Head toward Mesick and Manistee for a hike in the Northern Michigan outdoors and discover untamed backcountry on the Manistee River Trail.

A section of the nearly 1 million-acre Huron-Manistee National Forest, the Manistee River Trail wanders 8.8 miles along the eastern bank of the Manistee. Although the trail snakes along in one continuous path, access sites such as the Seton Creek Campground and the Red Bridge Access allow hikers to determine their own out-and-back treks. The Manistee River Trail is also ideal for backpackers wishing to create a full weekend excursion. Linking up with the North Country Scenic Trail on the river’s western edge provides hikers with a 23-mile loop that is manageable on a Friday through Sunday expedition. The Manistee River Trail provides an authentic backcountry experience even on a light day hike, as it swaths through a variety of wetlands, forests and rolling terrain. Two of the most popular and accessible features are the impressive wooden suspension bridge spanning the river—connecting the North Country and Manistee River Trail—and the waterfalls which consist of a sizeable tributary that tumbles down a steep, wooded grade into the mighty Manistee.thumb__MG_0510_1024

The Manistee River Trail is a prime example of accessible backcountry hiking. Though fairly isolated, the path is well marked and maintained. Be sure to pack bug repellant, plenty of water and enough food to keep you stoked on your chosen length of hiking. The trail traces single file through a pleasant mix of red pine stands, oak and maple hardwoods, and pockets of open meadow. The suspension bridge is located 1.5 miles from the Seton Creek Campground. Stretching across the wide expanse of the river, it is the largest wooden suspension bridge in the Lower Peninsula and allows hikers to pause high above midstream and watch the languid river flow on beneath.

The waterfalls are also relatively close, located just under a mile downstream from the bridge (3.2 miles from Seton Campground), but may also be reached via the back roads. Take O’Rourke Rd to the Hodenpyl Dam and turn left onto 1 Mile Rd. Follow 1 Mile to the first two-track on the right (FR 7120) and follow that until you find a metal gate on the right. From the gate, it’s a short half-mile to Campsite 4 and the tributary labeled as “The Waterfall.” Though not as majestic as Tahquamenon Falls, the rush of water slipping over collapsed trees, exposed rock and slick clay is tranquil and worth a visit.

Don’t Forget

  • Bug spray, water and snacks.
  • Trail Tips: Pets are allowed when on a leash. There is a daily concessionaire fee to park at the Seton Creek Campground.

Get There: From Mesick turn south onto M-37 and proceed 6 miles. Turn right at W 26 Rd. Veer right at the fork and wind along McClish Rd. to reach the campground.

Nearby Novelties

Make the short jaunt up to Interlochen for small-town eats and world-class entertainment:

The HofbrauThis all-American is home to a wide variety of sandwiches, burgers, steak and salmon. The Reuben is particularly enticing, heaped high with lean corned beef on grilled deli rye. Wash it down with the immense selection of 52 beers on tap. 2784 M137, Interlochen, 231.276.6979, hofbrausteakhouse.com.

Maddy’s Tavern—A roadhouse style restaurant on US31dishes up a delectable pulled-pork smothered Cubano Burger and a diverse selection of pizzas. Local favorite brews are also on tap. For dessert, shoot over to Bud’s for a scoop of hand-dipped ice cream. 9205 US31, Grawn, 231.276.6244, maddystavern.com.

Interlochen Center for the ArtsHosting a variety of acts and drawing popular talents and entertainment, the Interlochen Center for the Arts is a quintessential aspect of Northern Michigan summer.

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More Northern Michigan Outdoor Adventures:

Hike Empire Bluff Trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Hike Arcadia Dunes: Old Baldy Trail

Round Trip Hike From Sleeping Bear Dune Climb to Lake Michigan

Photo(s) by Drew VanDrie