North Country National Scenic Trail
The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) is ~4600 miles from North Dakota to New York (soon Vermont). This trail is fast becoming one of my favorites. While it doesn't offer quite the frequency of dramatic vistas and mountainous scenery as other national scenic trails, its concept is different. Other National Scenic Trails may have more impressive mountains, but the NCT has the impressive power of Lake Superior and that's hard to beat! While not following a crest or divide (PCT, AT, CDT) or traversing a lone state (Arizona Trail, Florida Trail), the NCT meanders through the heart of the North Country and the famous Red Plaid Nation.
Growing up in Michigan I was not familiar with the NCT for many years and I don't remember when I first heard of it. I'm certain that I was unaware of it at the time I hiked the JMT in 2011. Maybe it was when I first hiked the Manistee River Loop. Even when I was hiking the Colorado Trail, it took another hiker to inform me that there were great sections of the NCT. Unfortunately I had the misconception that the trail not being completed meant that it offered few backpacking opportunities.
As of the North Country Trail Association's last progress report in 2015, 2880 miles have been completed. That's more than the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails individually. Also, more than the Continental Divide Trail has completed which is slightly more than 2600. At 4600 miles, the NCT must have taken some extreme mental perseverance for those who have hiked the entire "trail" counting the road walks. The NCT has taught me that sometimes man-made designations for goals aren't necessary (i.e. thru hike across the country or hike an entire trail). Simply hiking the sections that are best (done) will give an average person memories for a lifetime. Ideally, join the NCTA to promote development of new trail and protection and maintenance of existing trail. Your adventure starts nearby.
I will provide links of hikes that I complete on this page. Currently I have hiked over 1000 unique miles of the NCT, the most I have hiked on any trail. Here's a spreadsheet of the miles completed and also some interesting planning info.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park: a portion of this loop utilized the NCT
Pictured Rocks Lakeshore Trail: arguably the finest section of the NCT. See also: http://www.trailgroove.com/issue22.html?autoflip=105
During the summer of 2016 I completed the NCT from Saint Ignace to connect with Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore at the Grand Sable Visitor Center with five section hikes. This was an excellent section of trail with highlights including Saint Ignace, the Hiawatha National Forest, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and spectacular Lake Superior Shoreline.
Lake Superior State Campground to Grand Sable Visitor Center
Between Lake Superior St Campground and Culhane Lake
Tahquamenon/Whitefish Point Loop
Between Tahquamenon River and Trout Brook Pond
Straits State Park to Trout Brook Pond
Many of these hikes were done as weekend out and backs in the summer of 2015 so I have hiked a lot of these sections twice! I have been very pleasantly surprised by the high quality trail in the Lower Peninsula. The NCT in this area certainly offers much more than the popular Jordan River Pathway and Manistee River Loop. Highlights include many lakes, streams, forests and brief portions near Lake Michigan.
I have completed the portion of trail from Croton Dam to Mackinaw City.
From North to South:
Wilderness State Park to Mackinaw City: wetlands, inland dunes and lakes, straits of Mackinaw and the Mackinaw Bridge, Sturgeon Bay
Between Van Road and Petoskey State Park : excellent single track forest hiking, paved trail past scenic lakes, and Little Traverse Bay.
Between Chandler Hills and Petoskey State Park
Dobleski Road to Jordan River Pathway- two day-hikes
Jordan River Pathway Loop: completed twice (backpacking weekend and one-day trail run/hike)
Between Doerr and Manistee Lake Road: two day-hikes to scenic lakes, forests, and farmland
Kalkaska to Fife Lake Trailhead: scenic lakes and rivers in the northern lower peninsula along the nation's longest National Scenic Trail
Fife Lake Loop: a spectacular new overnight loop with highlights along the Manistee River, streams, and lakes.
Hodenpyl Dam Pond to Fife Lake Loop- one of the very best!
Manistee River Loop: October 5-6, 2012, Manistee River Loop day-hike (July 2013)
Upper River Trailhead to Freesoil Trailhead-
Freesoil Trailhead to Bowman Lake
Bowman Lake to Birch Grove Loop-one of my favorites: many lakes and fine scenery in Manistee National Forest
Birch Grove Loop to Croton Dam
*Biking 6 Sections of Roads Walks- many of these were actually quite scenic and less frequently traveled roads.
South of Croton
Southern Michigan is fairly agricultural which results in a high percentage of Michigan's road walk miles. There are still some fantastic segments of the NCT with many of them in state game areas and on rail trails.
Rouge River State Game Area
White Pine Trail State Park
Cannon Township Trail
Lowell, Trout Unlimited, and Middleville State Game Area
Paul Henry Trail, Barry State Game Area, Yankee Springs Recreation Area
WK Kellogg Experimental Forest
Ott Biological Preserve
Battle Creek Linear Park
Baw Beese Trail and Lost Nation State Game Area
In the fall of 2014 I hiked the NCT/Arrowhead Re-route as part of my NCT/Lake Superior Adventure. This includes the Superior Hiking Trail, Border Route Trail, and Kekekabic Trail. This is certainly deserving of being included as a portion of the NCT. Highlights include numerous waterfalls, mountain top views, Lake Superior, and the Boundary Waters.
I have also written an article for Trailgroove Magazine advocating for legislation regarding this important re-route. See: http://www.trailgroove.com/issue25.html?autoflip=81
Superior Hiking Trail
Days 1-2: Duluth Section
Days 3-6: Bald Eagle Campsite to Silver Bay
Days 7-12: Silver Bay to Grand Marais
Days 13-15: Grand Marais to 270 Degree Overlook
Border Route Trail (65 miles)
Kekekabic Trail (~40 miles)
- I've been born and raised in the great state of Michigan. I recently graduated from physical therapy school. I enjoy being active, playing sports, and running. Backpacking has become a great interest as it is a physical challenge that provides many rewarding views and experiences. I strive to make a difference in the lives of those encounter in every day life, on the trail, or even just on this blog. May God bless each of you. Now go find an adventure! It's only a few feet away!