The Manistee River Loop Trail

MODERATE 209 reviews
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The Manistee River Loop Trail is a 29.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Brethren, Michigan that features a lake 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 but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
29.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,270 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

kid friendly

backpacking

birding

camping

fishing

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

paddle sports

snowshoeing

walking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

over grown

snow

Easily one of the best backpacking trails in Lower Michigan. 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 great. 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, at the campground (north trail) you might want to stop for water as they offer a well. The MRT hugs the river for the duration of the southward trip back to red bridge. You'll more than likely set up camp with a couple neighbors unless you 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. A great trail that is well worth a drive anywhere that you live in Michigan. Keep the great outdoors great and pack out your trash.

2 days ago

Fantastic trail. Started at Seaton Creek. I worked my way south down he MRT. Fantastic views from not only the river banks and overlooks, but inside the forests as well. Fairly rugged terrain, so I recommend a sturdy set of shoes. Also great spots to stop and swim in the river. On the MRT side, campsite 8b is the best. It backs up to the river for easy access to the water, plenty of space, and great shade.

5 days ago

Start off on the North Country Trail with fresh legs as it’s a bit hilly depending on where you start. We got caught in a monster thunderstorm that ripped the rain fly off of our tent the first night...definitely made for a wet finish. But a great hike for anyone of any skill level.

hiking
17 days ago

Love this trail! We did 9 miles of the MRT and straight back skipping the NCT. Next time plan to do the whole loop. Do not start at the Marilla trail head like we did, added an extra 2-3 miles and was not scenic. The river is beautiful, you hike up and down ravines, and you can camp over looking the river. We went in late April when it was high 60s and it was really crowded. I would do it again in the fall. People had their bags tied up with rope to avoid bears. We camped about a mile or less from the red bridge on a cliff and it was really open so we could see other campers but it was a great view! All dogs we came across were on a leash which was awesome and hikers were very kind!

hiking
17 days ago

7-mile trek from Slagle Creek trail head north to Seaton Creek camp ground. Nice trail crossing several small creeks that cascade down into the Manistee River. Good views of the river from many elevated view points. Last mile past the suspension bridge a little less spectacular but a worthwhile hike. Seasonal two track to Slagle Creek trail head could cause problem for sedan type vehicles.

hiking
29 days ago

Parked at the south Slagle Creek parking lot with plans to do and out and back hike to the small waterfalls. Walked down a hill, over a pretty wooden bridge, and then the trail wound to the right (north). The trail offers great views of the Manistee River along the way. Note there are one or two areas where the trail is very close to the edge and you have to watch your step. Loads of ferns, several footbridges, people kayaking on the river added up to a wonderful time. There were a few ups and downs, but nothing too extreme. I had knee surgery about 6 months ago and was able to do it, with precautions, especially on the descents. The biggest hill we encountered was the one right before reaching the small waterfalls. I forgot to start recording until a little way into our hike. Would estimate distance from slagle creek parking lot to small waterfalls is about 3.3 miles so 6.6 miles for an out and back.

trail running
1 month ago

We did a trail run loop, parked at the west side of the red bridge (bridge still out). Clocked 20 miles without any side trips, took us 5 hours. It was a very very calm river day - We staged 2 small rafts on the east side and floated across; also could have swam across. Be warned - i could easily see this river having tougher/swifter conditions after a rain. Lovely forest trail with amazing river views. Previous reviews are accurate - NCT side has no water for most of this section. I’d say both sides are same difficulty, NCT has longer ups/downs but MRT has more roots, shorter ups/downs, and harder to navigate due to social trails and campsite side trails (when running we were forced to stop and check several times to ensure on right path). Have fun running among the trees & ferns & mushrooms!

hiking
1 month ago

Basically an out and back from Upper River trailhead to Slagle Road campground, totaling ~30 miles. Too bad the loop wasn’t accessible due to the bridge construction. First time out here - definitely a good hike for the Midwest. Some tough hills, especially on the NCT side 2x and nice views on the MRT side. Even took some time to swim in the Manistee River. I’d recommend it.

backpacking
1 month ago

I adore this trail. I go back time and time again and find new ways to explore and make the most of my time there.

hiking
1 month ago

Currently the loop is closed due to construction of a new bridge at N. Coates Highway but I didn't plan on doing the loop. Arrived around 4 on a rainy Friday, June 15th. Parked at Seaton Campground, there was plenty of available parking. I believe it was $6 a night to park. Just have to fill out the self check in slip located on the information billboards across from the parking lot and drop it in the drop post. The first couple miles were so green and lush after the storm that had just rolled in. Trees, ferns, leaves were dripping wet and had that strong nostalgic pine woody smell. I wore hiking shorts and a dry fit shirt due to the 1,000% humidity even though it was around 68-70 degrees and immediately they were soaked from brushing against the overgrown ferns. There were a handful of people on the trail and the campsites I had passed were mostly empty. I hiked a little over 4 miles and camped at a non designated campsite. There was a steep small trail that lead down to a clearing right on the bank of the river where there was a make shift fire pit and easy access to the water. Across the river was a large dune cliff with dozens of birds flying in and out of their nests. Lightning, thunder, and rain rolled in making sleep pretty peaceful. In the morning, bugs were pretty thick, mostly flies and mosquitoes, only left with a couple a bites. Bug spray seemed to be working fine but the trails were bug free. On the way out, Saturday afternoon now, I must have crossed about 30 people's paths. A few big groups and a few couple/trios. The trail was very clean and well marked except for a few places where I had to backtrack a few feet. Next trip will be in the fall when the leaves are changing and the weather is a little cooler. Should make for a great experience.

backpacking
1 month ago

Hike this loop 6/2-6/3 for our first overnight backpacking trip. Since the bridge is out on Coates Hwy, we brought 2 cars and parked 1 on each side of the bridge. We started on the west side and hiked the NCT side first. Definitely glad we did since the terrain is a little more up and down on that side of the loop. Got to do it with fresh legs. We only saw 2 or 3 groups of people all day on the NCT. There was only 1 or 2 spots to filter water on this side, so bring plenty of water. We crossed the suspension bridge and set up camp at 2A near the some small waterfalls/cascade. It was a such great spot! Highly recommend this campsite, but there are a lot of them with great views on the MRT side! We finished the last 8 miles or so on Sunday. If I could have done something differently, I would have split the hike into 3 days. It was our first long overnight hike and our feet were pretty sore day 2. Wish we had some more free time to stop and relax/hang out some more. But overall, it was a great hike!

backpacking
1 month ago

We did our first backpacking trip here the first weekend of June. Four of us and my dog. Great trail for dogs. I would suggest getting trail boots for your pooch to keep their pads from wearing down. Since the bridge is out currently I would suggest parking a vehicle on both sides of the bridge and starting on the NCT side. The terrain on the NCT portion is more challenging and tiring and easier to do on day 1. Definitely bring enough water for day 1 as you won’t find any water sources until you’re almost done with the NCT portion. It’s a beautiful trail with perfect camps along creeks to stumble upon. Definitely hooked now.

hiking
2 months ago

We hiked the NCT/MRT loop this past weekend, 6/1-6/3. This trail was an amazing experience for our first backpacking trip. The Red Bridge was closed so we parked one car on the MRT side and took a 25 minute detour around to park on the NCT side, which was our starting point. I would definitely recommend starting on the NCT side if it’s your first hike due to the terrain. Also we only seen 2 waters sources on the NCT side, one at the beginning and one at Eaton Creek which is at the North end of the trail. The first day we hiked from the red bridge to Eaton creek and camped at a awesome site right off the creek. The second day we hiked from Eaton creek to 4b campsite on the MRT side to allow for a shorter day on Sunday.

All in all it was an amazing trip. I would recommend this trail loop to anyone looking for a great 3 day backpacking trip.

2 months ago

Fun, beautiful and worth going again and again.

backpacking
2 months ago

Great little loop trail. Lots of nice campsites on the MRT side of the river. The Red Bridge was out, but I was able to hitch a ride from some boaters to complete the whole loop.

backpacking
2 months ago

Went up there on on 5/26. But with the bridge out, we were only able to to a there and back on the MRT side. It was an amazing weekend - crowded but nice.

backpacking
2 months ago

Excellent trail. Well marked easy to follow with amazing views of the Manistee River. Plenty of camp sites for overnight backpacking trips. I went on a weekday during May so it wasn’t super crowded. Plenty of wildlife,birds etc. good distance for 1 or 2 night trip. The only disappointing thing is the bridge is out at the south end of the trail on Coates road. This makes the MRT/ NCT loop impossible until late August 2018.

3 months ago

Great 2-3 day trail. We started from the red river bridge access and went up the manistee river trail first. There are many creeks flowing into the river that gave easy access to clean water. There are several established camp grounds along the river trail and we stayed at one overnight. Second day, we hiked the rest of the way up the trail, crossed the bridge across the river at the northern end of the MRT and hiked a bit down to Eddington creek where there were some flat grounds perfect for camping. We set off with our water bottles and reservoirs full from eddington creek and hiked the rest of the way south back to the red river bridge access and we definitely needed that water. The trail isn’t too difficult but like others have said, the NCT side does have limited water sources and I would recommend you’re well equipped if you plan on camping along it. We went during the weekday in April and while we saw plenty of hikers on the MRT, we didn’t come across anyone while going sobo on the NCT. Like others have said, the NCT is hillier and thus more challenging but not difficult.

Phone reception: I have Verizon and I had reception along the NCT but not the MRT. My friend with T-Mobile had nothing throughout the hike.

The bridge on the MRT has a metal bar on both sides approximately 3 feet off the ground to discourage snowmobiles crossing it so that requires climbing over but wasn’t difficult at all.

hiking
3 months ago

My cousin and I did this trail, starting at Cedar Creek and headed towards the NCT side. Be warned: there is very little water on the NCT side. Theres like 1 spot to stop and thats towards the start of the trail. We ran out of water 1/2 through day 2 and it was pretty rough.

The NCT trail is really nice up and down the hills, you'll have to keep your head up as the trail is shared with mountain bikers. Unfortunately my cousin and I somehow missed the junction for the MRT and we ended up hitching a ride from a few mountain bikers back up to where the bridge is located but thats alright because hitch hiking still counts as hiking..right?
The folks at Cedar Creek couldn't have been more helpful or friendly as they let us stay the remaining night in the campground. (It was the last weekend they were open so it wasn't very busy) I will definitely return to this trail, its only a few hours drive from Chicago, so it's one of the closer places I've been. But this is a great trail for all levels of hikers from beginners who are developing their skills to experts who are just looking for a quick weekend away.

3 months ago

Great hike

backpacking
4 months ago

Great for a 2 day trip.

4 months ago

Hiked the loop on 3/28 - 3/29/18.

Started at Cedar Creak Campgrounds and went counterclockwise hitting up the NCT side first then making my way back up the MRT.

Spent the first night at campground 10a on the MRT side just past Red Bridge Access. Great view overlooking the river....not sure if I was supposed to pitch a tent where I did, but no signs were there saying I couldn't.

The MRT side was much more scenic and had plenty of opportunities to gather water, whereas the NCT was pretty dry throughout and I didn't see another hiker while on that side.

I did this loop in two days without any problems and wouldn't mind making it a 2 night trip next time around.

I should also mention that roughly 10 percent of the loop was covered in ice/snow/slush at this time of the year making it pretty hazardous at times so be careful! Ohhh and be prepared for the cold....temps in the 30's during the day with wind on top makes it brrrrrisk!

backpacking
4 months ago

Great scenery. Perfect Challenge. Great times.

hiking
6 months ago

One of the best hikes in Lower Michigan and awesome views!

backpacking
7 months ago

Awesome trail for beginners and intermediate backpackers. Great fun all along the trail.

backpacking
8 months ago

My corgi and I did the loop the first weekend in December. We took out to nature for some alone time and that is what we got! The North Trail side had something creepy about it and was pretty tiring. We did 14 miles the first day and camped on the Manistee River Trail side and loved it. Very beautiful views and didn’t see a single person.

backpacking
8 months ago

The manistee river side of the loop is beautiful and an easy backpacking trip. Lots of great spots along the river to pitch a tent and enjoy the river in the morning with coffee. Not a tough hike at all and even saw boy scouts with small packs. We found a spot on the rivers edge and pitched a tent. it was beautiful. the next day we found some guys in hammock on top of a ledge with picturesque views. Something for everyone. The North Country Trail portion is more challenging with a 1200' elevation within 1 mile but still not difficult. Not as beautiful ore as many opputunities to get water on this portion of the loop. we didnt need it however I do not consume as much water as most backpackers.

8 months ago

Great Michigan hike. More hills than I expected but very well marked. Even after sunset. Enjoyed the views on the MRT side better. And never saw a single person on the trail. That probably had something with doing the hike at the end of November on a Tuesday.

9 months ago

This trail has been a favorite of mine for most of my life. The colors in the fall are spectacular and the variation in the terrain gives amazing variety.

backpacking
9 months ago

Great trail but a lot of foot traffic.

backpacking
9 months ago

Started around 2:PM Saturday and started on the MRT to avoid the rain that was forecasted for Sunday., Camped near the 3B campsite. The weather was great (low 70s) so the trail was pretty busy so I was all out of "Hellos" by the end of the trip. For the most part, the whole trail was really clean, save for the people who feel the need to leave cans and bottles in the campfire -- don't be those people. Trail is really well marked, and even covered in fallen leaves it would be hard to get lost. Although the NCT lacks the views of the river the MRT offers, the 3 hours of rain hiking out gave me all the water I needed. :)

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