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Your guide to Gaylord
Welcome to Gaylord
Gaylord is a charming alpine village in northern Michigan with kitschy chalet-style architecture and a generously long winter sports season. Located on the 45th parallel north, where a snow belt microclimate delivers both early- and late-season flurries, the small city is a magnet for fans of winter recreation. Downhill skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing are all popular, but Gaylord is just as renowned for its network of well-maintained cross-country ski trails.
Not far from town are Hartwick Pines State Park and Mason Tract Pathway, both of which feature top-rated cross-country skiing; a local rails-to-trails effort saw a retired line of the Michigan Central Railroad converted to skiing-friendly trails, too. Gaylord is just as popular a holiday destination in the warmer months, when all those trails are open to hikers and bikers. Bordering the southern edge of downtown is Otsego Lake, which comes alive with water skiers, wakeboarders, and jet skis during the summer, while the downtown rows of shops and restaurants delight visitors with Swiss-style storefronts.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Gaylord?
Given its Swiss chalet winter wonderland vibe, it’s especially fun to stay in one of Gaylord’s vacation rentals during its snowy season, which typically starts in late October. Peak snowfall hits in January, with an average of 95 inches, and usually tapers off by the end of March, though it’s not unheard of for the area to get another foot or so in April. Come summertime, Otsego Lake draws water-sports enthusiasts to its shores, and the charming village buzzes under just-hot-enough temperatures. If you’re planning a visit in July, don’t miss Alpenfest: a Swiss-inspired festival complete with traditional dress, a pageant, and a parade.
What are the top things to do in Gaylord?
Hartwick Pines State Park
About 90 minutes south of Gaylord is this 49-acre old-growth pine grove — a fair representation of what the region looked like before the logging boom of the late 19th century. In fact, it’s one of the last Eastern white pine forests in the United States. Learn about the massive industry and its impact on the area at the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum, or pick a path from among the 21 miles of trails across the park.
Due to its northerly location surrounded by pines, Gaylord and its outskirts are known for elk viewing, best done from the safety of your car. One of the country’s largest free-roaming herds lives in the wilds of the massive 107,600-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest, which butts up against Gaylord’s eastern boundary. For guaranteed viewing any time of year, make a stop at Gaylord’s City Elk Park, a 108-acre property where the city has protected a growing herd.
For a quiet respite just north of town, head to Frank Wilkinson Park, whose primary feature is a picturesque stream rich with iron deposits, lending its rocks a rusty hue. Pack a picnic to enjoy by the pavilion, and be sure to fill up your drinking bottle at the park’s water fountain, fueled by irontone water.