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
Donate and join the Chapter
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.
Valley of the Giants: 4.5 miles or less, easy to moderate. 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. Drive to the intersection of Garfield and River Road southeast of Traverse City. Go east on River Road, crossing Arbutus Hill Road, and within 0.5 miles it will turn to gravel. Continue east. After about 0.25 miles, bear right at the fork onto Scharmen Road. Drive east for over 3 miles, and watch for the North Country Trail (NCT) blue blazes to cross the road after the intersection with Knight Road. Now comes the tough part: Watch for the NCT blue blazes to cross the road a second time (right after mailbox number 6985). If Scharmen turns south and becomes Hodges, you went about 0.25 miles too far. Pull in on the two-track on the left, and park off to the side in the grass/snow. (You can also enter “6985 Scharmen Road” into your navigator.) If hiking, follow the blue blazes north from Scharmen Road. After about 15 minutes you will drop down into a beautiful valley filled with old growth trees and 22 Creek. After about a mile the Trail will cross 22 Creek on a bridge. Continue to follow the Trail for about another mile until you see the intersection with John’s Trail, marked with red blazes. Here you can turn around and retrace your steps (recommended), or turn right on John’s Trail and follow a gas line back, which stays on top of the ridge. It is easier walking but less scenic.
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
Additional Local Resources
Boardman River Nature Center
Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy
“Life and Whim” blog article on GTHC
Traverse City Visitor Center
Valley of the Giants article on MyNorth.com