Lake County
Exact Location:
Lake County is positioned between Newaygo and Mason Counties along the North Country Trail in Michigan's Lower Peninsula
Lake County satellite image
Lake County, Michigan, and the approximate route of the North Country Trail in blue (Google satellite image with trail overlay)

Lake County is rural in nature. Total population is about 12,000 and the county seat is Baldwin. The North Country Trail passes through no communities in the county. A large percentage of the land is within the Manistee National Forest.


At 76th St. and MI 37 there is a gas station/convenience store and ice cream/hot dog stand (seasonal). This is 2.4 miles east of the trail.

Baldwin is the largest village with a population of 1200. Closest distance to the NCT is approximately 6 miles east from where the trail crosses 56th St. Motels, groceries, laundromat, gas, restaurants, ice cream, hardware store, other small town amenities. Post Office 49304. Manistee National Forest Ranger Station. Lake County Sheriff Department.

Branch is the closest village to the trail (1.6 miles from the corner of Wingleton and S. Branch Roads and technically in Mason County). Motel, small grocery store, Post Office 49402.

Small gift and ice cream shop (seasonal) 1/4 mile east of the trail on 5 Mile Road.

Trail Overview:

large hemlock tree along the North Country Trail in Lake County Michigan
A large hemlock tree along the North Country Trail in Lake County, Michigan (photo by jhy)
The North Country Trail enters Lake County just south of 96th St. and leaves at Tyndall Road, about 33 miles of trail, most of which is off road. There are two major roadwalks: about 1.5 miles to cross the Pere Marquette River, and 2.3 miles to pass through the Big Bass Lake resort area.

Lake County will provide some relatively easy trail miles with a good backcountry experience. Dispersed camping is allowed within the Manistee National Forest. Developed campsites at Bowman Bridge (off trail), Bowman Lake, Sulak Road (slightly off trail), Elk Campground (off trail), Timber Creek, McCarthy Lake, a commercial campground on 5 Mile Road, Bear Track Campground (off trail).


Lake County was surveyed in 1840 and first named Aischum County after a Potawatomi chief whose name appears on many land treaties from the early 1800s. The name was changed in 1843 to Lake County, which was considered fitting due to the 156 small lakes within the county.

Before desegregation, the village of Idlewild was the largest black resort community in the Midwest. It now hosts an annual Jazz Festival and is working to preserve its history.


Glacial action is responsible for the geology of Lake County. The soil is sandy with few erratic boulders. Hills are primarily remnants of an end moraine that covered most of the state. The hills are gentle to moderate and the forest floor consists of stabilized sand. Breaking the surface layers often leads to sandy, eroded places on the trail.

Also see:
Bowman Semi-Primitive Area

The Lake County We Love. Lucille B. Douglas, 1975.
personal experience and various public records
Every effort is made to provide up-to-date accurate information, but errors are bound to occur. Please contact about errors, corrections or additions.

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The North Country National Scenic Trail is 4800 miles long, spanning eight states. For more information, visit the North Country Trail Association