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Backpacker Magazine – June 1998

Michigan's Manistee River Trail

Two trails, same river, two different worlds.

by: Jonathan Taylor

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What a difference a bridge makes. It used to be you couldn't hike the North Country Trail (NCT) through Huron-Manistee National Forest without a two-car shuttle or back-tracking. Then a suspension footbridge opened in 1996, connecting the newly completed Manistee River Trail across the river to the NCT. The result is a weekend-size, 20-mile loop that offers some of the best views and most varied hiking in the Lower Peninsula. And you can leave the extra car at home.

Each of these trails has a unique character. Long views and rugged hiking typify the NCT as it climbs hill after hill through tall pines and hardwoods that tower over the Manistee River, culminating in the view of nothing but trees, hills, and river from atop Red Hill-a rare lower peninsula high spot that doesn't come with a ski resort. On the east side of the river, the Manistee River Trail rolls across smaller hills and flats, where waterfalls, streams, wetland boardwalks, and high, cut-away riverbanks characterize the land. It's impressive not for the views, but for the variety. The diamond blazes keep hikers on track and footbridges keep boots dry.

There's ample parking at all trailheads. However, the road to Seaton Creek Campground trailhead may be impassable, especially in winter. If you park at the Marilla trailhead instead, you'll have a long, steep uphill climb to finish your hike. If you hike south on the NCT segment be sure to watch for the Manistee River Trail spur that heads southeast down to the river. It's heralded with a confusing wooden sign reading "North Country Trail." Pass it and you'll hike an extra 2 miles, but considering the pleasant surroundings, worse things could happen.


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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Bryant
Apr 15, 2012

Really interested in doing this. Anyone have updated contact information?

Jingling Joe
Mar 12, 2012

The address for the association now appears to be the following:

North Country Trail Association
229 E. Main Street
Lowell, MI 49331
(616) 897-5987
http://northcountrytrail.org/

(866) 445-3628 toll-free

Tee
Aug 16, 2010

Both the Manistee River Trail and the NCT are fairly flat in this area. The entire loop is a easily doable day hike with only a day pack. Lots of fungi in an assortment of shapes, sizes and colors grew along the trails in early August. The MRT has many lovely view of the river. Watch for mountain bikers on the NCT.

Bearfn
May 01, 2009

Great weekend hike, took this trip last fall just as the leaves were turning, plenty to see and not a tough hike. (Little water on the NCT side if you plan to do a loop, especially if it has not rained lately, from the Red Bridge trail head, your first water source is 7 miles up the NCT at Eddington Creek) Canít wait to head back this June !

Bearfn
May 01, 2009

Great weekend hike, took this trip last fall just as the leaves were turning, plenty to see and not a tough hike. (Little water on the NCT side if you plan to do a loop, especially if it has not rained lately, from the Red Bridge trail head, your first water source is 7 miles up the NCT at Eddington Creek) Canít wait to head back this June !

Carolyn
Aug 01, 2008

YEAH! My home state! Really it is beautiful.

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