North Country Trail: Michigan 20 to South Nichols Lake is a 35.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near White Cloud, MI that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
cross country skiing
This trail is fairly decent. Well maintained, very easy to follow, and somewhat scenic (4 stars because it's a bit repetitive). I wouldn't really consider it a loop, but you can make part of it into a loop if you do what I did. I started at the Michigan 20 Trailhead (1299 W 1 Mile Road, or at GPS Coords 43.568188,-85.827278) and went over to Diamond Lake Campgrounds, which was about 1.5 mi off the trail (7 mi hiking). I spent Friday night there, and then on Saturday morning took the Birch Grove Trail up to Loda Lake, where it rejoins the North Country Trail. I went up to Nichols Lake, had lunch, and then hiked back to Bear Creek to set up camp near the trail (very nice spot for dispersed camping). Saturday was about 20 miles. Then on Sunday I hiked back about 12 miles to the Michigan 20 trailhead. In total, the route I took was about 38-40 miles, completed in 44 hours (including sleeping).
In general, water availability was pretty good, and the weather was perfect (60 deg at night, 80 deg daytime). Most of the trail is dense forest, so shade is abundant. There were some mosquitos, but applying DEET every 4 hours kept them at bay, no problem at all. I literally saw one other backpacker group the entire weekend, so the trail doesn't see much use despite being very nice.
The best maps I found were the US Forest Service's 2013 map and the ArcGIS map.
Well kept trail in northern lower penisula michigan. Blue markers lead the way. Lots of good camping spots but not alot of fresh water unfortunately (unless its early season). Dogs are allowed and no permit is required for using the trail. This trail is perfect for beginners or anyone who just wants to get away from it all and get lost in some beautiful michigan woods. Trail is kept by the north county trail association.