Fife Lake is an authentic Northern Michigan village in the Lower Peninsula, located a 30-minute drive south of Traverse City.
The village was founded in 1872 and began as a lumbering town, fueled by the operation of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. Today there are many ways for visitors to step back into the past and learn about the rich history while enjoying a full-service resort community.
Hikers can easily access the village via a one-mile spur trail off the main North Country Trail. The Trail in this area is part of a 21-mile loop trail that offers a unique hiking experience. There are two state forest campgrounds both are NCT trailheads with overnight parking) at each end of the hiking loop. On the southern end of the loop is Old US-131 State Forest Campground, located right on the Manistee River. On the northern end of the loop is Spring Lake State Forest Campground, located on the shores of Spring Lake. Spring Lake Campground was the very first state forest campground in Michigan and is just 1.5 miles from the Village of Fife Lake. If you’ve got time to explore the village there are many things to do. The charming downtown of Fife Lake is walkable, and offers several quaint shops and dining spots all within a short stroll to the shores of Fife Lake itself.
Visitors can experience the unique history of Fife Lake firsthand by going on the Fife Lake Historical Walk. The tour includes 27 display plaques throughout the village with wonderful historic photographs and a short write-up identifying a variety of historical buildings and sites. Brochures, including a map of the walk, are available at the historical museum and the Fife Lake Public Library.
Fife Lake is proud to support an outstanding historical museum. It is chock full of artifacts and displays relating to the history of this quaint village and the surrounding area. Visitors will learn about the geology of the area, the first inhabitants (Native Americans), the lumbering era, and farming. A bedroom, kitchen, dining room, and parlor are displayed in the style of the late 1800’s. You are sure to find much that is fascinating.
Built in 1878, a one-room schoolhouse became the Fife Lake Township Hall in 1886, when a larger school was built. The library became the sole occupant when the new township hall was built. After the beautiful new library was built in 2006, the Fife Lake Area Historical Society purchased the building from Fife Lake Township and did a complete renovation. Today it is used to teach local history to fourth grade students, and houses genealogy records.
Visit the historic fire barn: Built in 1876, the oldest building in the village was built just four years after Fife Lake was platted. The fire barn now holds displays showing the development of emergency medical and fire services. Check out the sleigh used by a local doctor to make house calls, the 1937 truck modified to become a fire engine, the printing press used to report the many fires, and much more.
The Grand Traverse Hiking Club Chapter is responsible for the North Country Trail section nearest Fife Lake.
Header photo by Mark Lindsay