Best Hikes in Huron-Manistee National Forests (MI)


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 savannahs, 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. Official Website.

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

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

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

Highbanks Trail*** – 12.8 miles out and back

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

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 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

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.

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