Get off the Couch — Explore Michigan: Taking it Easy at Big M

March 1, 2012


mcp outdoors blogger


Big M is perhaps the best-designed set of cross-country ski trails in the state. They were

designed by professional, John Capper, in the 1950s. There are trails to satisfy all levels

of X-C skiing bravery.


My personal level is “not very brave.” At this point in my ski career, I might be willing to try

Camp 24 trail, the easiest intermediate. But there is no way in the world you’ll ever catch

me on Oh Me II or Catamount, except in hiking boots when there is no snow. If you like a

challenge on skis, these trails are for you.

So, back to taking it easy. There are three easy trails with close access from the warming

shelter. The easiest is Corkpine. It’s flat and a short 2.2 km. After the turnaround to head

back toward the shelter, there is a very slight long downhill which is fun for even the newest



Lumberjack goes north, and is 3.2 km. There are a couple of very small hills on the return,

just enough to get a feel for the idea of going downhill.


Ryberg Road is just what you would expect, an old road. Unless you ski it out and back

(which is allowed on this wide trail) you’ll need to return on either Double Bit or Camp 24


One of the nicest features at Big M is the large and relatively well-lighted warming shelter.

There are large windows which make it much better than the dark “caves” one usually finds

at ski areas. There is a stove, and a supply of cut wood, although you should take your own

kindling. It takes hours to really heat up the entire shelter, but you can always huddle around

the stove. If you are part of a group that will be there all day you can sent an advance party

to get the stove going early. Suggested donation for a day of skiing is $8 per person, to

be placed in a slotted post- no change available.


Big M is 13 miles from Manistee. Go east on M-55 and then south on Udell Hills Rd. Watch

for signs.

Camping is not allowed, although the Boy Scouts occasionally receive a dispensation from

the Forest Service. See


Although Big M is within the Manistee National Forest, the entire trail system is maintained

by the volunteers of the Manistee Cross Country Ski Council, which owns two track trucks

for grooming.


For more info about the trails, see



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