Explore the most popular cross country skiing trails in Manistee National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

hiking
1 month ago

If you’re into flat, mosquito infested, skinny single track hiking trails with no views, this might be for you. I can’t speak to the mountain bike experience, but for my time I would prefer 15 Miles on the NCT hiking. Truthfully though, I skipped the hilly section at the end because of time constraints. I wish I had gone clockwise from the trail head and done the hills first, then used the NCT section and cut off miles of flat trail.

Had a wonderful walk in the woods with the family today on this trail. It’s fairly well marked but several time we reviewed the map to make sure we were taking the right branch. The road getting to the trail was a bit soupy from the spring thaw, but the trail was fine. It’s a perfect spring or fall trail.

I've been hiking this trail for almost twenty years and still love it

First time on trail, difficult to follow so we piecemealed our way. Pup loved it

Great local trail. Can be hard to follow at times, especially when you are new to it. Look for the yellow diamonds. Some have arrows and some do not. Trail intersects some roads and horse trails in spots. Not as hard packed as some MTB trails, but provides a unique challenge. GREAT place to build up riding endurance and strength.

Amazing! Beautiful riding country! Can't wait to go back!

mountain biking
11 months ago

Well maintained and nice ride. Has some rolling hills and some sandy parts to watch out for, but not technical at all. I'd rate it beginner flow but intermediate climbs with some fast decent.

hiking
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Evening the most difficult hikes are not bad. Great hike for a few hours on an afternoon. Very quiet.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Not too difficult, and a pleasure.

The trail was really beautiful. It was maintained very well and clearly marked. However, not near as peaceful as we were hoping. Firstly, there were quite a few people out there driving four wheelers on the two tracks that weave around near the southern side of the trail. Second, there were literally hundreds of gun shots. Thirdly, there was incessant dog barking coming from the same direction where the gun shots were going off. We were there on April 9th seeing if any early mushroom activity could be found. We were there over 4 hours. Unfortunately as we went on the trail we got closer to the gun shooting. Eventually we could hear men yelling and laughing in the woods while firing their guns. Honestly we got scared that there was possibly some intoxicated people with unleashed dogs out there playing with guns. So my wife and I decided to leave. It was the first 70 degree day of the year. We will probably go back but not to the southern section of the trail. Many trees were riddled with splintered bullet holes off the trail, definitely not woodpeckers. We just wish there was more respect for nature and for the people enjoying it.

This is SUCH a gorgeous hike. I wish it was a loop but it was so enjoyable I didn't mind seeing everything twice. I especially loved the depression forest section!

lovely walk with my children.

hiking
Thursday, September 22, 2016

13 miles on the Big M today. lovely well marked trail... we did 1-9 to 32 down to 29, across the NCT and back to 23 and then home to 4,3,2,1

hiking
Sunday, August 21, 2016

Well maintained and marked trail.

We had the forest to ourselves it seemed. Very beautiful and tranquil. Started at Horse Day Use Trail Head then turned onto the "A" mountain bike trail. The bike trails are excellent for hiking. Saw deer, wild turkeys, chipmunks and frogs during our 5-mile loop that took about 2 hours. Stopped several times to notice natures little wonders.

backpacking
Thursday, July 28, 2016

Very beautiful pines trail was cleared all but

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

my gf skipped leg day and ruined the fun :/

Had a great time and took my girls that I was counseling. Very beautiful lake and very clean. Had a blast! Such a gorgeous place

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.

hiking
Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Just did what I think was this out and back section of the North Country Trail on Sunday. Not sure what direction this particular track wants you to go, but I ended up with an 11 mile total out and back by heading past the Newaygo Visitor Center spur toward Twinwood Lake, then 2 miles south on the sandy trail joiner road (Basswood Drive), crossing the railroad tracks, and veering north onto the well marked North Country Trail again to get to Coolbough. Some nice vignettes along the way, Bigelow Creek and what I think was the Cathedral Pines area at Coolbough with varied terrain and little in the way of hard elevation changes it was not too far from Chicago. However, on this section the interesting parts were few and far between, so it ended up a bit of a slog in 85 degree heat. I might recommend it later in the year though due to the prevalence of mosquitoes, gnats, and horseflies. Will try it again though, time permitting, in the Fall and maybe head north this time.

trail running
Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ran the North Country Run half marathon here. Beautiful country that was challenging. May have to visit this winter for some snowshoeing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

We have x-country ski'd Big M many times. The trails are usually groomed by volunteers (a donation is suggested but not mandatory). The level of difficulty runs the full gamut from easy thru difficult. We like to bring our dog along as do many other people. It's beautiful country, well worth the trip. Catamount trail is only for physically fit skiers who are up for a challenge.

good, technical trail. fairly well maintained. good hard ride. bi-directional trail with relatively little traffic.

trail running
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One of my favorite places to run. There is a good variety of terrain.

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.

on Big M Trail

trail running
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Big M is one of my favorite places to train in MI. Plenty of hills and well marked trails. You can get a 25 mile loop if you incorporate the outer loop with some of the inner loops. Nice woods and even wildlife.

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

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