The Manistee River Loop Trail

MODERATE 167 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
2270 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

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.

backpacking
11 days ago

Great for a 2 day trip.

19 days 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
20 days ago

Great scenery. Perfect Challenge. Great times.

hiking
2 months ago

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

backpacking
3 months ago

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

backpacking
4 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
4 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.

4 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.

5 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
5 months ago

Great trail but a lot of foot traffic.

backpacking
5 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. :)

backpacking
5 months ago

Had a great time with a few unplanned detours. You could not of asked for better weather in October. Did the entire loop in 26 hours.

5 months ago

It gets five stars because of the variety of terrain and vegetation. Also, it’s right in our backyard (Grand Rapids). Fall is the best time. Colors are awesome, and bugs are gone. Also not crowded in late October. We just hiked the entire loop in 7.5 hours. Very ready for a burrito!

backpacking
5 months ago

Took off Friday 10-13-17 at 6:30 A.M. with a headlight and backpack. Spent the night at 2B. Resume hiking at 6 A.M. and returned to Red Bridge at 10:47 A.M. Night hiking made it possible for me to get 2B and avoid the incoming rain Saturday. 4 vs. 5 is due to the lack of trail markings on the Manistee Trail Side. Look forward to Easter Weekend.

backpacking
6 months ago

Hiked the whole thing in 25 hours. Spent the night in our hammocks on the north country trail side. Great hike. Typical Michigan landscapes; woods, hills, fields, rivers.

backpacking
7 months ago

This is a great trail with awesome views... The only reason I took it down a star is because it is very busy on the MRT side.. I hiked it on a Monday/Tuesday in the middle of September and I probably saw at least 20 people on the MRT side..As I hiked out Tueday morning probably at least 3/4s of the campsites were full..If your into the social side of hiking this won't be an issue..I really enjoyed both sides of the loop and would rate them about equal as far as difficulty...
I saw a few reviews complaining about trash...I did see a few small items in the campsites but to be honest it is remarkably trash free for the amount of use this trail gets..
The trail needs a few more markers..Maybe the diamonds nailed to the trees are getting stolen or falling off..May be better to go with the rectangle flashes...
I had my dog with me on a leash...Saw a few dogs off leash...We ran into a porcupine about halfway down the Manistee river trail.. I was glad my dog was on leash so it wasn't an issue because they are slow and a dog could be on it before the owner could react...Also people need to remember the leash law is there for a reason...not every dog is friendly with other dogs...
Strange...but there were almost no bugs...I think I saw one mosquito over the two days....I thought it was the wind but that died down at night and still no bugs, so that was awesome...

hiking
7 months ago

Beautiful trail

7 months ago

Well marked, plenty of gorgeous camp spots...

backpacking
7 months ago

This trail is not 29 miles, but likely closer to 23 (according to my gps). The NCT portion was difficult as you hike in and out of ravines. I would absolutely suggest doing this portion first since there is zero water and you can easily carry lots of water on fresh legs. On the Manistee River trail has lots of creeks where you can filter and resupply with water. The Manistee River trail isn't as well groomed or marked as the NCT, so there were a few times when I got turned around and had to backtrack. Also, the trail markers switch between white rectangles and metal blue diamonds. I hiked the NCT side on day one and made it a little south of the suspension bridge to camp. I finished the rest of the hike on day 2. It took me 24 hours to hike both sides including sleep. I definitely suggest this trail, especially since it is a loop. It is physically demanding, but worth it.

walking
8 months ago

We live near here and walk here frequently. The overlooks are spectacular. Lots of wildflowers and fungi. Perfect for photography. Some campsites along the trail. Maps available for download or purchase.

backpacking
8 months ago

Very nice trail, plenty of areas to pitch a tent/hammock and fall asleep to the sounds of the river

backpacking
8 months ago

Spent one night

hiking
9 months ago

Great place to hike and camp

backpacking
9 months ago

Wife and I did the loop this weekend. Parked at nct trail head close to red bridge access, Camped NCT side 1st night, was great trail, good condition, marked well. No water water source from red bridge until you get to edington creek, so fill up before. 2nd day, followed to the Manistee river trail. Trail scenery was beautiful along the river, close to the water and high above over looks, saw several nice camp site along the trail. Moderate- easy on MRT side. We did 14.5 miles that day to finish.
Trail had a few bad spots in it where was out but over all good. Will plan to go back again

backpacking
9 months ago

I had the best time with 3 of my friends, beautiful sights to see, would most definitely go back and hike again!

hiking
9 months ago

backpacking
9 months ago

Awesome 3 day loop

backpacking
9 months ago

This is a great trail that I've enjoyed in years past.

My wife and I are planning to hike this the second week of July. Can someone please tell me how busy the trail has been lately and if that would be expected to be a busy weekend? How are the bugs right now?

backpacking
9 months ago

Very cool loop trail! I planned this for my first solo of the year and wanted to take my time by making it a 3 day hike. As others have said, the MRT is fairly busy. I started on a Monday and passed maybe 20 people in 10 miles. The waterfall was very cool! Spent the night in one of the larger sites around mile 10...I don't normally like to make my own site if there are empty ones around and I had to backtrack a little to find one that wasn't right on the trail. I would encourage people to try not to leave garbage anywhere...even in the fire pits. I had to get in a shouting match with one of the many raccoons that came into camp overnight that seemed pretty used to finding scraps there. The one I'm talking about was trying to jump down onto my hanging bag and wouldn't stop until it had fallen out of the tree twice and I yelled at it a few times in my long underwear and headlight (which might have been the real reason it ran terrified off into the night....).
The NCT was very nice but folks weren't lying when they said there's not a lick of water to find on it! There are some great campsites along the trail, the best of which seem to be on both sides of the few road crossings and along Eddington creek (there's a very nice one in there inside a stand of pines south of the creek that someone already had). The hike was definitely tougher than the MRT with somewhere around 200 feet of elevation gain and loss a few times hiking in and out of ravines. Nothing too bad though and all well worth the sore feet! I camped in a site upstream from the creek crossing and spent a great night listening to coyotes in the hills. I had to clean that campsite up a little and packed out the trash a few people left in the fire ring but nothing more than you tend to see in a well used campsite.
The last day was a quick detour down along the river and back to the campground. I planned on stopping at 8 miles each day...ended up pushing for about 10 miles each day instead. I started at Seaton Creek campground and went south on the MRT first.
When I come back this way, I'm definitely going to go the opposite way - you can hike both sides of the river in 2 days easily but if you're trying to take it easy or make it a 3 day run, splitting the NCT portion and then being able to stop at one of the numerous sites on the northern end of the MRT seems like a pretty solid plan. Overall, the trails are well marked and the campsites are maintained pretty well. Trash is always a problem on these kinds of trails that are easy to get to and easy to hike but I have to admit that both sides of the river are maintained very well and kept pretty clean. The trails are both well marked and easy to follow. There were the usual illegal campsites here and there but even those weren't really an eyesore and I didn't see anyone using them.
I've never used this app before so I completely screwed up the stats and tracking part. There's a chunk missing on my day 2 hike in the middle of the NCT and the waypoints aren't there. The detour I took on day 3 is at an oxbow bend in the river on the north end of the NCT side...it takes you down to the river where you can look up and see one of the first bluffs you see from the first day on the MRT side. I ran into a good sized herd of deer down there getting water so I'm glad I went! Total mileage including the hike in and out of Seaton Creek campground and the detour on day 3 made it somewhere around 25 miles of hiking.
Overall, this is a great hike and one I'll certainly come back to. Hope yall have fun out there and stay safe. Thanks for reading if you make it this far!

backpacking
10 months ago

My wife, son and I all backpacked this trail the weekend of June 9-11. This is a great Trail for first timers. We planned on doing the whole loop in three days but due to a storm rolling in we ended up hiking out late on the second day (even after we had set up camp).

We started on the North Country Trail side which I'd recommend only because it's hillier and we had fresh energy. Additionally there are little to no water sources, so we started the hike with 3L of water each and a Nalgene.

If you've never done the trail I'd recommend the NCT side first and hike to Eddington Creek. There is a nice little campsite right by the creek. This is about 9 miles. Day two, hike to campsite 7a (for a beautiful river overlook) or campsite 8a (right beside the river). Day two is about 9 miles also (of course we ended up hiking out from 7a due to the storms). Day 3 is about 4 more miles. I forgot to mention that we parked at the Red Bridge parking lot. No charge for this lot although it not terribly big. First come first serve. The trailhead is easy to get to from there.

If you're a first time backpacker, this Trail is for you. I'm 41 and out of shape but a 35 pound pack and some good shoes, I was able to wear myself out by mile 9 each day. I thought we'd be super slow but including breaks for lunch and rest, we averaged about 1.7 miles per hour. We got to our mile markers well ahead of time!

Anyway, great first trip can't wait to go again. In fact I intend to see this Trail in the fall. The foliage must be spectacular. It's very dense.

Go see this Trail!

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