Manistee River Trail Loop: Manistee State Forest, MI

Have one of the best backpacking adventures in the Lower Peninsula on this tranquil 17.5-mile loop through the Manistee National Forest.
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Have one of the best backpacking adventures in the Lower Peninsula on this tranquil 17.5-mile loop through the Manistee National Forest.

This 17.5-mile link-up of the Manistee River and North Country Trails is so good that one in four BACKPACKER Facebook fans ranked it a regional fave. “Climbs are short, views over the river and the rolling hills frequent, and camping options plentiful,” says Lange. Start and end at Seton Creek Campground. Hike the river’s east side on the Manistee (find campsites at overlooks nearly every mile); cross a hiker-only suspension bridge to connect to the NCT for an 8.9-mile return.

Contact: Huron-Manistee Forest Service; fs.usda.gov

-Info provided by William Lange

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 28.1

Waypoints

MRT001

Location: 44.289898, -85.870868

The route begins at the Upper River trailhead.

MRT002

Location: 44.283868, -85.860558

Arrive at Red Bridge. Here, you'll find water, parking, and camping. Continue following the trail as it bends north.

MRT003

Location: 44.297562, -85.859013

The trail takes a sharp right to veer east. Continue along the river, which is runoff from the Tippy Dam Pond.

MRT004

Location: 44.313777, -85.849657

After 1.5 miles, reach the first places to pitch a tent at Campsites 8 and 9. If you want more privacy, continue north on the trail for more options.

MRT005

Location: 44.323295, -85.84794

Another sleeping option: Campsite 7. You'll reach another place to pitch a tent in .5 mile.

MRT006

Location: 44.331001, -85.847812

Arrive at the riverside Campsite 6.

MRT007

Location: 44.346993, -85.840774

Continue trekking alongside the river. There's another Campsite here. Pass on through, or stop for a leisurely break.

MRT008

Location: 44.351596, -85.833778

More camping options here, but the main event is the waterfall. Follow the trail 1.4 miles north.

MRT009

Location: 44.366385, -85.827255

Right after the junction of Upper River Rd, there are two more campsites - this time Forest Service Campsites one and two.

MRT010

Location: 44.368594, -85.827985

The trail turns left here; continue west.

MRT011

Location: 44.365986, -85.83837

Gain 200 feet in .5 mile as the trail takes you south.

MRT012

Location: 44.360004, -85.846224

Small creek crossing at Eddington Creek.

MRT013

Location: 44.33625, -85.864334

After 1.9 more miles southward, the trail begins to gain more elevation as you climb and descend a series of hills. From here, it's .7 mile to Sweets Ravine.

MRT014

Location: 44.328883, -85.868368

Reach Sweet's Ravine, at 800 feet. Cross Sheep Ranch Rd, and keep trekking south, over ridgelines, for just under three miles to close the loop.

Seaton Creek Campground

Location: 44.358615, -85.810778

Parking, Water, Camping, Info

Red Bridge

Location: 44.28383, -85.860364

Manistee National Forest Sign

Location: 44.28552, -85.863991

Campsite #7's view

Location: 44.323111, -85.847855

Little Mack Suspension Bridge

Location: 44.36502, -85.826204

Modeled after the Mackinaw Bridge, this suspension bridge was built by Consumers Power as part of the contract for the dam.

View from Campsites 3 & 4

Location: 44.351604, -85.833617

Nearby is an nice waterfall.