Manistee River / North Country Trail Loop

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Grandpa
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Manistee River / North Country Trail Loop

Post by Grandpa »

We had to cancel our IRNP trip this year so I decided to backpack the Manistee River / North Country Trail near Mesick, MI. (See https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hmnf/re ... ecid=18710)

I noticed a few references to the MRT / NCT loop here & there on the forums. The trail is great for a first-time backpack, a dry run to test new gear, getting in shape for a more challenging trip or just a relaxing walk in beautiful surroundings. So, after my recent visit there, I thought it might be useful to provide a bit more detail on the forum.

The MRT/NCT is a 20-mile loop with campsites spread out all along the route. This segment of the NCT, which is part of a 4600-mile trail that crosses eight states, follows a ridge through open forest with scenic vistas off into the distance. On the other side of the river, the MRT follows the bluff above the Manistee River providing more up-close scenery. Together, they offer a nice variety. There are several trailheads with ample parking.

The trail is mostly dirt that’s much easier going than the rocks, roots and slanting trails on IRNP. Max elevation gain is about 200 ft; much less than the 700 ft climb to the top of the Greenstone Ridge. There are numerous tributaries that cause the trail to dip down a steep ravine then climb back up the opposite side. At the southern end, a highway bridge crosses the river. At the northern end, there is a 245 ft long pedestrian suspension bridge that joins the two trails. It’s nicknamed the “Little Mac” in reference to the Mackinaw Bridge. Many of the campsites have no water source so it’s necessary to filter water when the opportunity arises – particularly on the NCT. Most campsites have a fire pit. Unfortunately, visitors are less conscientious about LNT than at IRNP.

Both trails are marked with blazes – the NCT more so than the MRT. There are a few times when social trails cause some confusion but it’s not too much of an issue if you pay attention – particularly around campsites and the connector trails between the NCT and MRT.

The NCT allows mountain biking. It can be startling when they approach from behind.

I started at the southern end; hiking clockwise. I had planned to camp two nights but I finished at 3:00 pm the second day, so I decided to head for a burger and home.

The MRT/NCT loop is a beautiful trail that I would highly recommend. It’s become very popular - some would say too popular – so I recommend avoiding weekends & holidays if you can.
First visit 1982. Last visit June, 2018. Isle Royale is my favorite National Park!
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Re: Manistee River / North Country Trail Loop

Post by dcclark »

I drove past the Red Bridge area trailhead two weekends ago, and I was astonished at the number of people in the area. Tons of folks with backpacks and trekking poles were heading out or arriving at the parking areas. I've never seen it so busy.
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Re: Manistee River / North Country Trail Loop

Post by torpified »

thanks for this! I'll be back in Michigan soon, and the world owes me a backpacking trip, since CA fires cancelled me most recent one. This seems doable as a weekend jaunt.
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Re: Manistee River / North Country Trail Loop

Post by dcclark »

Torpified, you're in luck! I am not camping for the next couple weekends, and thus it will not rain on you if you decide to go backpacking. I'm 4-for-4 on camping in torrential downpours this summer.
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Re: Manistee River / North Country Trail Loop

Post by torpified »

dcclark wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:27 pm Torpified, you're in luck! I am not camping for the next couple weekends, and thus it will not rain on you if you decide to go backpacking. I'm 4-for-4 on camping in torrential downpours this summer.
In a weird and not entirely sincere way, I envy you. Having posted here about tent purchase indecision, I am honor-bound to report back about how my eventual choice has worked out, And since it hasn't rained on me, I feel like I haven't got sufficient information to do that!
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Re: Manistee River / North Country Trail Loop

Post by dcclark »

torpified wrote: Wed Sep 30, 2020 7:32 pm
dcclark wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:27 pm Torpified, you're in luck! I am not camping for the next couple weekends, and thus it will not rain on you if you decide to go backpacking. I'm 4-for-4 on camping in torrential downpours this summer.
In a weird and not entirely sincere way, I envy you. Having posted here about tent purchase indecision, I am honor-bound to report back about how my eventual choice has worked out, And since it hasn't rained on me, I feel like I haven't got sufficient information to do that!
Be careful what you wish for!

I can report that my new-ish Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 1 works like a champ. It's been through two torrential downpours so far with no problems. Much better than the 10+ year old REI quarter dome that it replaced.

We had to cut two of the trips short. Got rained on one night, and realized it wasn't worth hanging out with wet gear just to get rained on for the rest of the day and next night. One trip ended in my in-laws' back yard (and we still got dumped on).
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