North Country Trail Association

Grand Traverse Chapter


Starvation Lake Road southeast of Mancelona to the Wexford/Manistee county line at Hodenpyl Dam Pond

Welcome to the Grand Traverse Chapter! We maintain 107 miles of Trail, much of which is in the forest and is extremely scenic. Come explore our section in the northwest area of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Join our group of volunteers for a hike or a bit of trail maintenance. The Grand Traverse Chapter is comprised of a small group of outdoor enthusiasts located in and around the Traverse City area. We are responsible for developing and maintaining the North Country Trail in Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Wexford and Manistee counties, including parts of the Pere Marquette State Forest. We hold regular meetings monthly throughout the fall, winter and spring months, and conduct several outdoor events and outings throughout the year.

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Chapter Trail Section

Working from north to south, our Chapter begins at Starvation Lake Road outside of Kalkaska, a Trail Town. It winds through Sand Lakes, where you could hike 63 miles to the Marilla trailhead and spend every night camped on the banks of a beautiful body of water, and have only two road walks, each only 2.5 miles long. Our section travels along the shores of lakes, rivers and trout streams for much of its length, then ends at the Trail Access on Hodenpyl Dam Road southwest of Mesick. As an added bonus we have developed a 20-mile loop around the Trail Town of Fife Lake called the Fife Lake Loop. The trail starts near the Old US-131 State Forest Campground, follows the NCT east and north past Headquarters Lake and Spring Lake State Forest Campground to M-186, then loops back through the forest on a different trail returning to the starting point.

Trail Town: Fife Lake

Fife Lake is an authentic Northern Michigan village in the Lower Peninsula located a 30-minute drive south of Traverse City. There are many ways for visitors to step back into the past and learn about our rich history while enjoying a full-service resort community.

Trail Town: Kalkaska

Kalkaska is a quaint town in the heart of the northern portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Combining its strong base of community values, its heritage of hardworking people, and the natural beauty of the surrounding area, Kalkaska provides a bit of paradise for residents and visitors alike.

Connect and Get Involved

Join the Chapter
Facebook Photo Album
Meetup Events and Hikes
Chapter Brochure with Map
Trail Access Points
Chapter 100-Mile Challenge


Use the Report Trail Condition form to alert NCTA and the Chapter to poor trail conditions. Visit the Trail Alerts page while planning your adventure.

Suggested Hikes

Valley of the Giants: This is an easy to moderate, out and back hike of 5 miles. Much of the hike is in a very steep valley with 22 Creek running through the bottom. There are several gigantic beaver ponds that have flooded a section of forest. This section of woods was never logged so there are many large old trees and not much underbrush. Most people are enchanted by this section of forest and come back in all seasons of the year. (Directions: 44°38'30.3"N, 85°26'17.9"W). Drive to the intersection of Garfield and River Road southeast of Traverse City. Go east on River Road for 1 block to Arbutus Hill Road. Zero your trip odometer here or just remember the reading. Continue straight onto Brown Bridge Road (formerly River Road). Continue east for 0.7 miles, then bear right at the fork onto Scharmen Road. At 3.6 miles, watch for the North Country Trail blue blazes to cross Scharmen Road. Continue east and at 3.9 miles, find the blue blazes crossing the road for a second time (right after mailbox number 6985). Pull into the two-track on the left and park off to the side in the grass/snow. This is right where Scharmen Road turns south and becomes Hodge Road. If hiking, follow the blue blazes east from Scharmen/Hodge Road. After about a half-mile you will drop down into a beautiful valley filled with old growth trees and 22 Creek. After about 0.7 miles farther, the Trail will cross 22 Creek on a bridge. The trail will then follow along the creek for another 1.25 miles where it will cross the creek again then climb out of the valley. Turn around to return to the parking area.

North Branch Trail: 3-4 miles or less, out-and-back. Much of the hike is along the North Branch of the Boardman River, which is a very clear trout stream. Hike underneath cedar trees that have been thoughtfully groomed by the deer - the branches start just above head height. In many places you can reach down and touch the water and at other times you are on a ridge overlooking the river. From the intersection of Williamsburg Road and Supply Road east of Traverse City, drive south and east on Supply Road crossing the Boardman River. About 0.5 miles after crossing the Boardman River, turn north on Broomhead Road and drive north crossing first the South Branch of the Boardman River, and finally the North Branch. Immediately after the cement bridge, turn into the small parking area on the east side of the road. If hiking, from the parking area walk west across Broomhead Road and follow the blue blazes along the river. Follow the blazes west for about 1.5 miles climbing in and out of the valley, until the Trail turns right and climbs out of the river valley for one final time. At this point turn around and follow the Trail back to your car. You will be surprised by the different views on your way back.

Fife Lake Loop: 21 miles. Along this 21-mile loop trail, hikers can enjoy the scenic views, serenity of the forest, streams and the Manistee River. They can take advantage of the two state forest campgrounds in the loop and the Trail Town of Fife Lake. It is a perfect-sized loop for a weekend getaway for backpackers, or there are numerous options for different length day hikes. Trailhead parking options are at M-186, Spring Lake SFCG, US-131 Manistee River Roadside Park, and Old US-131 SFCG.

Chapter Maps and Guidance

View our section of the Trail on the interactive online map
Map of GTC Chapter section
Fife Lake Loop Trail Map Brochure

Additional Local Resources

Backcountry North Outfitter
Boardman River Nature Center
Experience 231
Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy
TART Trails
Traverse City Visitor Center
Valley of the Giants article on
"An Up North Treasure: Hiking the NCT" article on Life and Whim