Discover the Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded in Michigan

Written by Emilio Brown
Published: February 17, 2023
© Paul Winterman/
Share this post on:

Michigan in the winter reaches extremely cold temperatures, filling the state with snow. When compared with all of the 50 states, Michigan ranks as one of the coldest. Throughout the state’s history, there have been several cold snaps, with temperatures regularly going below zero. Here you will discover the coldest temperature ever recorded in Michigan, and why the region gets so cold.

If you love snow and cold, Michigan is one of the best states to visit in the winter. Temperatures across the United States have been recorded for over a hundred years, with records dating back to the 1800s. Michigan has had several record-breaking temperatures. Learn about the coldest temperature ever recorded in Michigan here. 

Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded in Michigan

Field Covered in Snow in Gaylord, Michigan
The coldest temperature ever recorded in Michigan was on February 9, 1934, in Otsego County. Pictured is a field in Gaylord, the county seat of Otsego County.

©Paul Winterman/

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Michigan was a freezing -51°F, which was recorded on February 9th, in 1934. This record-breaking temperature was measured in Otsego County, within the village of Vanderbilt. February is one of the coldest months in Michigan, even today nearly 90 years later. 

Vanderbilt has an elevation of around 1,096 feet, and it is located in the Northern Lower Peninsula. Michigan is one of the eight Great Lake states. It has a unique landscape, as water surrounds the entire state. Being close to four Great Lakes is one of the reasons Michigan gets so cold, as ice in the lake cools the air.

Winter in Michigan

Outer Lighthouse at St. Joseph North Pierhead
Winters can be quite harsh in Michigan. Pictured is the St. Joseph North Pierhead Outer Lighthouse, in St. Joseph, Michigan.

©Ralf Broskvar/

Chilling temperatures in Michigan typically last from early November until the end of March. While the coldest recorded temperature in Michigan occurred in February, January is actually considered the coldest month of the year in the state. The further north you go in Michigan the colder it gets, with Sault Ste. Marie holding the crown for the coldest city in Michigan. 

On average winter days, Michigan has daily highs of around 30°F, and lows of about 13°F. On the coldest days, temperatures easily drop below zero, and the state is greeted with polar air and freezing winds. 

When the state experiences extremely cold weather it is not only dangerous but drastically changes how its residents live. Travel is extremely limited with driving conditions becoming more dangerous. Going outside puts people at risk of hypothermia. Schools, offices, stores, and even hospitals may close in extremely cold weather. Yearly the residents of Michigan must properly prepare for winter’s coming.

Snow in Michigan

It may not surprise you that Michigan, one of the coldest states, is also one of the snowiest. On average Michigan receives around 60.66 inches of snow per year. The Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan get much more snow than the rest of the state, with more than 100 cities on average reaching more than 100 inches of snowfall yearly.

The state receives around 43.1 days of snowfall in the year. Amazing records have been reached throughout the state’s history like the coldest temperature ever recorded in Michigan, or its snowfall record when it received a stunning 355.9 inches of snow in the winter of 1978-79.

Winter Activities to Do in Winter in Michigan

Cross country skiing in Michigan
Skiing is one of many winter activities available to residents and visitors of Michigan.

©Christopher Tipton/

A wonderland is just one way to describe Michigan in its finger-numbing winter. It is easy to think that in such a cold environment you would want to stay indoors, but Michigan’s winter is amazing for enjoying a plethora of joyous winter activities you cannot experience any other time of the year.

Here are a few winter activities in Michigan you may want to try:

  • Sledding/Dog Sledding 
  • Skiing
  • Ice fishing
  • Snowboarding
  • Fat tire biking
  • Snowshoe hiking
  • Ice skating
  • Building a snowman

In Michigan, there are countless getaway spots like resorts or beaches to get a taste of the state’s wonderful winter environment. Many of the fun summer spots become new and exciting in the winter. Dressing for the cold and stepping out into adventure lets you see the twisted wilderness, and jaw-dropping sights like frozen waterfalls or snow-encrusted trees. 

Winter Wildlife in Michigan

snowy owl
In Michigan, you might spot a snowy owl during the winter.

©Jim Cumming/

Michigan only has a few animals that truly hibernate in the cold like bats, ground squirrels, woodchucks, and black bears. The reptiles and amphibians that live in the state bury themselves underground and enter into a state of brumation until the warm arrives. Many types of animals are not seen often outdoors during the state’s winter, like spiders and insects, which die off, while their young and eggs wait for the warmer days to come.

Even with the cold, there are still numerous animals active. While many bird species move to warmer regions, winter birds like the snowy owl are out to be spotted. You can also find animals like deer, snow hares, moose, bobcats, and foxes active in the winter, which are just a few adapting to the change of season.

Up Next:

More from A-Z Animals

The Featured Image

Field Covered in Snow in Gaylord, Michigan - Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded in Michigan
A field covered in snow in Gaylord, Michigan.
© Paul Winterman/

Share this post on:
About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.