Western Michigan Chapter

western michigan chapter of the ncta

About the Chapter:

Volunteers with Western Michigan Chapter during a work day.

Volunteers with Western Michigan Chapter during a work day.

Western Michigan is the NCTA largest chapter, with more than 300 members. We are a hard working, fun, diverse group of people of all ages who love the outdoors.

The chapter organizes member activities such as: volunteer workdays, hikes and events. Most members live in Grand Rapids and surrounding areas. We currently have a “working” board consisting of seven board members who tend to the operations of the chapter. We also have two designated volunteer Trail Supervisors, one for each county who oversee trail development and volunteer workdays for the trail, as well as 30 dedicated section maintainers.

In 2016 our Chapter received the Enduring Service Award for partnering with the US Forest Service, on trail related projects. We have also received awards from the NCTA for communications, trail building, hikes and leadership.

The NCTA has been selected by Parkinson’s Association of West Michigan (PAWM), to promote our scenic trails as a health travel destination. Together, we are offering hiking activities for those in the Parkinson’s Community.  Through our partnership with the West Michigan Chapter a new concept in hiking has been developed: the Flex Hike. It is designed to encourage those with limitations to have a safe place to grow into their hiking experience.  To learn more; visit the Hike for Parkinson’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HikePD/.  Don’t forget to ask about our Parkinson’s Hike 100 Challenge.

Enjoy your hike through our chapter and we hope you become a member and share your skills with us!



NCTA Birch Grove Schoolhouse

Birch Grove Schoolhouse, photo by Tami S.

Located on a spur trail, just 1.5 miles from the North Country National Scenic Trail and north of White Cloud, the Birch Grove Schoolhouse makes an excellent base for groups out to discover this recreational treasure. The Schoolhouse makes a perfect stopover for weary long-distance hikers and a great a site for your next retreat. We encourage you to check out the NCTA Schoolhouse.  Learn more about the Birch Grove Schoolhouse here.


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Trail Overview:

hugging a big tree on the north country trail in western michiganThe Western Michigan Chapter is responsible for developing and maintaining the North Country National Scenic Trail in Kent and Newaygo counties. Its range spans from the Grand Rapids area in Kent County up through the southern third of the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Newaygo County. Generally, completed trail is on public lands, including the Lowell and Rogue River State Game Areas, and the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Kent County has 71 Miles of trail – 40% off road, while Newaygo County has 65 miles of trail – 75% off road as of 2017.

Our Chapter is home to the NCTA  headquarters in Lowell, this is a fun and informative place to stop for information and also to purchase maps and NCTA gifts. We also maintain the original headquarters of the NCTA which is a historic schoolhouse north of White Cloud where hikers can stay. We have two designated Trail Towns, Lowell and White Cloud.

We are fortunate to have the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Newaygo County, consequently, 3/4 of the trail here is in the forrest! The Huron-Manistee Nation Forest contains rare ecological features such as dry sand prairie remnants, coastal marshlands, dunes, oak savannahs, fens, bogs and marshes. We also boast several beautiful large rivers such as the Flat River in Lowell and the mighty Muskegon River in Newaygo and many small trout streams. Newaygo County is especially known for its lakes, rivers and streams, while Kent County is host to farmlands and Grand Rapids, the largest metropolitan area in Western Michigan. We are only an hour from beautiful Lake Michigan and scenic beaches and sand dunes.

Lowell – Trail Town

Lowell is a charming community in West Michigan where the Grand River meets the Flat River. The North Country Trail runs through downtown Lowell, along the scenic Riverwalk, and provides plenty of amenities to replenish hikers on their way down the trail. Lowell is also home to the NCTA headquarters. Learn more about the Trail Town of Lowell.

White Cloud – Trail Town

White Cloud, Michigan is located about an hour’s drive north of Grand Rapids, Michigan and serves as your base for enjoying the North Country National Scenic Trail in Newaygo County and the lower Huron-Manistee Forest. White Cloud is about midpoint on the North Country Trail, and the restored 100 year old Birch Grove School House at the corner of Five Mile and Felch roads was the former headquarters for the North Country Trail Association. Learn more about the Trail Town of White Cloud.

Current Volunteers:

Find Trail Maintenance Forms here.

View our Chapter Bylaws.

View our Chapter Board Meeting Minutes.

Area Links:

Suggested Hikes:

Show Suggested Hikes

Lowell to Fallasburg Park/ McPherson Rd

Distance: 7 Miles

This is a lovely and scenic hike from the Boy Scout Cabin on N. Washington St to Fallasburg Park/ McPherson Rd to the North. The NCT travels through the State Game Area, and Fallasburg Park (complete with a covered Bridge). You will enjoy beautiful views of the Flat River. A lovely hike, anytime of the year, but it is especially nice in the fall. The terrain is somewhat challenging along the river with some steep rolling terrain.

Croton Dam to 40th

Distance: 10.6 miles in length

This hike starts at the historic Croton Dam on the beautiful Muskegon River. There is parking available at the Dam, and a NCTA kiosk. The trail starts out along the river, and then heads north into the Manistee National Forest. You will walk through mature hard woods and scenic lakes and creeks, on relatively flat and rolling trail. This section of trail provides connectors to the Newaygo County Welcome Center, Coolbough Recreation Area, Twinwood Lake Forrest Service Camp Ground.

40th St to M-20

Distance: 10.5 miles

There is parking at the 40th St Trail head and also at the M-20 Trail Head. This is a lovely hike through the Manistee National Forest with slightly rolling hills, a few small stream crossings and the crossing of the White River clawer to White Cloud. This section of trail offers connectors to White Cloud, a trail town, the White Cloud County Campground and the Flowing Well Park.

M-20 to Nichols Lake

Distance: 19.8 miles

This is a lovely section which can lead you to access to the historic North Country Trail Birch Grove School House. For reservations at the school house contact Sibyl Smith at 616-836-0995. Diamond Lake County Park is also near the Schoolhouse and there is a connector trail to the park off of 5 Mile Rd. This segment of the Trail offers connecting trails to Loda Lake Wildlife Sanctuary as well as other lakes and streams

Nichols Lake to 76th St in Baldwin

Distance: 12.9 miles

This is a beautiful section for a fall hike as the area has mixed hardwoods, lakes and rolling hills. This is the northern most section of the Western MI Chapter as you will pass into Lake County which is the Spirit of the Woods Chapter. The trail goes through Nichols Lake area through northern Newaygo County into lake County. Parking available at either end.

Sterling Marsh

Distance: 1.5 miles

The trail contains 2,697 feet of boardwalk in 13 sections over the 1.5 mile section of trail. To access this section go south on Jenkins Road from 76th St.