Backpack the Manistee River Trail

Michigan Manistee River Trail

Added by Collette Merriott

  • Distance: 17.6 miles round trip
  • Beautiful River scenery with several small waterfalls etched in clay
  • Perfect day or overnight hike
  • Secluded
  • Great hiking, fishing, kayaking
  • Perfect for beginners

Starting at the Red Bridge River Access Area just off North Coates Hwy (about 8 miles east of Brethren, Michigan) there is a small parking lot opposite of the trailhead where you can leave your car. The trail is part of the North Country Trail (NCT) so it is well marked with signs leading the way. The hike begins through trees and some rolling hills and you are soon rewarded with incredible views of the Manistee River. You are either right next to the river or along the bluffs throughout the majority of the hike. Along the way there are scattered, designated campsites. Several are right by the river allowing you to fall asleep listening to the babbling water. Towards the end of the trail there are a few small clay waterfalls that are very popular with many hikers. After nearly 9 miles up the trail you'll reach one of Michigan's largest wooden suspension bridges and the turnaround point of the hike. Go claim a campsite and set up for the night or head back down to your car parked at the Red Bridge River Access Area. It's great hiking year round but it can be busy in summer. You won't be disappointed with the scenery and wildlife!

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Food
  • Water filter
  • Fire starting supplies
  • Swimsuit, at some point you will want to jump in the river!
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Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



17.6 Miles



Dog Friendly

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How to Get There

3 months ago

Great beginner's trip

For a first backpacking trip, it was a lot of fun! We could have turned it into a 2 day, one night trip, but extended it out a bit. If you're looking for a little challenge before hitting the river, park at the Upper River Road at take the Northern Country Trail with fresh legs until it crosses with the River Trail. You'll end up having a larger loop, and still hit the main landmarks, instead of just walking the same route back. We brought our two small dogs, and they had a blast.

3 months ago

10 months ago

It was fun to backpack along the same river I've canoed. The campsites were nice and river access was a plus.

10 months ago

over 1 year ago

Beautiful Hike. Two or three day trail options, plenty of camp space and wildlife!

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Awesome trail for all levels! You can cross the bridge and create a loop instead of the out and back, water is not as available and lengthens the mileage a bit but still really cool place! Map can be found here -

over 1 year ago

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