North Manitou Island Loop

HARD 13 reviews

North Manitou Island Loop is a 13.3 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Maple City, Michigan that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, and backpacking and is best used from May until October.

13.3 miles
823 feet








wild flowers



over grown

no dogs

Backcountry Camping Regulations are in effect on North Manitou Island. A backcountry permit and fee payment must be completed before camping. Permits are available on the island and on the mainland. Groups are limited to a maximum of 10 people. The small Village Campground contains eight designated campsites, two fire rings and one outhouse. There is a limit of two tents and four people per site. Camping is allowed in wilderness area. Open fires are prohibited in the wilderness area. Use gas or alcohol stoves. Fires are permitted in the community fire rings at the Village Campground.

7 months ago

Spectacular piece of wilderness in northern Michigan! My girlfriend and I had a couple of extra days on vacation and decided to go on a backpacking trip. We booked a seat on the ferry from Leland to the island and paid our backcountry camping fees the day we left. The island is huge and the trails are well-maintained for the most part. If you want to break off of the main trails, there are numerous"unmaintained" trails that you can follow, but definitely bring a map and compass as these are easy to get lost on. It's relatively easy terrain without a ton of elevation gain, and the soft/sandy soil is easy on the knees and ankles even after long distances. The wildlife is beautiful and you're almost certain to see deer and a huge variety of birds.

We went from Sunday to Tuesday in late August, so we were nearly alone on the island and only encountered a couple of other hikers.

Camping on the island is excellent, but you can only have campfires in the designated campground. If you camp in the backcountry like I did, you cannot have a campfire and will be restricted to using your stove for cooking and lanterns/lamps for light. That said, the backcountry campsites I used were excellent. If you camp near the shore of Lake Michigan you can hear waves crash on the beach as you bed down for the night. If you stay more inland, be prepared for nearly absolute silence in the woods, broken only by the calls of owls and other nocturnal creatures.

A word of warning: The island is infested with poison ivy. It is literally everywhere you go. If you plan on camping in the backcountry be sure to pack alcohol swabs or some other anti-poison ivy product to clean yourself off every few hours. It's a miracle my girlfriend and I didn't get rashes. Additionally, bring first aid tools and extra provisions. The ferry takes about an hour to get to the island, and the nearest hospital is in Traverse City, so be prepared for emergency. The beauty and remoteness of this wilderness area make it one of my favorites in all of the Midwest.

8 months ago

Our family of 4 spent 3 nights backpacking on NMI, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. To reach the island, you must take the ferry that leaves from Leland. The staff there will issue your backcountry permit. Once you are in the island, a ranger gives you a brief talk and then you are free to go wherever you would like. We spent the first night at Lake Manitou. Smallmouth bass fishing is excellent. The fishermen waded in and used a top-water technique. You can keep one per license per day. The second night we camped at Crescent City on the west shore. A little tricky to find the right path to the beach, but just keep trying if you hit a dead end. Beautiful sunset. Last night we camped on the east side of island near the South Cherry Orchard. The backpacking is relatively easy- trails are wide and gently sloping. The centerline trail across the middle of the island is fast- so you could camp on the west side and still easily make it back to the boat the next day. I would recommend buying the $5 map rather than using the free park map. The bugs were manageable with Deet. Beware there are monster patches of poison ivy especially along the beaches. There is only one water spigot near the dock- otherwise you will need to filter. Not everyone has done a good job of digging their cat holes- which is kind of disgusting in some popular places. But, we rarely saw other hikers. The solitude was amazing. The beaches are gorgeous. And I was sad to leave. I would recommend this to everyone but especially to families with beginner backpackers.

10 months ago

Day 1 - loaded up on the ferry at the quant by busy fishtown in Leland, MI. The variance of backpackers was quite the sight to. I observed more coolers, lawn chairs, packages of bottle water, tiki torches and grills that I'm used to when backpacking for a weekend. I was beginning to think I got on the wrong boat. Surely these individuals weren't going to an island with limited resources with 30 packs of Busch light and BBQ smokers, but I digress. A volunteer met us at the dock and discussed the rules of the island before we ran off into the wilderness. We made quick time getting to fredericksons point on the southwest corner of the island (5+ miles). This was by far the best place on the island offering beautiful views of south manitou island, sleeping near dunes and the sunsets. The walk down to the beach was tricky but manageable.

Day 2- making our way up the west and north side of the island resulted in a decent evaluation gain ~350 feet or so and passing through some bushy trails. We passed through two rustic sights (Davenport and Stormers) the latter having several old cars thrown about the forest. The rain begin resulting in a hasty pace to Paul Maeloski place (building on the map) which was nowhere to be found and soon we realized it was in the forest and destroyed. We attempted to connect with the secondary trial that loops back to the village and dock area but we soon lost the "unmaintained" trail. Leading us to bushwhack to the beach and follow the shore until we reach the village and double back to the campground. Day 2 we experienced most of the island encompassing ~14 miles.

Day 3- wait for the boat and discuss with the patrons their perils and joys of the island, one poor adventurer had duct taped socks, quite the sight.

Overall NMI is a beautiful island that embodies true wilderness. I'd encouraged anyone thinking of hiking to stick to the primary trails and avoid the secondary (unmaintained trails) unless you bring a machete. A beautiful place even with the misadventures!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

North Manitou
This was my first time out on North Manitou. We had a 9 day trip planned that went till Memorial day. This was just after the horribly long winter of 2013 so the ferries didn't start running until a week before we went due to ice on the lake. I took my a friend of mine as well as my father-in-law with me to start the trip. Both are classic over packers but we also were establishing a base camp for a 10 day trip that would eventually be taking care of a dozen people by the end of the trip. Needless to say, we got a few chuckles lugging our gear off the ferry from the people leaving the island.
After hearing a little lecture from the rangers we carried out gear about a mile to the established camp sites and setup camp. At this point, there were 7 people on this island, 3 from my group, 2 solo hikers, and 2 rangers. It was deathly quiet and beautiful. The rangers would swing by the campsites about twice a day to check the one outhouse and probably boredom. They were a lot of fun and incredibility laid back. One day, when the weather was really bad, they offered the garage were they lecture out of so that we didn't have to stay couped up in a tent all day. During my stay, I bushwhacked out to one lake and completed 3 loops of the interior trail. I also was able to capture plenty of beautiful photos.
In May, the trilliums are in bloom, the poison ivy hasn't come out yet and garter snakes aren't moving. We had almost no mosquitoes. It really was the perfect time to go.
By the 6th day, we started to get more people to the island as well as our party. This was the first time my niece went camping with no electricity which was a goal of my wife and I. All in all, a wonderful trip that I can't wait to do again!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Beautiful place! The ferry ride was about 1.5 hours to the island where we listened to a short island informational talk from a ranger and confirmed our permits.
Not many places to get water- so we used our sawyer mini and filtered from the lake!
The water was high this year so our original plan to hike the side of the island was rethought and rerouted.
We camped up near the top of the island at Popple on the first night with a swarm of mosquitoes (it was the beginning of July so it was to be expected) and some flies. Rain came the first night but the amount of tree cover really lightened how much actually hit our camp.
The second night we were at Weather Station. The chipmunks rule the land there so bear bag it up all day and night. They are fearless...!
Because of the high water we set up camp and went back along the dunes for a day hike to the shipwreck. (I strongly encourage you to make this hike). Was fairly easy and if you had water shoes it would be even better.
Great few days all around. Beautiful sights, hikes, and life.

Friday, July 31, 2015

What an amazing hike with a lot of variation. The Dune Climb is exhausting; the hike to the Cedars is inland and shaded; the hike along the point is coastal and open with great birding opportunities. All the trails I ran across were well-groomed and the camping spots were excellent. Highly recommended.

6 days ago

9 months ago

10 months ago

recorded Day 2

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Monday, August 03, 2015

Monday, September 29, 2014