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 Mackinaw 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.

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

hikers on bridge of Manistee River Loop

Manistee River Loop

Traversing the entire length of the Manistee National Forest

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. Camping on State Forest is allowed unless posted “no camping” or you are more than one mile from 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.