at Bowman Lake
Bowman Lake Semi-Primitive Area is a wonderful glacially sculpted landscape with small pointed kames and kettle holes. Semi-primitve areas are designated to be characterized by a predominantly natural or natural-appearing environment with a moderate probability of experiencing isolation from the sights and sounds of man.
The small kettle-hole lake is walk or bike in only and there are designated campsites. The area has several miles of ski trails, and the North Country Trail also passes through.
Camping- There are 4 primitive sites around Bowman Lake. Hike or bike-in only. Two sites are on the east side of the lake, and two are on the west side including a larger site. Level, built-up tent pads, fire rings with grates, picnic tables.
Boat Launch- I have seen people carry canoes in or bring small boats on a cart. No vehicle access!
Fishing- panfish, bass
Skiing- The primary use of these trails, other than the North Country Trail, is for skiing. See trail descriptions under Hiking.
Snowshoeing- These trails have moderate hills at most and make for very pleasant snowshoeing. See trail descriptions under Hiking.
Biking- These trails are open for bicycle use. See trail descriptions under Hiking.
Bowman Lake Ski Trails
The numbers on the map have been changed to correspond to the Forest Service numbers 1-7. 8-14 are arbitrarily assigned by me. There are now numbered junctions on these trails.
Point 8 to 15 0.25 mile. Follow the narrow trail which leads directly north from the Trailhead. Go across level meadow and enter the trees going slightly uphill. The trail continues level and then drops steeply down to the lake through white pine. Just as you enter the denser woods there is a second trail to the left which goes off and then turns north and also drops steeply to the lake. The route to the lake via the NCT connector and the old road is better- less steep, less eroded.
Point 13 to 12 0.3 mile. Follows an old 2-track. Go east from the lake and pass through a cut in the ridge. The NCT goes south beside the ridge, but climbs to the top as it goes north from this point. Continue straight to Mack Road. There is a very large white pine on this route.
Point 15 to 14 0.67 mile. Follows an old 2-track level beside the lake and then climbing slightly on cut-in roadbed as you leave the lake. Pass the turnoff to campsite 4, the largest of the sites. Continue to ascend gradually to the southwest and then south. As you turn more to the south there is a faint trail that continues almost straight ahead down a valley. Follow an old 2-track and ascend gradually. till reaching a sand parking loop on 56th Street where there is room for 2 or 3 cars.
Point 14 to 7 0.5 mile. Angle to the northwest downhill into a valley on single-track trail and turn due north at the bottom of the valley. Continue to descend until reaching the bottom of an old blow out (a shallow bowl) now growing up with small oaks. Climb gently out of the bowl to the north on trail that is there, but less obvious, you may need to look for it when the ferns are tall. Then enter the forest of cottonwood, sassafras and oak. Continue to climb up a broader valley and then drop into another small open bowl with grass and blueberry bushes, but very few small trees. Go straight across this very shallow bowl, up a hump and descend into another, larger bowl of irregular shape, again very open with few trees. Angle slightly to the right across this one. There are two clumps of trees, one is black oak with 3 trunks, the other is black cherry with 7 trunks, at the northeast corner of this bowl. This is point 7.
Point 7 to 15 0.5 mile. Climb away from the bowl to the east. In a few paces you pass through barrier posts blocking vehicle access since this was an old road. Most of this trail is quite level to very gently descending to the lake. Although this is an old 2-track, until you reach the lake it has grown in enough that it doesn't feel like you are on a road. In 0.3 mile reach the turnoff that goes around the west end of the lake and to campsite 3. The trail continues on the old road around the east end of the lake where you will pass campsites 2 and 1 and a bench near the lake. Reach point 2 where the trails are at their lowest point around the lake.
Point 15 to 13 0.05 mile. Very short connector on the old 2-track which takes you from the lake to the North Country Trail.
Point 7 to 5 0.75 mile. This generally follows old 2-tracks through rolling hills. At point 5 you are very close to the NCT, and can cut across to make a short loop.
Point 5 to 6 0.05 mile. Connect to the NCT.
Point 5 to 4 0.25 mile. Angle NW across the open area from the clumps of oak and cherry and find a wide sand trail climbing out of the bowl into the woods. Follow this until you come to a very old 2-track and turn north. Reach the junction with the Leatherleaf Loop which turns west.
Point 4 to 3, west side - the Leatherleaf Loop, 1 mile. This loop is fairly recently built. It wanders over many small hills and a few low places. Single track trail.
Point 4 to 3, east side 0.5 mile. This generally follows old 2-tracks through rolling hills. At point 5 you are very close to the NCT, and can cut across to make a short loop. Pass a very large hemlock, and an "island" in the trail with a large erratic rock. Reach point 3.
Point 3 to 2 0.05 mile. Connect to the NCT.
Point 3 to 1 0.2 mile. Angle away from the NCT, then back again through flat open woods.
Point 1 to 11 0.1 mile. Cross the NCT and continue to parking on 40th St.
Point 9 to 10 An old 2-track that connects the NCT to Mack Road.
Access- From Bowman Lake Trailhead, or a small parking area off 56th St, from 40th St (dirt), and from Mack Road (dirt) with very limited parking.
Fees- Bowman Lake is NOT a fee site.
Restrictions- National Forest regulations apply, no motorized vehicles
Distance and time- see individual segments, ski trails measured by pacing at which I am fairly accurate
Trail Markers- white painted blazes
Condition of Marking- fairly good, pay attention on sections where the trails wander
Treadway- natural surface, packed sandy soil to loose sand
Grades- flat to rolling
Ecosystem- glacially sculpted region of kames and kettle holes, one of which- Bowman Lake- still has water in it.
Most recent date this info personally checked on foot- March 2020
Back to map
North Country Trail
Follow the link for a description of the North Country National Scenic Trail in Lake County.
NCT connector About 0.1 mile. From in back of the kiosk take the trail marked with white blazes. The trail switchbacks down to the NCT. Turn right to go south (NCT East), or left to go north (NCT West).
Rest Rooms- none
Potable Water- none
Access- off paved 56th St. at large dirt parking area
Fees- Bowman Lake is NOT a fee site.
Restrictions- Forest Service regulations apply
Seasonality- parking lot at Trailhead plowed for ski access
Ecosystem- mature oak woods, some younger woods, glacial kames and kettle holes
Other points of interest- connection to the North Country Trail
Most recent date this info personally checked- March 2020
Additional Facilities- none
Maintained by- Baldwin District of the Manistee National Forest
650 N. Michigan Avenue
P.O. Box D
Baldwin, MI 49304
More- Michigan DNR Lake County Lakes
See Manistee National Forest Recreation Fees