaunese said if visitors are smart and know what they are getting into, there are few places better than the Huron-Manistee to take in some fun winter activities.

"You can get a very different appreciation for the forest in the winter time," said Jaunese. "It can be a very personal experience."