The Manistee River Loop Trail

MODERATE 185 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.

hiking
13 days 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.

14 days ago

Fun, beautiful and worth going again and again.

backpacking
16 days 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
20 days 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
26 days 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.

1 month 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
1 month 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.

1 month ago

Great hike

backpacking
2 months ago

Great for a 2 day trip.

2 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
2 months ago

Great scenery. Perfect Challenge. Great times.

hiking
4 months ago

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

backpacking
5 months ago

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

backpacking
6 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
6 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.

6 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.

7 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
7 months ago

Great trail but a lot of foot traffic.

backpacking
7 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
7 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.

7 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
7 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
8 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
9 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
9 months ago

Beautiful trail

9 months ago

Well marked, plenty of gorgeous camp spots...

backpacking
9 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
10 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
10 months ago

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

backpacking
10 months ago

Spent one night

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