North Country Trail Backpacking Trip From Kalkaska to Wexford Counties

The subtle, soulful beauty of Michigan’s Northwoods fills writer Cindy Ross’ heart as she takes a four-day backpacking trip with her family on a gentle stretch of the North Country Trail.

The first time I saw the sandy North Country Trail (NCT) high above the Manistee River, I was on a canoe trip, and we had just docked for a break. I looked at the blue painted blazes beckoning me to follow deep into the pine forest, and I vowed I’d be back—next time, for a walking adventure. One year later, we are here in Northern Michigan, sampling 50 miles of this 4,600-mile National Scenic Trail (NST).

The National Scenic North Country Trail travels from Crown Point, in eastern New York to Lake Sakakawea State Park, in central North Dakota. The section we are hiking in Michigan is from Kalkaska to Old US 131, west through the counties of Kalkaska, Grand Traverse and then into Wexford. This beautiful stretch through the Pere Marquette State Forest is almost entirely constructed and off vehicular roads. It was referred to me by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club, a chapter of the NCT, which maintains 100 miles of this long-distance trail.


My husband, Todd, son Bryce, and good friend Tim, will spend four days, three nights, walking and camping in this wild country, carrying everything we need in our backpacks. This will be our third trip to this beautiful part of Northern Michigan: first to cycle the Leelanau Peninsula, then to paddle the Manistee River, now to hike on the North Country Trail. We come all the way from eastern Pennsylvania to recreate here, which says a lot about Traverse country.

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