Michigan’s Manistee River Valley, with its old-growth hardwoods, bubbling streams, and fern-filled glades, is one of the state’s most scenic escapes. See the best of it on this moderate 22-mile loop along the river, where lucky hikers might share the trail with white-tailed deer, woodpeckers, and the area’s growing bald eagle population. From the Marilla Trailhead, head south on the lightly-traveled North Country Trail. The sandy path parallels the river’s west bank as it winds through an oak, maple, and white pine canopy. Take the 1.5-mile connector trail east to join the Manistee River Trail, crossing the river at Red Bridge. Head back north on the east bank; early twentieth-century logging left the riverside clear in spots, opening more views of the Big Manistee. Pitch a tent at one of the Forest Service’s primitive campsites along the river. The next day, continue hiking along the Manistee River Trail, through shaded cedar groves and dappled aspen stands, passing 100-year-old white pines that escaped the loggers’ saw, on the way back to the trailhead.
Info: $3/day parking fee. Map: MI-05 (North Country Trail Association). (203) 723-2211; www.fs.fed.us/r9/hmnf/
Hike provided by the North Country Trail Association and the Manistee River Trail Association.