This is a hiking and XC skiing only trail. Some sections of the trail are open to mountain bikes, so be aware of bicyclists. Rustic Camping is available along the trail at designated areas, please contact the US Forest Service to obtain a camping permit. The trail traverses past several wetlands and there are bridges crossing two creeks.
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Nestled in the Manistee National Forest you will find hundreds of miles of marked trails for those who love to hike, bike, or in the winter, cross country ski and snowshoe. Which trail should you choose for your weekend adventure? This perfect weekend hike offers a varied and dynamic perspective of the natural beauty of Manistee County.
With many access points to the trails, starting out at the Upper River Trailhead just off of Coates Highway is a great spot to begin. It is typically less crowded during the summer months compared to nearby Red Bridge, or Seaton Creek Campground to the north.
As you strap on your pack and set off on your hike, head out on the North Country Trail for your first leg. If you are starting your hike in the morning or early afternoon, putting in a long hike the first day will be rewarded as you will certainly want to sightsee the second and third day when you are on the Manistee River Trail where the views and natural terrain are spectacular. If you are starting out in the evening, get to the NCT overlook and set up camp.
The views are breathtaking and the morning light radiates across the terrain assuring you that you are encircled by the natural landscape of Manistee County. For this trip we decided to drop in at the Upper River Trailhead and proceed north along the North Country Trail camping just south of the Suspension Bridge for night 1.
It made for a quick hike out the next day. Once you are on the MRT you will quickly see the famed suspension bridge which crosses to the east bank of the Manistee River.
Once you cross the bridge, you should consider continuing east towards Seaton Creek Campground. You will be able to check out the Hodenpyl Dam, which is a great sight tucked away in the heart of the Manistee National Forest.
This is also a great time to refill the water bottles at the Seaton Creek Campground it is the only place to fill up with potable water on the hike, so it may be a must if you do not have any water purification gear with you. After a quick stop at the Dam and campground, continue on the MRT and head out south along the east river banks. The views are absolutely spectacular and you will frequently see fishing boats, canoes, kayaks and tubes meandering down the river.
You will feel on top of the world as you are perched feet above the river below. Heading south along the trail, between mile marker two and three, you will come upon a small waterfall, spilling over into the Manistee River.
This is a great spot to grab a quick bite to eat as you push on a few more miles before setting up camp for the night. If you can make it to Slagle Creek Road, you will find a set of great primitive campsites that are perched high atop the banks overlooking the Manistee River.
Setting out on your final day, you will frequently head up and down in elevation along the most undulating part of the MRT as you make your way into the backwaters and wetlands.
This area of the trail is magnificent and you will surely see the most wildlife along this stretch of the river. Just before you hike out onto Coates Highway and back to civilization near Red Bridge, you will make one final ascent to what feels like the top of the world at mile marker Here you will be able to look out for miles across the marshes and rolling terrain you crossed on your first day on the North Country Trail.
As you make your way back to the Upper River Trailhead and pack up the car, your entire ride home will inevitably be spent talking about your weekend hiking trip on one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The view along the east side of the river on the Manistee River Trail side.
If you can only get away for a single night, you should certainly set out on the Manistee River Trail right from the beginning. If you can drop a car at the Seaton Creek Campground, you can take your time and really explore the east banks of the Manistee River as you hike north. Another great weekend trip is a hike and bike. Pack the bikes and the camping gear and set up at Red Bridge and head out on the North Country Trail for a great weekend biking.
When you wake up set out on a day hike on the MRT. No matter which direction you hike, or which season you go in, the NCT and MRT will quickly be one of your favorite weekend hikes in Michigan. The terrain diversity and views rival some of the stretches along the Appalachian Trail.
Get off the couch and put Manistee County and our trails your list of things to do this year. Would you consider this a good first-time backpacking trip for those of us me with no experience? This is perfect for a first-time hiker — I was the contributing writer on this piece. I have hiked day-trip and overnight many times on this trail, but this was actually the first trail I ever really backpacked on.
We did this exact trip I outlined here. There are many great spots to stop and the terrain has areas that are challenging in terms of elevation changes, but you will have areas of flat, easier terrain, to relax on and just enjoy the awesome views. I am looking to hike then float back down in my kayak. Do you know where I would be able to drop kayak off and then start my hike? Email me jsouthwell mcc. There is a primitive parking area near the suspension bridge on the north side of the river.
I recommend you contact the U. Forest Service for more information. They can be reach at Are any of the campsites down close to the river? Any recommendations for a non-overnight hike? We will be staying in Irons, MI for a week this summer.
We are looking for a hike that would have beautiful scenery as well as a lot of potential to see wildlife. Hi Melissa, the Manistee region has a lot of opportunity for a day hike. First on my list would be Magoon Creek or Arcadia Dunes. Both of these trails are day hikes, have beautiful views of Lake Michigan, and the potential to see wildlife. For more information and downloadable maps of our hiking trails: VisitManisteeCounty.
Going back in the spring of Last May, after a thunderstorm, my son and I witness the coolest firefly show ever! We need to see it again.
Leaving tomorrow morning to hike the loop with my husband. I did it last year but he is new to backpacking. You start by dropping a canoe or kayaks at the north end of the trail, on the west side of the river. Then drive down Upper River road a dusty affair which is really just a maintenance access for the power lines from the dam, with a few soft, sandy spots — so be prepared to the NCT Upper River Trailhead.
From there, you hike down along the road to the MRT terminus at Red Bridge, pick up the trail just beyond, and hike north to the Suspension Bridge.
Then you camp overnight, pick up your boats, and float down to Red Bridge, which is about a 4-hour float with some very mild class-1 rapids. When you get to Red Bridge, you take out, hike the mile or so up to the car at Upper River, and load up for a short and fun day 2. Do you know if we can you park and get right on the trail from there or will we need to hike in a bit to get to the trail from where we park?
There will be about 7 other guys with me and we were going to try and stretch this out to a 3. Do you think that is manageable? The experience level ranges from Beginner to Expert. Are you able to tent up here and camp out at different locations? Please let me know! Hey there Corey! There are plenty of camping spaces along the Manistee River Trail. HI, I did this loop last year and loved it. Going back this year with the kids. Do you have to have a permit to park at the upper river trail head?
Thinking of there instead of parking at Seatons Creek. Thoughts about wading through the river at the red bridge area to complete the loop? Hey Beth, glad to hear you loved the loop! You do not need a permit to park at the Upper River Trailhead.
Is there a place to park a car overnight on the East side of Red Bridge? I think I remember the Red Bridge parking lot was on the West side of the bridge. Where on the map is the NCT Overlook? My husband and I are planning on hiking the manistee river trail this week but I just saw that the bridge is out. Are we able to complete the trail still?
Rather than doing this as a loop would it work as a short out and back? Pack in to a campsite, setup camp and enjoy a day, then head back the next morning? Would I need to a reserve a site or can we setup camp anywhere? Not looking to complete a lot of mileage, just craft a little adventure for my little guy. This is a great idea! Yes, the Manistee River Trail can be done as an overnight.
If you download the map the legend shows trailheads, rustic campsites first come basis , fee areas, and more! First time hiking this trail. Hello, the Manistee County Road Commission should be able to answer your question. They can be reached at We are thinking of hiking the last weekend of October.
Is there a problem with bow hunters near the trails? Hi Rachel, the loop is 23 miles of hiking. To those wondering, the Manistee river trail is very doable as an out and back in one day depending on your level of fitness and endurance.
The Manistee River Loop Trail
This Trail is perfect because it is an ideal overnight or 2 night trip for the novice backpacker and you only need one car to be staged. You will experience scenic hikes through the rolling hardwoods of the National forest and along the high bluffs overlooking the Big Manistee River and also visit a hydroelectric dam and cross the longest pedestrian foot bridge in the lower peninsula. The terrain is more forgiving and it provides beautiful overlooks of the river below with the Udell hills in the background. Is starting from Red Bridge, we would classify that section of trail on XC skis for experts only, as tight terrain and steep grades will make it a challenge even for those who regularly break winter trails. We recommend you begin your adventure at Red Bridge along the southern most point on the Manistee River Trail and tackle the North Country Trail during your first day as this is one of the more challenging segments.
Manistee River Trail
The Manistee River Loop Trail is a 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. Easily one of the best backpacking trails in Lower Michigan.
Trail Maps & Guidebooks
This relatively new trail was developed in and offers numerous rustic campsites located throughout the area and many beautiful scenic overlooks. The trail is level and easy hike. The beauty of the Manistee River Trail is that it really is a trail for all skill levels. Many parts are flat along the bluffs overlooking the Manistee River.
Hiking the Loop: Manistee River Trail & North Country Trail Loop
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