From downtowns to beaches: West MI’s best places for a wintry walk

From Downtowns To Beaches: West Mi's Best Places For A Wintry Walk

Photo courtesy of Canva

By Ellery Weil

November 14, 2023

Cool towns, peaceful hiking trails, and public beaches that are perfect for long, chilly walks in West Michigan.

Feel that nip in the air? As fall turns to winter, Michiganders know that the cold is no reason not to enjoy the beautiful natural landscape and fun cultural attractions of the Wolverine State. In fact, in West Michigan, some of The Mitten’s best walks—whether city or wilderness—are best enjoyed with a bit of cold air on your face and a thermos of hot chocolate not too far away. 

Here’s a look at some of the best cold-weather wandering in West Michigan—grab a scarf, lace up your walking shoes, and get ready for a winter adventure.

Blandford Nature Center

From downtowns to beaches: West MI's best places for a wintry walk

(Photo via Blandford Nature Center on Facebook)

“Gone away is the blue bird, here to stay is a new bird.” For a Michigan winter wonderland where you can learn about the state’s wildlife across 121 acres, visit Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids, where you can hike the trails or get up close and personal with some of the center’s animal ambassadors. As a nonprofit, Blandford has a mission to educate the people of the Grand Rapids area and beyond while rehabilitating Michigan wildlife in need. If you’re there on a special occasion, you may even be able to enjoy a farmer’s market, a children’s event, or tour some of the center’s historic buildings—a great way to warm up. 

Grand Rapids Running Tours: Art Walks and More

From downtowns to beaches: West MI's best places for a wintry walk

(Photo via

For those who like their winter walks with plenty of culture and opportunities to pop indoors for a warmup, Grand Rapids Running Tours has you covered. At $15 per hour, these reasonably priced walking tours can be themed around local art and galleries, the history of Grand Rapids, and more. The company has evolved from only offering running tours to now including walking, step-on bus tours, and virtual options. For those with special needs, senior groups, etc., Grand Rapids Running Tours is happy to accommodate with tour packages that suit all groups.

P.J. Hoffmaster State Park

From downtowns to beaches: West MI's best places for a wintry walk

(Photo via Hoffmaster State Park on Facebook)

For those looking for a serious winter hike or just wanting to check out the trails, P.J. Hoffmaster State Park is home to some of West Michigan’s best winter hiking trails, as well as terrain suitable for beginners. Located in Muskegon along the shore of Lake Michigan, visitors to Hoffmaster can also enjoy the dune overlook trails, which take you across West Michigan’s iconic sand dunes. Feel free to fit in a quick stop at the Sand Dunes Visitor Center to learn more while you’re there.

Downtown Traverse City

From downtowns to beaches: West MI's best places for a wintry walk

(Photo via Traverse City Tourism on Facebook)

What’s cozier on a chilly day than a slice of cherry pie? How about a slice of cherry pie and a wander through “Cherry City” itself? In Downtown Traverse City, you can enjoy the city’s shopping and dining scene, take in a movie at the State Theater or the newly restored Bijou By the Bay, tour the historic City Opera House (built in 1891), or just enjoy the city’s vibes. Moreover, the downtown area may be at its most crowded in the summer, but the winter has no shortage of events, from community shopping days in November to Traverse City Comedy Fest in January and February.

Hemlock Crossing County Park

From downtowns to beaches: West MI's best places for a wintry walk

(Photo via Hemlock Crossing County Park on Facebook)

Looking for a little something for everyone on your cold weather outdoor adventure? With 239 acres of forests and wetlands, Hemlock Crossing never runs out of trails to explore. In addition to hiking and walking for all skill levels, Hemlock Crossing is also home to a nature center, an observatory, and spots for kayak and canoe launches. If there’s snow on the ground, consider taking advantage of their cross-country ski trails—or rent snowshoes from their rental service. 

Holland State Park and Downtown Holland

From downtowns to beaches: West MI's best places for a wintry walk

(Photo via
Rachel Kramer,

The shores of Lake Michigan are famous for their beachy fun in the summer, but once you’ve seen a winter sunset at Holland State Park, you’ll be a winter shore convert. Holland is one of the most charming, family-friendly beach towns in West Michigan, and the colder months are a great time to take advantage of the scenic lakeshore views without the summer crowds. Afterwards, take a wander through Downtown Holland for quirky shopping, delicious restaurants, and plenty of outdoor fireplaces to warm your fingers by.


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