Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.  May 2012

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Shoulder the Pack & Hit the Trail

Manistee River Trail is proud to announce the release of our second commercial map; Manistee River Trail and the North Country Trail. Located just west of Cadillac in Manistee CountyThe 11-mile Manistee River Trail and a portion of the NCT can be combined into a scenic 23-mile loop that most backpackers turn into a two- to three-day hike.

The 11 by 17-inch, four-color map is printed on water resistant cardstock and folds into four panels making it easy to slip into the side pocket of your backpack. It features a detailed map of the loop on one side, including contour lines, backcountry campsites and mileage flags, and trail notes and other vital information on the other and sels for only $4.95. You can order it from the e-shop or through our growing network of dealers.

In honor of our latest effort, we’ve asked Jim DuFresne to focus this month’s Trail Mix newsletter on the top 10 backpacking treks in Michigan.

Michigan's Top Ten Backpacking Adventures 

Michigan's Top Ten Backpacking AdventuresBy Jim DuFresne
Blessed with large tracts of public land preserved as national parks, state parks, national forests and state forests, Michigan offers an a wide range of opportunities for anybody to shoulder a backpack and follow trail for a weekend or more.

All trails are worth hiking but some are more spectacular experiences than others due to stunning landscape, length, location, the wildlife that might be encountered or the fellow backpackers you will meet along the way. The following is, in my humble opinion, Michigan’s top ten backpacking adventures, trails that everybody should do at least once before hanging up their hiking boots for the last time.

They’re scenic, adventurous and, best of all, located in Michigan. You don’t have to board a plane or even travel that far to reach the trailhead. This summer load up your pack and select one of the following trails for a fun and affordable adventure. Who knows maybe I’ll see you out there.

Trail Guide 

Backpacker on the Lakeshore TrailNo. 10:  Waterloo-Pinckney Trail  (Easy, 4 days, Waterloo and Pinckney Recreation Areas) This walk is amazing if for no other reason than it’s a three-day backcountry escape in the most urbanized region of Michigan, a 38.5-mile route that winds through woods, farms and wetlands between Jackson and Ann Arbor.

No. 9: North Country Trail  (Moderate, 3 days, Wilderness State Park) You begin near one of the finest beaches in the Lower Peninsula, you end three days later at the fudge shops of Mackinaw City. In between, you traverse 23 miles through a state park called Wilderness, spending the nights at walk-in campsites or rustic log cabins.

No. 8: The Rim Trail (Moderate, 3 days, Grand Island Recreation Area) A 21.8-mile hike around an island that has cliffs and bluffs almost as impressive as nearby Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The ferry ride from Munising to Grand Island is short and easy to arrange.

No. 7: Manistee River Trail (Moderate/Challenging, 2-3 days, Manistee National Forest) Combine this easy trail with the rugged segment of the North Country Trail opposite it and you have a 23-mile walk on both sides of the scenic Manistee River that includes backcountry campsites and even a waterfall.

No. 6: Minong Ridge Trail (Challenging, 6 days, Isle Royale National Park) The toughest trail in Michigan, a 31- to 47-mile hike (depending on the route) along the remote north shore of Isle Royale. Hike it – or simply survive it – then add a notch on your walking stick and a feather in your cap.

Hikers in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State ParkNo. 5: Jordan River Pathway (Moderate/Challenging, 2 days, Mackinaw State Forest) An 18-mile loop on both sides of the pristine Jordan River with a night spent in a walk-in campground. In early October the brilliant fall foliage in the rugged Jordan Valley will leave you color blind.

No. 4: North Manitou Island (Moderate, 3 days, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore) A 16.6-mile hike around this island in Lake Michigan, featuring sandy beaches and brilliant sunsets. When you step off the ferry from Leland, you’ll feel like you have truly escape into the wilderness.

No. 3: The Greenstone Trail (Moderate, 5 days, Isle Royale National Park) Michigan’s classic 42.5-mile walk from one end of the largest island in Lake Superior to the other. Scenic views from high points, great backcountry campgrounds and the possibility of spotting a moose make this excellent choice for anybody’s first extended backpacking adventure.

No. 2: Big & Little Carp River Trails (Moderate/Challenging, 4 days, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park) Follow the Big Carp River from its beginnings in the mountains to its end at a freshwater sea. Plan this trek in advance, and you’ll be able to hike from cabin-to-cabin by reserving a different unit every night along this 27-mile loop.

No. 1: The Lakeshore Trail (Moderate, 5 days, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore) A 42.5-mile journey through impressive sand dunes, past shipwrecks, and along the famed Pictured Rocks as you hike from Grand Marais to Munising. This is our most stunning trail, a pilgrimage that every Michigan backpacker needs to make at least once in their life.


All the above trails with the exception of North Manitou Island have walk-in campsites either along their entire length or a portion of them. There is also a source of safe drinking water at the trailheads but there may not be drinking water at the campsites so a water filter is necessary equipment.

Getting There 

Three of the adventures require ferry travel to reach the islands. For North Manitou Island contact Manitou Island Transit (231-256-9061). For the Rim Trail there’s Grand Island Ferry Service (906-387-3503) and Isle Royale contact Isle Royale Queen IV (906-289-4437).

Additional Information 

All the above trails are covered in Jim DuFresne’s Backpacking In Michigan (University of Michigan Press) which can be ordered from the e-shop.

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