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.

trail running
1 day 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!

backpacking
2 days ago

Completed this loop counterclockwise. It was very intense at times and was no easy task to complete. 20+ miles in two days was difficult, but rewarding overall. This is the perfect weekend backpacking trip and there is a campground about halfway around the loop trail.

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.

Greatest hike I have ever done and the absolute best in the Midwest.

I parked my car on 48th Street, just south of 120th Avenue in Fennville today. I added yellow splash paint on the trail westward crossing 120th, continuing west passing the connecting trail on 51st Street almost all the way to 120th Avenue. I never used a map, but did add more yellow trail markers so trail is now well marked. Looked like heavy winds or tornado took some trees down a little east of 52nd Street, so I spent a bit of time clearing the trail. Someone else had already chainsawed the big trees (thank you!). I never looked at a map and was able to follow with the yellow splashes, even though I added a lot more yellow. I was glad I brought my head net (ordered online at TrueValue for $4), since it is deer fly season in July. Worked great! 78 degrees was warm but ok for a day of hiking in the shade of the trees. Round trip, maybe 7 miles, less than 3 hours.

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.

Really good place to go. Mosquitoes are difficult to deal with. The chipmunks are very good at stealing food. The scenery is nice. The trails are nice. Good camping spots along the beach. Overall loved it.

What I liked so much about this hike is the diversity of environments you'll travel through. The Island Trail is quite beautiful (if very short) with lakes on either side. Once you veer off the Island trail and in to the Ludington dunes area, it's like entering a new world. Though the dunes are difficult, it is quite scenic and unlike anything I had seen in Michigan thus far.

The best part of the trek was the hiking along the beach. Lake Michigan is beautiful, and the beach is completely clear of stones/rocks once you hit the Nordhouse part.

Note that there doesn't seem to be any 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.

There are plenty of decent camping spots in the Nordhouse area along the beach. The treeline runs close to the shore. Unfortunately there were tons of people who had set up shop before me, and I had to do some searching to find a spot.

NOTE: 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.

I also learned that parking in the state park requires overnight permits which can be sorted out through the main office, booth, or dump station office. Woops.

The 20 mile loop can be done easily in a two day/one night trek.

A nice stretch which serves as an alternative to crossing the entire island. Not an especially difficult trail except the length and environmental conditions typical of the region. Downhill grade from the fire tower. It does not appear that many people hike this section. Obviously this trail in not in the vicinity of Mohawk, Michigan as is currently indicated in the description.

Completed loop counter clockwise in 3 days two nights. Trail is tough in terms of rocks and roots so a lot of time is spent looking down instead of enjoying the scenery. Rainbow cove trail near Feldtman Lake is a must. Island mine trail under water in parts so need to hike along “beach”. Mosquitos were not bad. Water clear. Beautiful scenery.

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
21 days ago

Rain came down on us the entire first day but the trail held together and bugs were about zero. Went clockwise on the trail which took us up and down the ridge. This was the longer of the two halves. We stayed at the campground overnight which was full, but quiet nonetheless. The second day and second half I found a bit more technical and a ton more fun than the first day. Some fairly challenging trail formations and neat obstacles. The last 4/10th of a mile is no joke!!! Will definitely go back.

backpacking
22 days ago

This hike was great. The views all around the trail were absolutely stunning. Not as buggy as I was expecting which was a plus.

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!

hiking
26 days ago

I would highly recommend starting this trail from lake of the clouds. It reaches some nice bluffs and some great view of the park. At that point I would turn around. After that it is nothing but woods for about 7 miles until it reaches up with Lake Superior trail. Overall some cool views but also some very boring parts for a long distance.

backpacking
26 days ago

Hiked the whole loop and camped on Section 4 lake. Very nice trail, well labeled, and best of all low trafficked. Lots of cut offs to make for shorter loops as well.

Greatest hike I have done to date!! Went from Grand Sable Visitor Center back to Munising falls. If you use the shuttle service call Altram, 25 per person. Miles are much more than what they claim here, that was the only draw back to the whole experience.

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.

The terrain is actually pretty flat, so the difficulty rating is more based on the distance than the actual trail. It rained for the entire week we were there which made for a challenge. Definitely come prepared for cold and rain. Much of the trail is surrounded by trees, so don't expect epic scenery for the entire hike. Moose are a common sight.

Be prepared for Defcon 5-level mosquitoes. Much of the Waterloo side is covered in horse excrement, and the horses also do a pretty good job of tearing up the trail, so parts of it will feel like walking through sand. The Pinckney side has much higher quality trails, both in terms of scenery and trail maintenance. Ran into one person on the trail while hiking during weekdays.

Itinerary: Portage Lake trailhead > Pines campground > Green Lake Campground > Silver Lake. Around 10-11 miles each day for a 3 day/2 night sprint.

Be aware that Green Lake campground is a drive in campsite and there may be plenty of people on the weekends, so try to arrive early as you cannot reserve in advance and must self-register (bring cash, $17).

Pines DOES have water about 1/4 mile north - there is a water spigot near the gate to the stable area.

Green Lake also has a water pump.

Just remember to permethrin your gear, wear deet, and wear long sleeve shirts/pants.

backpacking
1 month ago

Great trail. Easy to moderate. However, be warned, the last hill if you do the trail clockwise, is 4/10 of a mile of incline. After 2 days of hiking with a loaded pack.......be ready.

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful! One of the best long hikes in the state. If you want something shorter, take a hike around Deadman's Hill or Landslide Hill.

Diverse hiking along cliffs, beaches, dunes, and forests. Exceptional sandstone outcroppings along Lake Superior, and noteworthy outcroppings in inland forests. Trails can be muddy in spring, and there is usually a cool lake breeze.

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.

backpacking
1 month ago

Backpacking trip with 4, 7, 9, and 10 year olds. Took ferry over on Friday and stayed at Weather Station. Setting and views were fantastic (some of the best in Michigan). The kids loved climbing to the top of the lighthouse, the ship wreck and the dunes (better than mainland with a 360 view). Trail to campsite was an easy walk and perfect distance for the kids. Mosquitos unfortunately were so thick it made it hard to truly enjoy everything that the island trail had to offer. Other than the bugs was one of the best places we’ve been to.

Fun, beautiful and worth going again and again.

What else can you say aside from this being perfect.

I will be undertaking this trail for the third year in a row because it's simply the best out there. Can be done in 3 nights, but 4 nights out there allows for you to really enjoy the campsites and the views. Beaver Creek is the best campsite on the trail. If you're planning on doing this trek, be sure to make your reservations months ahead of time. I will be doing this trail again in August and made my reservations in April to be sure I was able to get the campsites we wanted. Can't recommend this trail enough.

backpacking
1 month ago

One of my favorite trails in the park. Great views of the river and dense forest. Was pretty muddy in sections once you come off the river, but should be better the later you go in the year. All of the campsites along this trail are great so you really can't go wrong. Already planning my trip back.

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.

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