North Country Trail- Manistee River Section is a 19.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Harrietta, Michigan that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
Easily one of the best backpacking trails in Lower Michigan. I've hiked this trail 5-6 times now and I always enjoy it. It is almost always busy on the Manistee River Trail side, campsites are often doubled or even tripled up. The waterfall site 2 miles south of the suspension bridge is my personal favorite. I always start on Saturday mornings at the Red River Bridge, I usually take the NCT (north side) as I enjoy getting more done in the first day and the campsites on the MRT are better. Be sure to pack water as it is quite the hike up, down, and around the ravines. Once in a while you'll see a mountain biker. In the first couple of miles there are some decent sights in the higher hills especially near reds hill. The nice part of the NCT is you can camp anywhere really, although camping in a ravine isn't too rewarding. You'll cross a couple of roads and reach Eldridge? Creek which offers water for the first time along with a decent campsite in some pines on the west side of the creek. After passing the Marilla trail junction you start heading to the MRT and finally get to see the Manistee River after about 9 miles of hiking in ravines. You cross over the Suspension Bridge and reach the MRT, I don't waste my time hiking to the campground (north trail) although if you're in a pinch for water you might want to as they offer a well. The MRT hugs the river for the duration of the southward trip back to red bridge. I try to set up camp after the suspension bridge and usually settle anywhere after the waterfalls (almost always taken unless you get there before 12-1p). I set up camp and usually fish for an hour or so and bathe in the river even if it's cold, very relaxing after a long hike. You'll more than likely set up camp with a couple neighbors unless you're a horrible trail person and want to be a loner. The sound of the river and the proximity of the campsites to water make for an easy night of sleeping. The next morning I usually wake up before first light and make my way south. The river is beautiful when there is a morning mist after a cold night. You can usually bust out Sunday morning in 3-4 hours and be back to your car before 10a-noon.
A great trail that is well worth a drive anywhere that you live in Michigan. I'd even go as far to say one of the best weekend trails in the Great Lakes Region (Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana). The only problem I have is how busy the trail is and the garbage that has been accumulating over the last couple of years. It's not too crazy to see a group of young people hike down from the waterfalls parking lot with coolers and I even saw a guy with a Weber grill! Keep the great outdoors great guys.
This segment is definitely a challenging trek in snowshoes and deep powder, but it is enjoyable. For the most part, the views are not as rewarding as the Manistee River trail, and upper river road is frequented by snowmobiles in the winter. However, the sound of snowmobile engines was hardly noticeable, and I never heard any at night. I hiked the segment with a friend and my dog, however, if you don't have experience hiking with your dog, or it is not one of the northern breeds, I would leave him at home in the winter. Eddington creek is the only water source but if you bring extra fuel, you can melt snow. A few warnings, call ahead to the ranger station to get conditions. Snowshoes and/or crampons (or microspikes) would be a good idea in the winter months, especially after fresh snow. The trail has camping sites that are reasonable well protected, but we had 40-50 mph gusts and ~20 mph sustained winds. Nothing too extreme, but make sure you use a 4-season tent and know how to set stakes and snow anchors if you stay the night.
A very nice trail. I think it is more than 9.8 miles.From the Marilla Trail head to the Upper River Trail head, it is 9.8 miles. From the Upper River Trail Head to Dilling Rd is another 6 miles. The trail frequently follows the ridgeline. There are good views ot the Tippy Dam back waters on the southern end of the trail and nice views of the Hodenpyl Dam backwaters about 15 minutes from the Marilla trailhead. For long stretches, there are no water sources, so, fill you bottles at Edington Creek.
Not too bad of a trail. Lots of up and down throughout. Not a whole lot of view change, mostly hills and forest. It was nice overall.
I love this trail! One of my favorites in MI. We use it for training for trail running - nice hills and some technical footing (well, for MI). The scenery is beautiful and there is plenty of wildlife.