4 Tips for Hiking all the North Country Trail in One State


Have you ever thought about hiking all of the miles of the North Country Trail in your state? Marci and her husband Darrell just passed 500 miles on their goal to hike all 1,150 miles of the NCT in Michigan.

They started out simply with day hikes and then got hooked. Marci has tips for those who might consider a goal like this, even if you don’t think you’re in shape and are still working full-time and don’t think you have the time!

by Marci Burke, Chief Noonday Chapter Member

couple hikes all of michigan north country trail

Marci and Darrell at their 500-mile mark!

My husband, Darrell, and I have always loved to hike together. We usually just did short loops or out-and-back hikes. Our most frequented areas were around Kellogg Forest (Augusta, MI), Red Bridge area of the Manistee River (Wellston, MI), and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Munising, MI).

When we first started hiking, we didn’t know there was a common thread with our favorite areas – the North Country Trail passes through each of these areas! Our interest was piqued as we began to notice signs and kiosks describing the trail.

Our first planned NCT hike was a 100-mile backpacking trip from Pictured Rocks area to Tahquamenon Falls area.  It was a personal challenge that we wanted to accomplish.

We made it, and we fell in love with the North Country Trail. That was in 2011.In 2015 we made it a goal to section hike the entire state.

As of 1-1-17 we have hiked 500 miles. We are aiming to average 30 miles per month this year and next year so we will complete the trail by the end of 2018.

We both have jobs that don’t allow us a lot of time off work, so we hike when we can. We are 50-ish and 60-ish and not in perfect shape. All it takes to succeed is a good pair of shoes, a backpack, and a love of the trail!

Tips for those considering hiking all the North Country Trail in one state:

1. Plan, plan, plan.

  • Just do it! Haha, in reality it does take a little bit of planning.
  • Look at the terrain, weather patterns, and trail accessibility to determine how long your hikes will be. It is faster hiking when there aren’t elevation changes.
  • Summer has longer daylight hours than winter, so we plan longer hikes during those daylight hours.
  • We chose to hike certain sections of trail at certain times of the year for safety and/or comfort due to snow or river crossings. For instance, rather than take a road hike around a river fording, we hiked that section in late summer when the water level was lower (and warmer!)
  • The southern portion of our state has less snowfall, so we hike more of those miles in the spring and winter.

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2. You don’t have to hike sequentially.

It isn’t necessary to hike the whole trail sequentially.

However, in order to keep an accurate record of our hiking progress, we do start or end our hikes at the terminus of a previous hike in that area.

We also keep a map on the wall at home that shows our progress.  It serves both as a reminder of where we have been and an incentive for we have yet to go.

NCT miles

3. You don’t have to be strong to hike the trail. Hike the trail to get strong.

The benefits of hiking the North Country Trail are many, but they may differ for each individual.  I find that the trail is a place where I know I will be challenged and grow both physically and mentally. If something is bothering my mind, I can think it through as I hike. If something is uncomfortable with my body, my mental strength keeps me going. There really is some truth to “mind over matter.”


4. Hike your own hike.

  • A day hike will get you out on the trail (that’s how we started).
  • A thru-hike will keep you on the trail (we can’t get away for that long).
  • A section hike will keep you going back to the trail and this is the method that is working for us right now.


On a recent hike in the cold and snow, we were tired and sore but excited to meet the milestone of 500 miles. After mile 499 I asked my husband, “If we were on our last mile to complete the entire state, how do you think you would feel right now – elated, relieved, or disappointed to be done?”  He answered, “All of the above.  I guess I would be thinking about what our next hike would be.”

500 miles

That just about sums up our trail experience.  Even with an end goal of hiking all of Michigan, each end is the next beginning.

11 Responses to “4 Tips for Hiking all the North Country Trail in One State”

  1. Laura Crowley January 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    Thank you for an inspiring story. Would love to accomplish this very goal and you have given me a nudge to go for it.

  2. Ellen Whitehead January 20, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

    Where is the covered bridge? Kudos to you!!! My friend and I are working on the three sections nearest us (Manton to Petoskey). Who knows? Maybe we’ll do them all one day.

  3. Rennae Gruchalla January 21, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    We have a challenge going on here to hike all of our state, North Dakota. We have 19 signed up to do it so far, and began our challenge on January 1, 2017. The NCT here is much smaller than in your state, 427 miles. It was fun to read about your experiences hiking in your state so far. Good luck in reaching your goal by 2018.

  4. Marci Burke January 23, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

    Glad to hear your stories too! The covered bridge in the photo is at Kellogg Forest in Kalamazoo County, MI.

  5. K January 24, 2017 at 9:35 am #

    This is great! I got hooked on the trail completing the 100 mile challenge last year, and I’ve now committed to doing all of Michigan, too! We start from scratch this year, section hiking south to north (winter, spring) and north to south (summer, fall). I’m hoping it will take 2 years, even with scheduling around jobs and kids, and I have challenged myself to finish it in 3. Good luck to all trail challengers, and safe travels!

  6. deb patterson Whelsky February 3, 2017 at 8:42 am #

    A couple of years ago My husband Mike and I took off for our vacation with the plan to hike in each state on the NTC – crossing the state line in each state. We had done the NTC in NY so we started in Pennsylvania – walked up to NY then back – Had wonderful hikes in each state. I second that it only takes a backpack and good shoes!!

  7. Brian Laarman February 3, 2017 at 10:24 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this article. On 1/2/17 I took a day hike in the Manistee National Forest. I enjoyed seeing your “500 Miles” note in the snow and wondered about the story behind it. Now I know! Congratulations on passing a significant milestone.

  8. Patric Jones March 29, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    The best thing was the picture of 500 miles note between footprints. This is really so inspirational. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  9. Finley Moreira July 6, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

    My wife and I would love to start hiking more. I like how you you stress that planning is important to a successful and safe hike. I’m sure this would really help me understand what equipment I’ll need if I take the time to plan out how the hike is going to go.

  10. Pat Knight July 20, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    Nice story and thanks for sharing!

    My wife, Pollie and I started the NCT-Michigan trail in January during the unseasonably warm winter. We have completed the sections from the Ohio state line to Albion, MI thus far. Our hope is to get the sections from Albion to Lowell complete this year. Then we will continue to move north. Our plan is to get to the UP next year, staying for a week and hiking more intensely. We may try to complete the Labor Day walk over the bridge this year too. Nice to see many folks have the same goal.

  11. Sarah Winters November 6, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    I have started hiking this past summer and am hooked! I do local trails and the idea of the NCT all in Michigan was something I was thinking when I found this page. That you for being such an inspiration!!!

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