Michigan – Lower Peninsula

Michigan offers a diverse range of hiking with 1,150 miles – the most miles in all 7 states.

In Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the Trail traverses over 500 miles through a variety of small towns, urban areas, state forests and game areas, and the Huron-Manistee National Forest, all while working its way to the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

Explore by Section

Important Michigan Notes: When visiting Michigan State Parks, Rereation Areas, Forests, or State Game Areas you will need a Recreation Passport available available here. For camping reservations within Michigan State Parks visit here.

Dispersed camping can take place on state-owned land other than state parks, recreation areas, or state forest campgrounds. View the dispersed camping rules and get a Camp Registration Card here (also available at a local DNR office).

Southern Michigan

photo by Baw Beese Chapter

OH/MI border to the Kalamazoo/Barry County line

Mileage: 99 miles (41 off-road/58 on-road)

Rating: Easy

Need to Know: Long stretches of road walks with limited camping opportunities. Most off-road trail are multi-use pathways. Dogs are not permitted within Fort Custer National Cemetery.

The Trail:  A mix of forest and farm country that primarily follows multi-use pathways and temporary road walks. Hike over lush farmland and tramp the back roads of a part of Michigan where there are so many lakes they are referred to by number.

Notable Locations:

Get Involved! Trail Maintaining Chapters: Chief Baw Beese Chapter and Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail Association

Trail Towns: Litchfield, Marshall

Maps:

Western Michigan

Hikers in Lowell State Game Area

Lowell State Game Area, photo by Tamera Jackson

Kalamazoo/Barry County line to the Southern boundary of the Manistee National Forest

Mileage: 140 miles (66 off-road/74 on-road)

Rating: Easy

Need to Know: Long stretches of road walks and limited camping opportunities.

The Trail: Completed Trail is generally on public lands including two State Game Areas, connected by scenic roadwalks.

Notable Locations: 

Get Involved! Trail Maintaining Chapters: Chief Noonday Chapter and Western Michigan Chapter of the North Country Trail Association

Trail Towns: Middleville, Lowell

Maps:

Huron-Manistee National Forest

Traversing the entire length of the Manistee National Forest

Trail Alert: The bridge over the Manistee River on Coates Road known as “Red Bridge” will be completely replaced starting around April 2nd until a proposed open date of August 24. Although this will not impact hikers only traveling along the NCT it is part of the Manistee River Loop so hikers need to plan accordingly as no traffic will be allowed during construction. View a re-route map here. Read a News article about the closure.

hikers on bridge of Manistee River Loop

Manistee River Loop

Mileage: 139 miles (123 off-road/16 on-road)

Rating: Moderate

Need to Know: Dispersed primitive camping is allowed, without a permit, unless posted closed or “no camping.” No camping within 200′ of a body of water except at designated sites. Visit the Huron-Manistee National Forest USFS website.

The Trail: Enjoy sandy soils that support a pine-hardwood forest, cross the Pere Marquette and Mansitee Rivers, and enjoy the popular Manistee River Trail loop.

Notable Locations: 

  • Croton Dam
  • White Cloud
  • The historic Birch Grove Schoolhouse in White Cloud owned by the NCTA (available for rent for meetings, retreats, or for hikers).
  • Ward and Udell Hills
  • Hodenpyl Dam Pond

Get Involved! Trail Maintaining Chapters: Western Michigan Chapter and Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the North Country Trail Association

Trail Towns: White Cloud

Maps:

Northwestern Lower Michigan

Bear River Valley Recreation Area

Bear River Valley Recreation Area, photo Dove Day

Northern boundary of the Manistee National Forest to the Mackinac Bridge

Mileage: 227 miles (171 off-road/56 on-road)

Rating: Moderate

Need to Know: Majority of property is managed by State Forest. Dispersed camping is allowed on State Forest unless posted “no camping” or if you are within one mile of a designated campground. You must also post a camp registration card at your campsite, which you may get at this link or at a local Michigan DNR office. The Mackinac Bridge can only be walked on Labor Day each year. When planning a long hike that will require getting over the bridge otherwise, contact the Bridge Authority for a ride across.

The Trail: The Trail through Northwestern Lower Michigan offers diverse sections and features from flat open meadows, to ridge top views, rivers, and lakes, including 2 scenic loops – a 20 mile loop at Fife Lake, and an 18 mile loop at the Jordan River Pathway.

Notable Locations:

Get Involved! Trail Maintaining Chapters: Grand Traverse Hiking Club Chapter, Jordan Valley 45 Chapter, Harbor Springs Chapter of the North Country Trail Association

Trail Towns: Fife Lake, Kalkaska, Petoskey, Mackinaw City

Maps:

Lower Michigan Events

Click on an event for more details.