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Shark Enterprises
Joan H. Young
861 W. US 10
Scottville, MI 49454
events@getoffthecouch.info
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this page updated 2/26/11

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on the North Country Trail



North Country Trail

North Country Trail

This is just one segment of a 4400 mile National Scenic Trail. There are several hundred continuous off-road miles which can be hiked within the Manistee National Forest and northward. The trail continues southward in Mason County and to the north in Wexford County. Parts of this section are open to bicycles.


Camping-
Dispersed- Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere in the Manistee National Forest if you are 200 feet from the trail, or a water source, and 1/4 mile from a road or developed campsite.
Private Landowner- There is a campsite for NCT hikers on private land along Cedar Creek Road.
Blacksmith Bayou- Blacksmith Bayou Campground is a National Forest Campground on the Manistee River reached by a short trail very near the NCT. Campsites have picnic tables, fire rings with grates, latrine, water.
Sawdust Hole- Sawdust Hole Campground is a National Forest Campground on the Pere Marquette River reached by a side trail just west of Dilling Rd. Campsites have picnic tables, fire rings with grates, latrine, water.
Seaton Creek- Seaton Creek Campground is a National Forest Campground (actually just into Wexford County) reached by a side trail from south Beers Rd. Campsites have picnic tables, fire rings with grates, latrine, water.

North Country National Scenic Trail in Manistee County
Segment 1 (Nine-Mile Bridge to Udell Trailhead on M-55) Open to bicycles

Description of this section is sketchy at this time, but begins at Nine-Mile Bridge, approximately the Mason / Manistee County line and proceeds north.

Walk north on Scocelas Road over the Little Manistee River and turn east on Udell Hills Road in about 0.5 mile. Look left almost immediately for where the trail returns to the woods. You will now cut across this wooded corner. This portion has rolling ridges. Cross a 2-track and under a power line and in 0.5 mile re-cross the dirt corner of Scocelas and Good Roads.

Turn north into the woods on the other side. Climb a long gentle slope, and then descend briefly into a badly eroded area and climb back out of this. Angle right on an old woods road, and then veer left into the woods. In about 0.75 mile, cross a 2-track.

You are now circling the west edge of the Udell Hills and the Big M Ski Area. The NCT crosses bike trails and old service roads several times, finally joining one of the old roads for a short distance. Watch for a turn left into the woods off this, but it is well marked. Reach M-55 and the Udell Trailhead in about another 0.5 mile.
Access- parking at Nine-Mile Bridge. for about 6 cars, information kiosk, fee site. Parking at Udell Trailhead for many cars, information kiosk, fee site.
Restrictions- No horses or motorized vehicles. No camping within 200 feet of the trail.
Distance and time- 6.1 miles, about 2.5 hours.
Trail Markers- blue rectangular painted blazes (some blue diamonds remain).
Condition of Marking- adequate- treadway is slightly sunken so should be able to be seen even with fresh snow.
Treadway- packed sandy forest soil.
Grades- flat to rolling with only a few short sections which could be called moderately steep.
Ecosystem- edges of Udell Hills which has lots of topography
Other points of interest- Big M Ski Area
Most recent date this info personally checked on foot- Oct 2010
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Comment

North Country National Scenic Trail in Manistee County
Segment 2 (Udell Trailhead on M-55 to Highbridge) Closed to bicycles

Description of most of this section is sketchy at this time, but begins at M-55 (Udell Trailhead) and proceeds north.

Cross M-55 and enter the woods, but emerge shortly on Huff Road to cross Pine Creek. Continue north on Huff to Cedar Creek Road (dirt) and turn right (east). This angles southeast and in about 1 mile turn left (north) on Michigan Avenue (dirt). Take this north for just over a mile to Chicago Avenue (dirt). Turn right and watch for where the trail returns to the woods on the north side of the road in about 0.3 miles.

There are now 1.7 miles till you reach Highbridge, but within that stretch you pass Blacksmith Bayou Campground on the banks of the Manistee River. There is a flyer you can get at the Manistee Ranger Station for interpretive stations between Blacksmith Bayou and Highbridge. Angle into Highbridge Road from the southwest. Cross the road and there is a pedestrian walkway on the east side of the road. Highbridge parking is on the northwest side of the bridge. There are latrines there.
Access- Parking at Udell Trailhead on M-55 for many cars, information kiosk, fee site. Parking at Highbridge for many cars, fee site.
Restrictions- No horses or motorized vehicles. No camping within 200 feet of the trail, no bicycles Udell (M-55) to Dilling Rd.
Distance and time- 5.9 miles, about 2 hours.
Trail Markers- blue rectangular painted blazes (some blue diamonds remain).
Condition of Marking- adequate, treadway is slightly sunken so should be able to be seen even with fresh snow. Road walks may not be as well marked
Treadway- packed sandy forest soil and some sand roads
Grades- flat to moderate with a few sections which could be called moderately steep.
Ecosystem- xeric oak and pine woods
Most recent date this info personally checked on foot- Oct 2010
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Comment

North Country National Scenic Trail in Manistee County
Segment 3 (Highbridge to Upper River Road Trailhead) Closed to bicycles from Highbridge to Dilling Rd.



The trail leaves Highbridge on the northeast side of the bridge angling obliquely down the bank away from the road. After reaching the bottom of the hill the trail turns east to follow the river.
0.7 mile - There is a nice marker at the site of the former High Bridge where the Pere Marquette Railroad crossed the Manistee River. You can still see some of the foundations. Soon you veer away from the river.
1.0 mile - Cross a 2-track and briefly parallel a snowmobile trail. Continue along the bluff
1.8 miles - Begin to drop down, make an abrupt right turn and then another switchback. There are some good views in this section.
3.2 miles - Descend on a series of switchbacks to river level in an area known as Leitch Bayou. The beavers have made the first stream crossing difficult. This area is scheduled for repairs in 2011. Here the trail wanders on the level, fairly close to the river. This area is popular with anglers.
3.6 miles - Cross four small bridges while you are at river level, and then reach some puncheon. Immediately after this you climb back to the bluff.
4.6 miles - The NCT angles left at the top of the bluff and quickly reach Dilling Road. If you continue straight for just a short way you can reach Sawdust Hole Campground.
4.7 miles - Cross Dilling Road. Climb away from Dilling Road and cross a 2-track.
5.5 miles - Reach the top of the bluff, and begin a section with some ups and downs until you reach the bluff above Tippy Dam Pond when you will continue mostly along the contour.
7.4 miles - Side trail to "Far From the Maddening Crowd Knoll" - nice view.
8.4 miles - Down at river level cross 2 track near River Road where there is an unofficial campsite. Climb again to bluff; there are several nice views here.
10.0 miles - Make a sharp left and drop to cross Coates Highway. (Red Bridge access to the Manistee River is to the right down this road, but if you want to go there, continue on the trail, take the turnoff the the Manistee River Trail, and it will lead you to the bridge without walking the road.)
10.5 miles - There is a steep side trail (0.4 mile) down to the parking at Upper River Road Trailhead.
Access- Parking at Highbridge for many cars, fee site. Parking at Sawdust Hole for 2 or 3 cars. Parking at Upper River Road TH for several cars.
Restrictions- No horses or motorized vehicles. No camping within 200 feet of the trail. No bicycles south of Dilling Road
Distance and time- 10.5 miles, about 4 hours. Distance measured with a measuring wheel.
Trail Markers- blue rectangular painted blazes (some blue diamonds remain).
Condition of Marking- adequate, treadway is slightly sunken so should be able to be seen even with fresh snow.
Treadway- packed sandy forest soil
Grades- flat to moderate with a few sections which could be called moderately steep.
Ecosystem- Wooded bluffs above the Manistee River and prairie-like floodplain of the river
Other points of interest- former site of High Bridge on the Pere Marquette Railroad, marker for the Sawdust Hole historic saw mill
Most recent date this info personally checked on foot- March 2011
Back to map
Comment

North Country National Scenic Trail in Manistee County
Segment 4 (Upper River Road to Wexford County Line) Open to bicycles


Description of this section is mostly sketchy at this time, but begins at Upper River Road and proceeds north.

There is parking for several cars at Upper River Road Trailhead, and you will have a steep climb up to reach the main NCT.

This section is the NCT half of the popular North Country / Manistee River Trails loop hike. This loop is about 20 total miles and makes a nice weekend backpack.

The trail in this section is mostly on the bluff above the Manistee River with lots of good views. There is a bench just south of the Marilla Trailhead with a nice view over the river valley.

Trail in this section has been changed to connect with the new NCT on the north shore of Hodenpyl Dam pond. This description is probably not accurate. Reach the turnoff to the Suspension Bridge, Little Mac, the 2nd largest suspension bridge in Michigan! To reach Seaton Creek Campground, or the Manistee River Trail, cross the bridge. To continue north on the NCT, do not cross the bridge. Reach Marilla Trailhead.

Most people stop at Marilla unless they are thru-hiking, but to complete Manistee County you need to hike another 3 miles north. Cross Beers Road and enter the woods. Cross a small creek and then to some open rolling hills. The trail continues NNE to Benton Road and then you are in Wexford County. (turn east on Benton and north on No 3 Road, cross a wooded triangle and reach the rest area on M-115 west of Mesick. This is a nice place to be dropped off or picked up, or to stage day hikes, but you can not leave a car here overnight.)

There is brand new NCT built along Hodenpyl Pond which will connect to the Marilla TH, and the segment currently north of the Marilla TH will be abandoned. This new section is not to be missed! However, you will have to do a little extra work to make the connection for the near future. If you walk east on Beers Road from Marilla TH and then turn south (right) on Dam Road in just under a mile, you should see the new trail heading east (left). You could also possibly find it by leaving the current NCT route via the turnoff to the Manistee River Trail. When that trail joins a two-track, continue on that road till reaching Woodpecker Creek. The new trail heads upstream beside Woodpecker Creek, but this is currently unmarked.
Access- Parking at Upper River Road Trailhead, Marilla Trailhead, information kiosks, fee sites
Restrictions- No horses or motorized vehicles. No camping within 200 feet of the trail.
Distance and time- 9.2 miles (Upper River Road to Marilla, and another 3 miles to the county line, about 4 hours.
Trail Markers- blue rectangular painted blazes (some blue diamonds remain).
Condition of Marking- adequate, treadway is slightly sunken so should be able to be seen even with fresh snow.
Treadway- packed sandy forest soil
Grades- flat to moderate with a few short sections which could be called moderately steep.
Ecosystem- Xeric mature oak and pine forest. Red Pine plantations. Mixed northern hardwoods. Mostly on bluff above Manistee River
Other points of interest- connection to Manistee River Trail, Manistee River suspension bridge
Most recent date this info personally checked on foot- 2005
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Comment

Bicycling- The trail is open to bicycles south of Udell Trailhead, and north of Dilling Road. This means it is closed to bicycles from Udell to Dilling.

Picnicking- tables at Udell Trailhead, Blacksmith Bayou, Sawdust Hole, Marilla Trailhead

Scenic Views- some nice views of the Manistee River, and the Suspension Bridge

Handicap Accessibility- latrine at Udell Trailhead is accessible with natural surface approach

Rest Rooms- Latrines at Udell Trailhead, Blacksmith Bayou (short distance off the trail), Highbridge (very short distance off the trail), Sawdust Hole (short distance off the trail), Marilla Trailhead
Potable Water- summer only - hand pump at Udell Trailhead

Access- Official Trailheads at Udell Trailhead (M-55), Upper River Road, Marilla. Un-official trailhead at Sawdust Hole
Restrictions- All National Forest regulations apply. Many of the trailheads within the Manistee NF are now Recreation Fee Sites. This means you need a sticker to park there. There are self-pay tubes for $3 daily or $5 weekly passes, or get a yearly pass for $20 at a Ranger Station
More- Visit the NCTA official web site or Joan's hiking page for more information. The NCTA has full-color, topographic, field-checked maps of this section. Call 1-866-hikeNCT and ask for MI-05 Cost is $4.50 (covers 90 miles of trail).
You can download the Forest Service Maps of the trail. They will no longer be putting these at the trailheads due to costs.
In lieu of the Forest Service parking fee, Interagency passes are also accepted. Display on your dashboard when you park.
Maintained by- Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. Contact them to report problems or for more information on helping build and maintain trail.
This section of trail is all within the Manistee National Forest

[Counties] Lake County Manistee County Mason County Oceana County

Nine-mile Bridge Public Access and parking can be reached by driving east on Freesoil Road. Five miles east of Freesoil, turn north on Campbell Rd, a good, graded dirt road. Continue for 5 miles and cross Riverside Drive. The road becomes Scocelas Rd (now in Manistee County). Just 1/10 mile farther the Public Access is on the left, before crossing the bridge.

Or from Manistee go east on M-55 for 8 miles, and turn south on dirt Scocelas Rd. After several twists and turns this reaches Nine-mile Bridge.

Udell Trailhead- Located on M-55 12 miles east of Manistee or 14 miles west of M-37, on the south side of the road.

Blacksmith Bayou- On M-55 east of Manistee go to Highbridge Road. (15 miles east of Manistee, and 9 miles west of M-37) Turn north on Highbridge, and in 2 miles turn left, then watch for the sign to turn right into Blacksmith Bayou. The trail crosses the road before you reach the campground.

Highbridge- On M-55 east of Manistee go to Highbridge Road. (15 miles east of Manistee, and 9 miles west of M-37) Turn north on Highbridge and you will come to the bridge in 3 miles. The main, paved parking area is on the northwest side of the bridge, but there is also a dirt area where you can park on the southwest side.

Sawdust Hole- On M-55 east of Manistee go to Highbridge Road. (15 miles east of Manistee, and 9 miles west of M-37) Turn north on Highbridge, and go to Brethren. Turn east on Coates Highway, and 3.5 miles turn south on Tippy Dam Road. In about 2.5 miles turn right on a dirt road to Sawdust Hole. Before you reach the campground there is a dirt area for 2 or 3 cars to park just where you reach the bluff edge. The NCT is reached by an unmarked trail which follows the bluff straight out from the front of this parking area. There is also paved parking at the end of Tippy Dam Road.

Upper River Road Trailhead- On M-55 east of Manistee go to Highbridge Road. (15 miles east of Manistee, and 9 miles west of M-37) Turn north on Highbridge and go to Brethren. Turn east on Coates Highway. In 7.7 miles, turn north on dirt Upper River Road. The trailhead is on the left in 0.2 miles

Marilla Trailhead- From M-55 go to Highbridge Road. (15 miles east of Manistee, and 9 miles west of M-37) Turn north on Highbridge and go to Kaleva. Turn east on 9-Mile Road. The pavement will jog north, and then east again on Beers Road. The Marilla Trailhead is 2 miles east of this jog, on the south side of the road.

Or from M-37, go to Mesick and turn west on M-115. Just under 2 miles west of town, turn south on Hodenpyl Dam Road. The Trailhead is in 5 miles on the south side of the road.

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