North Country Trail Association

Spirit of the Woods Chapter


Wexford/Manistee county line at Hodenpyl Dam Pond to the Lake/Newaygo county line west of M-37

The Spirit of the Woods Chapter conducts meetings, outings, hikes, events and trail workdays. Since most of our miles are in the Manistee National Forest, our work days are often coordinated with the U.S. Forest Service and take place in forested areas. You can find us smoothing the Trail, cutting fallen trees or creating boardwalk. Save the first Saturday of every month to come with us on a hike (or snowshoe or ski during the winter). In February we host a Chili Feed at the Big M Cross Country Ski Area in the heated shelter, and cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at Big M. On the first Saturday in June, we celebrate National Trails Day. In late September (fourth Saturday) join us for North Country National Scenic Trail Day. Participating is a fun and educational experience for people of all ages and outdoor skill levels. Join us for social outings and trail work – all are welcome!

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Chapter Trail Section

The Spirit of the Woods Chapter’s section of the North Country Trail is largely within the Manistee National Forest in Northwest Michigan. Our Chapter maintains almost 80 miles of the Trail. Our section begins at the Hodenpyl Dam near Marilla and continues south to the Newaygo/Lake county line (96th Street south of Baldwin). In the southern part of Lake County is another loop offered by the Bowman Lake Trail with the North Country Trail. This loop hike is described in Ron Strickland’s book, The North Country Trail: The Best Walks, Hikes, and Backpacking Trips on America’s Longest National Scenic Trail. The NCT offers day hiking, backpacking, running, mountain biking and forest access for hunters. There is river access to renowned salmon and steelhead fisheries. When the snow flies, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities abound. There are two boardwalk areas, Sterling Marsh south of Baldwin and Dead Horse Marsh near Irons. These are great for those who require or prefer easier walking surfaces. The Trail crosses the Big Sable and Little Manistee Rivers and passes the High Bridge and Saw Dust Pile Memorials. Spur trails connect to Forest Service campgrounds and also cross the largest pedestrian suspension bridge east of the Mississippi to create a popular 19-mile backpacking loop with the Manistee River Trail. The NCT crosses the Pere Marquette River and follows Big Manistee River. Almost all the Trail in our Chapter traverses mixed hardwood forest dotted with stands of birch, red and white pine, and cedar. It passes through or near swamps, wetlands and bayous. The Trail passes the abandoned Red Bridge fire tower, the highest point in Manistee County. In the south it winds through Sterling Marsh with boardwalk and gravel sections. The terrain is generally flat land but as you move north you will encounter rolling terrain. Glacial movement left the Ward and Udell Hills in Manistee County as well as some challenging terrain with steep grades in the Red Bridge Semi-Primitive Area.

Connect and Get Involved

Join the Chapter
Chapter brochure


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

Manistee River Trail / North Country Trail Loop: 19.67 miles. This loop trail follows the Manistee River on two sides. The distance is about popular for a one- or two-night hike. There are rustic campgrounds on both ends of the trail. The Manistee River Trail side provides overlooks of the river. There is a great suspension bridge to cross the river near the Hodenpyl Dam. The loop can be very busy on summer weekends so if you would like to see fewer people, go during the week or during the spring or fall. Many people start near Red Bridge Campground on Coates Highway. There is a parking area trailhead on Coates Highway at Red Bridge Campground or on River Road north of Red Bridge/Coates Highway If hiking, the North Country Trail Shop has map #SE-MRL on the Manistee River Trail. Ron Strickland’s book also has a description, and the U.S. Forest Service offers a map of the Manistee River Trail.

North Country Trail / Bowman Lake Trail Loop: 5.4 miles, moderate. This is a nice afternoon hike or an easy overnight with a good trail tread. The Trail goes by Bowman Lake and has several spur trails that are well marked. Trailheads are at the 40th Street trailhead (unimproved) or the Bowman Lake trailhead on 56th Street west of Baldwin.

Chapter Maps and Guidance

View our section of the Trail on the interactive online map

Additional Local Resources

Bowman Lake Trail
Manistee River Trail
U.S. Forest Service Baldwin Office
U.S. Forest Service Manistee Office