Last weekend, we hiked the Manistee River Trail in the Manistee National Forest. It's about a 3 hour drive from Kalamazoo (160 miles north). There are several access points to the trail, and we started at Red Bridge and hiked north to the trailhead at the Seaton Creek campground. The trail runs for just over 10 miles along the Manistee River.
The leaves were just starting to change, so we were periodically rewarded with a burst of bright autumn color.
While most of the trees were still green, mushrooms provided an alternative source of color. We passed hundreds and hundreds of mushrooms and assorted fungi-- red, white, black, yellow, brown, orange, grey, and gold-- ranging from the size of pencil eraser to plate-sized.
The trail climbed from the river's edge to high banks overlooking the water and back, so there was a good amount of uphill and downhill walking. The trail crossed a number bridges over streams that feed the Manistee. These streams provided water sources (filtering/purification recommended) for hikers. More developed water supplies were available at the Seaton Creek campground and Red Bridge. (Although both pumps may be closed seasonally.) A few of the creeks featured small waterfalls.
The USFS website for the campground was out-of-date; it was inaccurate about fees (which are actually charged whenever the campground is open, not just in the summer months) and opening/closing dates. (Last weekend was the end of the season and the campground will remain locked until Spring.) The Recreation.gov website for the campground was somewhat more accurate but harder to navigate. We ended up asking the campground host. Campsites were $16 per night.
Directions: Access to the trail is on well-maintained dirt roads off M-37 (south of Mesick.) It was easy to follow the signs to the Seaton Creek campground. The normal route to Red Bridge was blocked due to road construction, but the detour was well-marked.
Recreation.gov offers these directions to Seaton Creek:
GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
From the north: Follow M-37 south 6 miles from Mesick. Turn right on 26 Road (near Yuma) for 1.7 miles, then right on O'Rourke Drive for 1.3 miles, then right on Forest Road 5993 for 0.4 mile to the site.
From the south: Take M-37 north 9 miles from its intersection with M-55. Turn left on 26 Road for 1.7 miles, then right on O'Rourke Drive for 1.3 miles, then right on Forest Road 5993 for 0.4 miles to the site.
Backpacker.com Michigan's Manistee River Trail
Manistee County: map links and Hiking the Loop
Michigan Trail Maps Manistee River Trail and North Country Trail (to order a paper map)