Backpack the Manistee River Trail Loop

Rate this Adventure Seaton Creek Camp Ground

Hike one of the two national forests in the lower peninsula on this beautiful loop with myriad scenic views. This trip is an excellent option for people looking for a quick weekend getaway. 

Day 1: 

Arrive at Seaton Creek Campground and pay for parking for the number of nights you plan on hiking the loop. For this particular trip, I hiked the loop in 2.5 days and 2 nights. 

Hike 1.4 miles from Seaton Creak Campground to a suspension footbridge on the banks of the Manistee River. At this point, take the Manistee River Trail and follow the Manistee River downstream. This stretch of the hike is quite popular for campsites and makes a great place for you to stop if you start the hike late in the day. Depending on the time of year you take this hike, a sizable waterfall will appear by the trail around the 3.2 mile mark. Several more campsites are located around this point. 

Day 2:

Continue hiking southwest along the trail. This portion of the trail takes you along the dunes and bluffs that line the river as well as through the lodgepole pine and oak forests. Terrain at this point is mild, but the views are breathtaking. There are several clearings along the ridge that allow fantastic views of the Manistee River and the surrounding area. 

Keep hiking the trail until you reach Red Bridge Campsite. This is a great place to take a break and refill your water supplies. The car camping site has a toilet and water pump for your convenience. This is the last option for water until you reach a creek at the 18.4 mile mark so make sure you are properly hydrated.

After resting at Red Bridge, cross take the North Country Trail access trail to the main North Country Trail (NCT). During this hike on the access trail, you will climb 300 feet up a ridge to meet the NCT. Hike north along the NCT to Red Hill Lookout at roughly the 13.5 mile mark. This is a fantastic place to set up camp because it is a well-established site off the trail and offers a fantastic view of the surrounding forest.

Day 3:

Hike along the NCT through an expansive old-growth forest for 8.1 miles until you reach the suspension bridge that intersects with Manistee River Trail. Take the Manistee River Trail back to Seaton Creek Campground to complete the loop.

A few things to note:

1. Though there are established campsites along the trail, you may set any camp anywhere you please as long as it is 200 feet from the river.

2. A water filter is HIGHLY recommended for this trip because the only two water pumps are at Seaton Creek and Red Bridge Campsites.

3. There is no registration process for the established campgrounds and camping is based on a first come, first serve basis. 

4. Learn how to properly bear bag your food. Black bears are rare along this trail, but have been reported.

5. Fishing along the Manistee is fantastic. Trout and bass are both inhabitants of the river, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources warns against consuming any of this fish caught because of possible pollutants. 

Pack List

  • Backpacking Essentials
  • Money for parking ($5 per night)
  • Water Filter
  • Camera
  • Bear bagging equipment
  • Fishing pole (optional)
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RT Distance 23 Miles
Activities Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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