Best backpacking trails in Michigan

4,696 Reviews
Explore the most popular backpacking trails in Michigan with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.
Map of backpacking trails in Michigan
Top trails (62)
#1 - The Manistee River Loop Trail
Manistee National Forest
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Length: 19.3 mi • Est. 9 h 4 m
The Manistee River Loop Trail is easily one of the best backpacking trails in Lower Michigan outside of the peninsula of Michigan area. It is almost always busy on the Manistee River Trail side, where campsites are often doubled or even tripled up to accommodate all nature lovers. The waterfall site 2 miles south of the suspension bridge is a great spot to enjoy the stars and fall asleep listening to the falls. Be sure to pack water as it is quite the hike up, down, and around the ravines throughout this trail and potable water is not always available. During the first few miles there are some decent sights in the higher hills especially near reds hill. The nice part of the NCT is users can camp anywhere really, although camping in a ravine isn't too rewarding. Users 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, users start heading to the MRT and finally get to see the Manistee River after about 9 miles of hiking in ravines. Users then cross over the Suspension Bridge and reach the MRT, at the campground along the north trail where users might want to stop for water as they offer a potable well. The MRT hugs the river for the duration of the southward trip back to red bridge. While enjoying this trek, it is a good idea to set up camp with a couple neighbors to practice safe camping, especially if attempting this route alone. The sound of the river and the proximity of the campsites to water make for an easy night of sleeping, especially along the MRT side of the river, where high and dry sites are perched with amazing views of the river. If using the MRT side of the river for the trek, users should know that this side has more hills, so you definitely get a workout. Trekking poles are a must for the whole trail because of the hills that are sometimes steep and slippery - no matter the season. Be aware that the campsites on the MRT are full in the summer. This is a very popular and great trail that is well worth a drive anywhere that users live in Michigan. Please remember to keep the great outdoors great and pack out your trash, and to leave no trace of your use to preserve the Huron Manistee National Forests for others. Show more
#2 - Potawatomi Trail
Pinckney Recreation Area
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Length: 17.4 mi • Est. 7 h 49 m
#3 - Grand Marais to Munising via North Country Trail
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
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Length: 41.7 mi • Est. Multi-day
This trail includes sand dunes, cliffs, wooded areas, rivers, mud, uphill, and downhill. This area is good anytime from early spring to late fall. It is recommended to not go in early June, as that is when the flies are in the area and they are bad, almost intolerable at times. Go early May or wait until July when the flies have moved further south. There is so many great things about this trail. Water falls are everywhere. Fantastic views no matter where you look. One of the best beaches users have ever seen is at the Little Beaver Lake trailhead. The trail head points users to the left toward beaver lake, the main trail keeps going straight, but if turning right and go through the small cluster of trees, users will come out on a deserted white sand beach along Lake Superior. It's like walking into another world. The water is crystal blue and the sand is white and completely untouched. Show more
#4 - North Country Trail: Manistee River Section
Manistee National Forest
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Length: 19.8 mi • Est. 9 h 30 m
#5 - Chain of Lakes
Pinckney Recreation Area
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Length: 7.8 mi • Est. 3 h 29 m
#6 - Jordan River Pathway
Mackinaw State Forest
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Length: 18.7 mi • Est. 8 h 45 m
#7 - Waterloo-Pinckney Trail
Waterloo State Recreation Area
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Length: 33.9 mi • Est. Multi-day
#8 - Grand Island Loop
Hiawatha National Forest
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Length: 21.2 mi • Est. 9 h 13 m
The island has a number of trails and designated camping zones, sites cost $8. Reservations for campsites must be made at recreation.govShow more
#9 - Nordhouse Dunes Trail
Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness
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Length: 5.6 mi • Est. 2 h 30 m
#10 - Nordhouse Dunes Extended Backpacking Loop
Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness
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Length: 14.1 mi • Est. 6 h
This is a longer backpacking route along the Nordhouse Dunes and into Ludington State Park. If you're looking for the shorter Nordhouse Dunes Trail, please search AllTrails for "Nordhouse Dunes Trail". Note that there isn't a designated/official trail between Ludington and Nordhouse. You'll be mostly on your own navigating through the dunes though there are some makeshift trails every now and then. Luckily it's hard to get lost with Hamlin on one side, Lake Michigan on the other, and the lighthouse visible from many of the crests. The hike along the shore is as straightforward as humanly possible. Nordhouse is part of the Manistee National Forest which allows for dispersed camping, meaning you can camp anywhere (with some stipulations on distance from water sources that no one seems to follow). Ludington REQUIRES a reservation if you want to camp in the State Park and does not allow for dispersed camping. There's only one rustic campground meant for backpackers/tent campers. Show more
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