Enjoy winter fun, fitness at Michigan state parks' free February events

A number of state parks and recreation areas offer free February events that will help residents make the most of Michigan's great outdoors and winter weather. The Department of Natural Resources recently highlighted some events happening throughout February at parks around the state, all designed with fun and good health in mind:

Saturday, Feb. 6 

Lantern-lit Snowshoe Hike at Ludington State Park (Mason County):
Enjoy a self-guided lantern lit hike, toasty campfires and hot chocolate from 6 to 8 p.m. Forty pairs of snowshoes are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants are asked to meet at the park warming shelter. For more information, call 231-843-9261.

Friday-Sunday, Feb. 12-14

Gun Lake Winterfest at Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County): Explore the winter fun with a variety of winter-inspired activities, including an igloo village competition, a snowball-throwing competition, live performances by a cappella choirs, a fashion show, performances for the finalist of the Gun Lake Idol contest and the ever-popular Polar Bear Dip. There will also be activities for kids of all ages, including face painting, a scavenger hunt, life-size Jenga and snowman building. For more information, contact park at 269-795-9081.

Saturday, Feb. 13

Lighthouse Snowshoe Hike at Leelanau State Park (Leelanau County): Join park staff on a guided snowshoe hike and hear fascinating stories about the park and the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Following the hike, enjoy a guided tour of the lighthouse ($4 for non-members) and refreshments. Snowshoes are not provided. For more information, call the park at 231-386-5422.

Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 13-14

Winter Free Fishing Weekend throughout Michigan: All Michigan residents and visitors can fish without a license. All fishing license fees will be waived on both inland and Great Lakes waters. Many state parks and recreation areas will host special events, including the Winter Festival at Bay City State Recreation Area, the Ice Fishing Derby at Seven Lakes State Park and Family Ice Fishing and Bonfire at Waterloo Recreation Area. For more information, visit michigan.gov/freefishing or call the corresponding state park or recreation area.

Saturday, Feb. 20

Lantern-lit Cross-Country Skiing at Cheboygan State Park (Cheboygan County): Enjoy a fun night of cross-country skiing on nearly 3 miles of groomed trails, as well as the lantern-lit trail at 5:30 p.m. End the evening with a welcoming campfire where visitors can warm up with hot chocolate at 14 Foot Shoals Cabin. Visitors should meet at the trailhead parking lot and bring their own equipment. For more information, call 231-627-2811.

Winterfest at Rifle River Recreation Area (Ogemaw County): Experience cold-weather fun, including hayrides, sledding, cross-country skiing, ice fishing and snowshoeing. In addition, participants can enjoy cook-your-own hot dogs, coffee and hot chocolate. The event is free; however, participants must bring their own equipment. The event will be held snow or shine from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, contact the park at 989-473-2258.

For more information about these and other events, visit the online calendar of events at www.michigan.gov/gogetoutdoors, call the park, or contact Elissa Buck, DNR recreation programmer, at 989-313-0000 or Stephanie Wirtz, DNR recreation programmer, at 989-686-2790.

Inside Michigan’s Great Outdoors subscribers are always the first to know about reservation opportunities, state park events and other outdoor happenings. Visit www.michigan.gov/dnr to subscribe now.

Many of these events are free to attend, but a Recreation Passport is required for vehicle entry at state parks.

To check camping availability and make a reservation, please visit www.midnrreservations.com or call 1-800-44PARKS (1-800-447-2757).

Learn more about how the Recreation Passport gains you access to Michigan state parks and more at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport.