Jordan River Pathway loop hike

Why go there? When you first view the beautiful panorama of hills, valleys and the Jordan River from Deadman’s Hill or Landslide Lookout, the hiker part of you is drawn to the path that goes down the hill.  If you enter the hike from Landslide Lookout, you can hear the water splashing as it tumbles down the creek on it’s way to the Jordan River.  However it requires a side trip further down the hill to see it.  The Jordan River that you can see from Deadman’s Hill is all formed in the valley from numerous springs and creeks that empty into the Jordan.  The Jordan River emerges from the valley at the north western end, a deep 50 foot wide river that has been named a National Scenic River, famous for fishing.

Hike Highlights:

  • Hiking along the Jordan River
  • Crossing numerous picturesque creeks and springs that feed the Jordan River
  • The surrounding trees and hills with the water falling over the rocks make it a peaceful place to spend time

Flora / fauna of the area: There is a walk way over a wet area where you’ll see the work of the beaver, but probably you won’t see the beaver. There are all the regular pond creatures and woods animals as well as wet land birds and animals that you would expect to find.  We saw a bear once, and a special snake that lives in swamps, but you probably don’t want to know about that.  It is such a diverse area that has lowlands, wetlands and hardwood forests.  In the spring the wildflowers are beautiful.  The land doesn’t get logged, so the spring flowers, lady slippers and trilliums each take their turns making the landscape beautiful. Beside the creeks and springs, you’ll find different varieties of fern.  One part of the trail that’s not far from the beaver dam, the trail goes through some bull rushes higher than your head.  Your first instinct is to think that this can’t be the trail, but it is.

Geology of the area: The special thing about this area is how the water just flows out of the hills.  There is a lookout platform below Deadman’s Hill where you will see a fairly large area of water flowing out of the hill side.  It is a wet bog area and that is why DNR built the platform so you could see it up close without getting wet.  You will be amazed at how high the hills are when you are in the valley.  Riding along U.S.131 you’d think the land is pretty flat.  You’d never know this beautiful valley is here unless you go walk in it.

Land ownership: The land is State of Michigan land, managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Directions to and GPS Coordinates for trailheads: It is on the 45th parallel

  • From the corner of M-32 and U.S.131, go about 1 1/2 miles south to Deadman’s Hill Road.  Go west for 2 miles to the parking lot for Deadman’s Hill.  There is a parking area for backpackers.
  • To get to Landslide Lookout go further south on U.S.131 to the town of Alba.  Turn west on Alba Hwy at the blinking light.  In about 1 mile turn north onto Harvey Rd.  It is about 2 miles of dirt road through a hardwood forest and well worth the drive to see Landslide Lookout.

General route description: Most hikers start at Deadman’s Hill and hike to Pinney Bridge Campground for the night then continue on around the loop the next day ending back up at their car.  Care must be taken to follow the blue circles if you intend to do the loop trail.  The North Country Trail (NCT) uses the northern side of the loop and NCT is marked with 3″x5″ blue rectangles.  The Jordan Valley Pathway is marked with blue circles.  Where the two trails are together, it looks like a large exclamation mark!  If you are following only rectangles, you are on the NCT and are headed to either New York or North Dakota!
Another spot to pay attention to is when you go down Deadman’s Hill be aware that after a couple of miles the trail gives you a choice of returning back to the parking lot from which you came or continuing on to Pinney Bridge Campground.  If you are on a short hike and want to return to the parking lot, you will really get a treat if you continue on the main trail for just a little further to the walk way in the wet area where the beaver work.  Then you can return to the shortcut back to the parking lot.

There are several dirt roads in the valley that the trail crosses and by using them, the hike could be divided into day hikes.  Landslide Lookout can be accessed by car.  There is a pit toilet at the parking lot there.  From Landslide you can go either way on the trail and have a marvelous day hike.  Going east will bring you to several creeks.  Going west will give you a work out walking ridges.  If you go far enough west you’ll come to Cascade Creek that rushes in cascades to the Jordan River.  If you have the time to take a leisurely drive through the valley on Cascade Rd, Pinney Bridge Rd and Jordan River Rd you’ll enjoy it because they follow the rivers.  These are narrow dirt roads and are best travelled at about 15 to 20 mile per hour.  Most places are so narrow that there are turn outs for when you meet a car.  Oh, I could tell you of so many more special spots, but you should go find them yourself.

Trail map: Jordan Valley 45°’s Jordan River Pathway brochure (map is on page 2).

Camping information: There is a hike in/backpacking campground north of Pinney Bridge.  It is about 1/4 mile north of the Pinney Bridge parking area.  It has water and pit toilets, picnic tables and fire pits. Camping is not allowed any other place in the valley.  The valley is defined as the land between M-66 on the west, M-32 on the north, U.S.131 on the east and Alba Hwy on the south.  The best part of Pinney Bridge Campground is that it is so quiet.  It is an open field with the camp sites at the edge of the woods.  At night you can just sit and watch the stars.  In the morning you can watch the shadows change the hills and daylight gradually appears.  In the evening you can take the trail to the east and climb the hill where there is a bench to set and watch the sunset.  Don’t forget to take your flashlight.  Another place to camp is Graves State Forest Campground.  It is on M-66 several miles north of Pinney Bridge Road.  It is located beside the Jordan River.

For more information:

  • The Jordan Valley 45° Chapter maintains the trails through this area.  Our e-mail address is j45@northcountrytrail.org…we usually check the e-mail site weekly.
  • The Jordan River National Fish Hatchery is also interested in helping visitors in the area and answering questions.  They offer tours through their facility when they are open.  They have bathrooms that are open 24-7 and a picnic pavillion.
  • Antrim County’s website
  • You may also contact the Michigan DNR Operations Center in Gaylord at 989-732-3541 for local information.

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