Best Hikes in Huron-Manistee National Forests (MI)

Huron-Manistee National Forests Overview

Lying between the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, the nearly one-million-acre Huron-Manistee National Forests are located in a transition zone between forested lands to the north and agricultural lands to the south. The forests contain rare ecological features, such as dry sand prairie remnants, coastal marshlands, dunes, oak savannas, fens, bogs and marshes. The Forests offer year-around motorized and non-motorized recreation opportunities. Most popular are the trails and campgrounds along four nationally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers such as the Pine, Manistee, Au Sable and Pere Marquette. Read below for the best hikes in Huron-Manistee National Forests.

StateMichigan
Nearest Metro AreaGrand Rapids, MI
Area Size978,906 acres
EstablishedFebruary 11, 1909
Hiking Trails330 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Huron-Manistee National Forests

(*** = Best hikes in Huron-Manistee National Forests)

Highbanks Trail*** – 12.8 miles out and back
HighBanksatFootePond-MNF-RobReno-10102022
High Banks at Foote Pond, Photo by Huron-Manistee National Forests

A short, nearly 7-mile hike along the bluffs of the Au Sable River will provide day hikers with some of the best, and most dramatic, views of the Au Sable River, where hikers will be able to look over the river valley almost to Lake Huron in some spots. During the summer, hikers may see bald eagles that nest in the area, along with many other wildlife that inhabit the area. The linear trail begins 15 miles outside of Oscoda, with access areas and parking at Iargo Springs, Lumberman’s Monument, and Sid Town.

Manistee River Loop*** – 23.0 mile loop
Manistee River Trail
Manistee River Trail, Photo by Huron-Manistee National Forests

The Manistee River Trail follows the east shore of the Manistee River for 8.8 miles through rolling hills. The trail traverses past several wetlands and there are bridges crossing two creeks. A waterfall near the northern end of the trail is very popular with many hikers. The Manistee River Trail/North Country National Scenic Trail connector is also the site of the largest wooden suspension bridge in Lower Michigan. Several observation sites along the trail provide hikers with vista views of the Manistee River and surrounding area. There are several dispersed campsites along the trail. A 23-mile loop trail is formed with the Manistee River Trail along the Manistee River. The loop trail can be accessed from the Marilla and Upper River Road Trailheads for the North Country National Scenic Trail and the Red Bridge and Seaton Creek accesses for the Manistee River Trail

Nordhouse Dunes – 5.4 mile loop
Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, Photo by Forest Service, Eastern Region

Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area is open to hiking with 10-miles of trail accessed from either Lake Michigan Recreation Area or Nurnberg Trailhead. The trail system within the dunes is minimally signed.  While some sections of trail will lead visitors to Lake Michigan, others head to Nordhouse Lake. Visitors are encouraged to use a trail app, bring a compass/GPS unit and/or a current map when hiking the wilderness. Utilizing “Leave No Trace” principles we encourage people to stay on the trail system. Take the 5+ mile exterior loop utilizing multiple trails.

Wolf Creek Trail – 3.9 mile loop
Au Sable River Overlook Colorful Trees
Au Sable River Overlook, Photo by ksblack99

Fairly flat and well marked trail near the Au Sable River. This is a great family-friendly option that should take less than 2 hours to complete.

Featured Image: Manistee National Forest, Photo by Roman Kahler

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