Grand Traverse Hiking Club

About the Chapter:

bobruddbench100Welcome to the The Grand Traverse Hiking Club! We maintain 101 miles of trail, much of which is in the forest and is extremely scenic. Come explore our section of Trail 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 Hiking Club is comprised of a small group of outdoor enthusiasts located in and around the Traverse City, Michigan area. We are responsible for developing and maintaining the North Country National Scenic 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.


Please contact us to find out about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities:


Upcoming Events:

Click on an event to see more details.

Trail Overview:

Marilla Trailhead, photo by Samantha Fent.

Marilla Trailhead, photo by Samantha Fent.

Working from south to north, our trail begins at the Trail Access on Hodenpyl Dam Road southwest of Mesick and travels along the shores of lakes, rivers, and trout streams for much of its length. If you start at the Marilla trailhead, and walk east and north to Sand Lakes, you could hike 63 miles, 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. From Sand Lakes east the trail goes into Kalkaska, a trail town, and then turns north to Starvation Lake Road where our section ends. 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.

Fife Lake – Trail Town

Fife Lake is an authentic Northern Michigan village in the Lower Peninsula located a thirty-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. Learn more about the Trail Town of Fife Lake here.

Kalkaska – Trail Town

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 hard working people, and the natural beauty of the surrounding area, Kalkaska provides a bit of paradise for residents and visitors alike. Learn more about the Trail Town of Kalkaska here.

Area Links:

Suggested Hikes:

Show Suggested Hikes

Valley of the Giants

Length: 4.5 miles of fairly easy walking, but may be made shorter

Why hike this section: 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.

Driving Directions: Drive to the intersection of Garfield and River Road southeast of Traverse City.  Go east on River Road, crossing Arbutus Hill Road, and within ½ mile it will turn to gravel.  Continue driving east.  After about ¼ mile, there is a fork in the road, where you will bear right onto Scharmen Road.  Drive east for over three 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 6985) – if Scharmen turns south and becomes Hodges you went about ¼ mile 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 the address 6985 Scharmen Road into your navigator.)

Hiking Directions: 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

Length: 3 – 4  miles but it can be shorter since it is out and back

Why hike this section: Much of the hike is along the North Branch of the Boardman River, which is a very clear trout stream. You hike underneath cedar trees that have been thoughtfully groomed by the deer so 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.

Driving Directions: From the intersection of Williamsburg and Supply Roads east of Traverse City, drive south and east on Supply Road crossing the Boardman River. About one half a mile after crossing the Boardman River, turn north on Broomhead Road, and drive north crossing first the South Branch of the Boardman, and finally the North Branch. Immediately after the cement bridge, turn into the small parking area on the east side of the road.

Hiking Directions: From the parking area walk west across Broomhead Road and follow the blue blazes along the river. Follow the blazes west for about 1 ½ miles climbing in and out of the valley, until the trail 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

Length: 21 miles

Why hike this section: 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 Village. It is a perfect sized loop for a weekend get-a-way for backpackers or there are numerous options for different length day hikes.

Trailhead Parking:   M-186 * US131 Manistee River Roadside Park Spring Lake SFCG * Old US131 SFCG