READ ME: Could not believe the amount of trash on the trail. It was Labor Day weekend, but that's absolutely no excuse. I stopped briefly at camp site #8 - toilet paper behind almost every tree. Someone left a full sized tarp shelter on the Red Hill Lookout (NCT). I found a Coleman heater with a propane bottle still attached near camp site #3 on the Manistee River Trail side of the river. I started to pickup what I could but my trash bag literally got in the way of my hiking poles. Luckily I bumped into a DNR agent who gladly took it off my hands. LEAVE NO TRACE !
Started at the south end bridge on Coates HWY. Headed North on the NCT. Hiked 18 miles day 1 and landed somewhere around camp site #7 on the Manistee River Trail side of the river. It was Labor Day weekend which means all of the "1-timers" come out and fill up all the campsites. Fine with me, I prefer to camp off trail anyway. Picked a nice little spot about 400 feet off trail by between campsite #6 and #7. Hiked the remaining hours back to the parking lot the next day. Perfect weather. Very chilly nights. Saw my breath for the first time this year. Still not seeing color on the trees. Planning to go back in the fall with the kids. This loop has equally challenging verticals on both sides. The thing that separates them are the views. NCT is heavily wooded and more secluded. MRT has eye-candy all day long and the hills are slightly less challenging. NCT is dry (~15 miles) and the MRT (~15 miles) is super wet. you are literally along-side the river the entire way. Very good sites: 4b/c & 7a. It was very hard to pick my favorites because 99% of them are great.
A great spot to venture out and feel like you're away did even for just a short while. I went during the week when there weren't many people on the trail. Moderate to challenging overall (some of the climbs were loose and a tad eroded which made the root systems trip hazards when pushing pace). Definitely some photographic areas for those more inclined to take things in aesthetically and not just physically.
Only did the MRT. Very scenic but quite a few people out on the trail. Planning on repeating this fall but including the NCT this time. Another reviewer mentioned trash, and I agree. Just scraps around the campsites, but it shouldn't be too hard to carry your trash out!
Overall a nice trail. The 20+miles Manistee River Trail (MRT) – North Country Trail (NCT) loop can be easily covered in two days. MRT is more scenic with abundant views of the river, but NCT part gives you a good workout and, on the north link portion, close to the wooden foot bridge, there is a flat bank area where you can take a swim in the river.
Great trail, well maintained. NCT side is great and fun yet not the greatest side to camp on in my opinion (when you could stay on MRT side next to the river with camp fire rings at many sites, great views of the river and other running creeks where water is available to filter). I only wish more would clean their messes up but it wasn't like there was garbage everywhere, just near campsites. If you see garbage chances are you could pick some up, I found a few little scraps of garbage from snacks and such which happens so I just packed them out with my stuff. If we all do this we can leave a much better future for others to enjoy.
Really nice but hot weather when I went few weeks ago. As others have mentioned, the NCT side doesn't offer up many views but, the terrain is a good workout. Original plan was to do 2 nights on the trail. Drove up late afternoon and camped about 10 minutes from the starting trail head but, I only ended up doing 1 night on the MRT side. If you can do 10 miles a day, it would be hard to justify two night on this loop.
Also, its a real shame the amount of trash people left behind. Absolute disregard for other and the beauty of nature. Cans and plastic bags... Someone even left their tent!
Chelsea T. on The Manistee River Trail
great hike that is easy for someone who is not an avid hiker. fantastic scenery and views of the river as well!