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Exploring the Cold Coast

The North Coast, the Fresh Coast, the Unsalted Coast, the Cold Coast — our Great Lakes go by many names, inspired by their unique beauty and grandeur. Located along America’s northern mid-eastern Canadian border and consisting of five distinct lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario), the Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on earth. Of the five, Lake Superior is by far the largest, deepest, and coldest.

Over the weekend, John and I went exploring along the frozen shore of Lake Superior, hiking the icy beaches of Little Presque Isle, seven miles northwest of Marquette, Michigan. It was a bright, bluebird day, hiking through the windswept pines that guard the coast as we approached the water.

Quick guide to Little Presque Isle:

  • 430 acres of Natural Area, 8.6 acre island (Wilderness Area)
  • 7 miles NW of Marquette, Michigan
  • Terrain details: wooded dunes, low sandy beaches, rugged shoreline cliffs, sandstone cliffs, forested areas, and wetlands
  • You will need a Michigan State Park pass or visitor’s day pass

Once on the snow-covered beach, the expansive vista of Lake Superior and the jagged icy coastline awaits. Keeping to the snow-packed areas made it easier to hike with winter boots as large portions of the coast were slick with ice from a recent thaw-freeze cycle. Since we were planning a shorter visit, we didn’t bring our snowshoes, but I’d certainly recommend attachable ice and snow shoe grips (or even snowshoes if you have them) when traversing frozen beaches. We took our time and stepped carefully, making our way farther down the shore.

On the way out toward Lake Superior we saw a few people hiking with their fuzzy four-legged companions (including an adorable husky puppy!), and even a family on snowshoes pulling their kids in sleds along the snowy beach. Living in the North country means getting out and enjoying the winter, and Yoopers especially take advantage of bright sunny days!

Read more: 5 things to consider when planning a Michigan vacation

Along the frozen beach and leading out to open water, pancake ice and slush floated hypnotically with the slow waves, crashing gently into the shore with a continuous soft whooshing sound. We stood at the edge of the cold coast for several still minutes, watching and listening as the water ebbed and flowed. If you’re taking a trip to the frozen beaches this winter, make time for the stillness that settles in, you won’t be disappointed.

The breeze here along the coast was bitter but the sun was bright, so we stayed a little longer exploring the shore. Lake Superior was vividly blue, with a deep rich hue made even more vibrant by the contrast of the stark white snow and ice, and the wispy pale clouds floating in the sky.

Follow John’s adventures over on his blog,

Read more: Winter Wonderland

If you’re visiting the Marquette area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula–and I definitely think you should!–make sure to visit Little Presque Isle, which offers adventure and stunning views no matter the season. The park is also dog-friendly (6 foot leash required), just be sure to take extra caution in the winter (for you and your pup!) as ice can be dangerous and unpredictable. Always exercise caution, and dress for the weather. Winter’s here to stay, so start exploring!

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Have you visited Little Presque Isle? Do you explore the Great Lakes beaches in the winter? I’d love to hear more about your adventures, leave a comment below!

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