The following text is excerpted from the
book "Following the North Country Trail," written by the North Country Trail
Association's magazine editor Wes Boyd and published by the NCTA. The book is
sent free of charge to new NCTA members, but you also may read the
entire text on our web site.
The entire trail is called the North Country Trail, but Michigan's upper
peninsula really feels like the north country; crossing the 5-mile Mackinac
Bridge seems to take you much farther north. The upper peninsula is wild
country, largely forested , although cut over a century ago.
The Mackinac Bridge, known as "Big Mac", is only usable one day a year, the
morning of Labor Day, when an annual bridge walk is held. At that time, the
bridge can be walked southbound in a mob of 50,000 to 70,000 people. At other
times, hikers must find other ways across the Straits of Mackinac. The Mackinac
Bridge Authority operates a shuttle bus; to go north from Jamet Street, the last
exit on I-75 before the bridge, call (906) 643-7600 to arrange pickup;
southbound, the bus leaves from the Bridge Authority offices at the north end of
alternative to taking the bus is to take a ferry to Mackinac Island, and then to
St. Ignace. Although not directly on the route of the NCT, this island park
provides an interesting side trip. Reached by ferry from Mackinac City or St.
Ignace, bicycles, your own feet, or horses are the only modes of transportation
on the island; motor vehicles are not allowed. Mackinac Island was designated as
our second national park in 1875, a status it retained until 1895 when the park
was turned over to the state. No camping facilities are available on the island,
but many resort hotels and tourist rooms are located in the village. Bring
Just north of Big Mac, a long section of completed NCT begins. Though this is
the shortest of the "big three", it has far and away the highest percentage of
certified trail, and is the one of the trail's longest consistently wild
sections. Supplies are only available at rare locations over the next 210 miles.
As this long segment falls in the responsibility of several agencies,
information must be sought in several locations.
At this writing, trailhead for the first segment in the Hiawatha National
Forest, St. Ignace Ranger District, is located on Castle Rock Road (FR3104),
about four miles north of St. Ignace, but the user can follow an uncertifiable
abandoned railroad grade turned snowmobile trail north from the outskirts of St.
Ignace to the intersection with the trail. The NCT in the St. Ignace Ranger
District winds north for 36.5 miles, all on forest land. The trail has been
criticized in the past for not being well marked or cleared, but recent Forest
Service work has markedly improved the situation, including the development of
several boardwalks elevated over wetlands. One developed and one primitive
campground are located along the trail in this district, but camping is allowed
alongside the trail. For information, contact Hiawatha National Forest, St.
Ignace Ranger District, 1498 W. US-2, St. Ignace, MI 49781, (906) 643-7900; or
Hiawatha National Forest, Sault Ste Marie Ranger District, 4000 I-75 Business
Spur, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, 49873 (906) 635- 5311.
"Certified Sections of the North Country Trail - the NCT in Upper Michigan"
has a segment on the Hiawatha, available from the NCTA Trail Store for $9.50.
The segment is also covered in the Michigan "F" Mapsets, available from the
Trail store for $4.00.
Bordered by Lake Superior to the north and by Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to
the south, almost half of the Hiawatha's 880,797 acres are wetlands, with 413
inland lakes and over 775 miles of streams. Along the path, stands of northern
white cedar, aspen, pine and northern hardwoods are found. The trail passes near
many sites of historical interest; archaeological remains of ancient Indian
settlements are sometimes found along the shores of lakes and rivers. Subtle
traces of old logging camps and pioneer homesteads are often located in grassy
openings in the forest or along abandoned roads or railroad grades.
As the trail crosses the county line into Chippewa County, it enters the
Sault Ste. Marie Ranger District. This has 42 miles of certified trails north to
Lake Superior. There are two developed campgrounds and several bivouac areas.
Trailside camping is permitted. For more information, contact Hiawatha National
Forest, Sault Ste. Marie Ranger District, at the above address.
Emerging from the Hiawatha National Forest on Tahquamenon Bay, the trail
follows new trail through state land for about 5 miles until reaching Rivermouth
Campground in Tahquamenon State Park. This trail segment in Tahquamenon more or
less parallels the Tahquamenon River for 17 miles through the park. Camping is
only permitted in the two developed campgrounds unless prior arrangements have
been made. The 21,000 acre park contains outstanding scenery, including the
second largest waterfall in the east. Contact Manager, Tahquamenon Falls State
Park, Paradise, MI 49768, or DNR. From the boundary of Tahquamenon Falls State
Park, the trail goes west in Lake Superior State Forest, then north, then west
along the shore of Lake Superior 44 miles to Grand Marais through Lake Superior
Forest and Muskallonge Lake State Park. There are six state forest campgrounds
and the state park campground along the route, and trailside camping is
permitted. The trail is marked with the NCT marker and blue paint blazes; trail
maintenance was reportedly poor for some time, but has recently undergone a
major overhaul. Again, the best information on this segment is in "Certified
Sections of the North Country Trail - the NCT in Upper Michigan". The segment is
also covered in the Michigan "F" Mapsets, available from the Trail store for
The North Country Trail Association develops, maintains, preserves and promotes the North Country National Scenic Trail through a trail-wide coalition of volunteers and partners.