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Thanks to its awesome snowfall and abundant skiing, dog sledding, skating rinks, fat tire biking, ice climbing, cross country skiing, and a plethora of ski resorts, winter adventures are one of the best times of year to visit Northern Michigan. However, the January and February snowstorms along Lake Michigan’s shoreline can derail your travel plans. Follow these tips if you are driving to Northern Michigan and the general Great Lakes area in winter and want to have a safe and smooth journey.

Look at the Weather

The biggest factor to take into account when driving to Northern Michigan is the weather. If big storms are moving through Michigan’s winter wonderland, you might want to postpone your drive until they pass.

Just below the upper peninsula, the cold weather and the snow-covered roads can be tricky to navigate. Many people will look to the lakes to use as ice rinks. Lake Huron, and the great lakes in general, are known for beautiful views but can be treacherous in the winter. Even a state park can be very fun to visit in the winter.

If you can’t wait to get out on the slopes and enjoy the fresh snow, or if your travel plans don’t allow it, simply plan on a long drive. Click here to see the reason why Northern Michigan skiing over spring break is a great idea.

Make Sure Your Car Has Good Tires

The last thing you want to do when driving to your Northern Michigan ski vacation ends up in a ditch. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) de-ices roads with snowplows, gravel, and saline solutions. Despite MDOT’s efforts, driving to Northern Michigan without all-season or winter tires is risky.

Even if there isn’t or hasn’t been a storm in Northern Michigan, the roads can get icy. Snow tires or all-season tires will help you reach Northern Michigan. Taking a four-wheel-drive vehicle with these tires is even safer. In winter, a four-wheel drive without all-season or winter tires is dangerous.

If you are renting a car, check with your rental car company to make sure you can reserve a vehicle with snow tires or all-season tires as well as a four-wheel drive.

Prepare the Rest of Your Car

Make sure your windshield wiper fluid is full, your wipers are working, and you have an ice scraper before heading north. Make sure you have a winter coat and gloves in the car so you can scrape it off in the cold.

Once you’re driving, keep your gas tank more than half full for the duration of your trip. This will allow you to run your car and stay warm if you are delayed in road closures.

Use an App and Charge Your Phone

Using a map app can help you avoid traffic. It will also notify you if any of the roads along your route close. Use Google or Apple Maps.

A full phone charge or a phone charger in your car is recommended. Location-based map apps can drain your battery. And a dead phone won’t help you much if you need to call for help.

Drive During Off-Peak Hours

Traveling from downstate to Northern Michigan in the winter requires planning. During the weekends, skiers and snowboarders head north to the many ski areas. If you drive to Northern Michigan during ski season, expect to be stuck in slow-moving ski traffic.

Take it Slow

Incredibly scenic and full of attractions, the drive to Northern Michigan can be an adventure in itself! Take your time and explore the towns along the way. Many have fascinating histories, delicious dining, and shopping.

Now you know how to make your next drive to Northern Michigan safe and seamless.

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