Spirit of the Woods Chapter

Manistee River Hikers

Manistee River, photo by John Pottenger

About the Chapter:

hiking the north country trail

Spirit of the Woods Chapter group hike!

Join Us for Social Outings and Trail Work!

The Spirit of the Woods Chapter conducts meetings, outings, hikes, events and trail workdays.

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 for chili 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 (4th 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.

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 in some areas. Join us, all are welcome.


Contact us to find out how you can get involved or for more information about the Trail in our area:

Email: spw@northcountrytrail.org

Spirit of the Woods Chapter Facebook Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/Spirit-of-the-Woods-chapter-of-the-North-Country-Trail-161957897214269/

Join our Chapter! Become a donor member of the NCTA then join the Spirit of the Woods Chapter.

View our Newsletters Here

View our Chapter Brochure Here.

View Miscellaneous Chapter documents Here.



Download PDF Maps – Michigan Maps 125-143

View this section of the Trail on our online interactive map here.

View our Chapter Maps here.


Click on an event to see more details.

Trail Overview:

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 North Country Trail. Spirit of the Woods begins at the Newaygo/Lake county line (96th Street south of Baldwin) at the south and continues to Hodenpyle Dam near Beers Road near Marilla at the north end.

Manistee River Trail

View of the Manistee River from the Trail. Photo by Kris & Chet Sutton

In the south it winds through Sterling Marsh with boardwalk and gravel sections. The terrain is generally flat land in the south. 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 some steep grades in the Red Bridge Semi-Primitive Area in the north. The trail passes the abandoned Red Bridge fire tower, highest point in Manistee County.

Almost all the trail in our chapter traverses mixed hardwood forest dotted with stands of birch, red & white pine and cedar. It passes thru or near swamps, wetlands and bayous. The NCT crosses the Pere Marquette River and follows Big Manistee River high on a ridge, then descends to the river shore. 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. See the trail shop for maps of this loop (SE-MRL).

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 snow shoeing opportunities abound.

There are two boardwalk areas, Sterling Marsh south of Baldwin, MI and Dead Horse Marsh near Irons, MI. These can be easier walking surfaces for those with physical challenges.

Area Links:

Suggested Hikes:

Show Suggested Hikes

Manistee River Trail/North Country Trail loop

Length: 19.67 miles

Why Hike this section: This loop trail follows the Manistee River on two sides. The distance is about popular for a one or two overnight 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 Hodenpyle dam. The loop can be very busy on the weekends. If you would like to see fewer people go during the week or during the spring or fall.

Driving Directions: Many people start near Red Bridge campground on Coates Hwy. There is a parking area trailhead on Coates Highway at Red or on River Road north of Red Bridge/Coates Hwy.

Hiking Directions: The North Country Trail shop has map #SE-MRL on the Manistee River Trail. The book by Ron Strickland, The North Country Trail also has a description. Also see the Forest Service map of the Manistee River Trail at  https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5373964.pdf

North Country Trail/Bowman Lake Trail Loop

Length: 5.4 miles

Why Hike this section: This is a nice afternoon hike or an easy overnight with a good trail tread and moderate terrain. The trail goes by Bowman Lake and has several spur trails that are well marked.

Driving Directions: Trailheads are at the 40th Street trailhead (unimproved) or the Bowman Lake trailhead on 56th St. west of the town of Baldwin, MI.

Hiking Directions: See map # MI-04 from the trail shop or the book by Ron Strickland, The North Country Trail