The Manistee River Trail, located on the eastern banks of the Big Manistee River, is a great trail for a quick weekend trip of hiking, backpacking, or enjoying Michigan’s outdoors. This roughly 11 mile trail runs between the Tippy Dam and Hodenpyl Dam with multiple access points along the way.
The terrain on the trail is fairly easy. Hills tend to be short and not terribly steep. There are multiple campsites along the river with a few roads to cross, too. While hiking along the banks, there are several points where you can enjoy beautiful views of the bends of the river. There are also numerous tributaries that dump into the Big Manistee River with bridges that make for easy crossing. There is a large pedestrian suspension bridge on the north end of the trail, which crosses over the river to the North Country Trail system. There are many fishing and swimming opportunities along the trail, but the river can be swift.
Typically, the trail can be used as a part of a roughly 23 mile loop. This popular route uses the Manistee River Trail on the east side of the river and the North Country Trail on the west side of the river. The route crosses the river at two points. On the north end, the pedestrian suspension bridge crosses the river near Hodenpyl Dam. On the south end, Coates Highway crosses over the river near the Red Bridge trailhead. For much of the 2018 season, the bridge on Coates Highway was under construction not open to pedestrian traffic.
Since this trail is in the Manistee National Forest, dogs are allowed but must be leashed. Mountain bikes are prohibited, but are allowed on the western side of the river on the North Country Trail. Horses and other pack animals are also prohibited.
With the many access points, beautiful views, abundance of water, fairly easy terrain, and many camp sites, the Manistee River Trail makes for a great beginner backpacking route. The route is easy to follow and easy to access from much of lower Michigan. (Roughly 2.5 hour drive from the shop!) You don’t have to travel far for a great time backpacking!
Want to hike the Manistee River Trail, but want a little help? Don’t have the gear?
Check out The High Five Tribe and learn the way!