Manistee National Forest: Trail Talk
Exact Location:
Newaygo County- Enter the Manistee National Forest after crossing Croton Dam. Almost all the NCT until Hodenpyl Dam is within the Forest. The MNF includes portions of Newaygo, Lake, Oceana, Mason and Manistee Counties
North Country Trail in the Manistee National Forest map
route of the North Country Trail through the Manistee National Forest which is shaded in darker green (NCTA interactive maps)

Soon after the North Country National Scenic Trail was authorized in 1980, the eight National Forest areas through which it passed (at that time- now 10) quickly supported the concept, and were the first locations where foot trail was built. The Western Michigan Chapter of the North Country Trail Association was chartered in 1981, and continued to build and maintain all the miles within the MNF until 1998 when the Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA was formed. The newer chapter now maintains the northernmost 80 miles of trail in the forest (Lake, Mason and Manistee Counties), and Western Michigan retains the rest (Newaygo County).

The MNF includes portions of Newaygo, Lake, Oceana, Mason and Manistee Counties. The North Country Trail passes through all but Oceana County. Approximately 130 miles of the North Country Trail traverse the Manistee National Forest, from Croton Dam in the south to Hodenpyl Dam in the north.

Hikers can expect well-maintained single-track trail with a few roadwalks. In several places the trail has been overlaid on very old railroad beds or woods roads. The terrain varies from quite flat to hilly. Ward Hills (Lake County), and Udell Hills (Manistee County) regions, have moderate rolling hills. Long moderate climbs and descents characterize the northernmost 10 miles.

In general the forest is dry. Although hikers will cross the Muskegon, White, Pere Marquette, Big Sable, and Little and Big Manistee Rivers, water sources are limited, particularly in the northern half. Backpackers should plan to treat and carry enough water for a least a half day.

Dispersed camping is allowed if 100 feet off-trail or 200 feet from water sources. Dispersed camps must be more than a quarter-mile from established campgrounds. Use marked campsites in established campgrounds. Please leave no trace!

typical Manistee National Forest Trail
Typical trail in the northern Manistee National Forest (photo by jhy)
The Forest is managed by two ranger districts. The Baldwin District, office in Baldwin, in the south covers approximately from the southern boundary to 5 Mile Road in Lake County. The Manistee District in the north manages everything northward. The Manistee Ranger Station is in Manistee. The administrative offices are located in Cadillac.

Also see:
Manistee National Forest: History
Baldwin District Ranger Station 231-745-4631
Manistee District Ranger Station 231-723-2211

Manistee National Forest
personal experience
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