North Central State Trail In Michigan

Here is everything you need to know about the North Central State Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Michigan
  • Length: 62 miles.
  • Type: Biking
  • Surface: paved
  • Managed By: Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website:,4570,7-350-79119_79146_81198_81199_85284—,00.html

The North Central State Trail, located in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, holds a rich historical significance. Originally, this trail was part of the Michigan Central Railroad, which was established in the late 19th century. The railroad played a crucial role in the development and growth of the region, connecting various towns and facilitating the transportation of goods and people.

The construction of the Michigan Central Railroad began in the 1870s, and by the early 1880s, the line was completed, stretching from Gaylord to Mackinaw City. This railway line served as a vital link between the northern communities and the rest of the state, enabling the transportation of timber, agricultural products, and other resources. The railroad also facilitated tourism, allowing visitors to easily access the scenic beauty of northern Michigan.

Over the years, the Michigan Central Railroad underwent several changes in ownership and name. It eventually became part of the Penn Central Railroad, which faced financial difficulties and filed for bankruptcy in 1970. As a result, the rail line was abandoned, and the tracks were removed.

Recognizing the potential of this abandoned railway corridor, efforts were made to repurpose it as a recreational trail. In the early 1990s, the North Central State Trail was established, transforming the former railway into a scenic pathway for walkers, cyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Today, the trail spans approximately 62 miles, passing through picturesque landscapes, charming towns, and historical sites, providing a unique opportunity to explore the region’s rich history while enjoying the beauty of northern Michigan.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Gaylord Trailhead: Located in Gaylord, Michigan, this trailhead is the starting point for the North Central State Trail. It offers parking facilities and restrooms.

2. Vanderbilt Trailhead: Situated in Vanderbilt, Michigan, this trailhead provides parking facilities and restrooms. It is a popular access point for the North Central State Trail.

3. Wolverine Trailhead: Located in Wolverine, Michigan, this trailhead offers parking facilities and restrooms. It serves as an access point for the North Central State Trail.

4. Indian River Trailhead: Situated in Indian River, Michigan, this trailhead provides parking facilities and restrooms. It is a major access point for the North Central State Trail.

5. Topinabee Trailhead: Located in Topinabee, Michigan, this trailhead offers parking facilities and restrooms. It serves as an access point for the North Central State Trail.

6. Cheboygan Trailhead: Situated in Cheboygan, Michigan, this trailhead provides parking facilities and restrooms. It is a popular access point for the North Central State Trail.

7. Mackinaw City Trailhead: Located in Mackinaw City, Michigan, this trailhead offers parking facilities and restrooms. It serves as an access point for the North Central State Trail.

These are some of the major access points or trailheads along the North Central State Trail. There may be additional smaller access points or trailheads along the trail as well.

Transportation Available

1. Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails – A network of paved trails for walking, biking, and inline skating.
2. BATA – Bay Area Transportation Authority – Public bus service connecting various locations in the region.
3. Petoskey Area Transit – Public transportation serving the Petoskey area.
4. Indian Trails – Intercity bus service connecting various cities in Michigan.
5. Mackinaw Trolley Company – Trolley tours and transportation services in the Mackinaw City area.
6. Mackinac Island Ferry – Ferry service to Mackinac Island from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.
7. Little Traverse Wheelway – Scenic paved trail for walking, biking, and rollerblading along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
8. Charlevoix County Transit – Public transportation serving Charlevoix County.
9. Cheboygan County Public Transportation – Public transportation serving Cheboygan County.
10. Emmet County Transit – Public transportation serving Emmet County.


The North Central State Trail offers several amenities for visitors. Some of the amenities available at the trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at various points along the trail for visitors’ convenience.

2. Parking: The trail provides parking areas at different access points, allowing visitors to park their vehicles and access the trail easily.

3. Camping Sites: The North Central State Trail offers camping sites for those who wish to spend the night. These sites may have amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can stop and enjoy a meal or snack. These areas may have picnic tables, benches, and trash receptacles.

5. Trailhead Facilities: At the trailheads, visitors can find amenities such as information boards, maps, and sometimes even visitor centers with additional facilities like water fountains and restrooms.

6. Benches and Seating: The trail provides benches and seating areas at regular intervals, allowing visitors to rest and take in the surrounding scenery.

7. Water Stations: Some sections of the trail may have water stations where visitors can refill their water bottles or hydration packs.

8. Bike Repair Stations: The trail may have bike repair stations equipped with tools and air pumps for cyclists to perform minor repairs or maintenance on their bicycles.

9. Interpretive Signage: Along the trail, there may be interpretive signage providing information about the history, wildlife, and natural features of the area.

10. Accessibility Features: The trail may have accessibility features such as wheelchair-accessible paths, ramps, and facilities to ensure that everyone can enjoy the trail.

Please note that the availability of these amenities may vary at different sections or access points of the North Central State Trail. It is recommended to check with local authorities or trail management for specific details and updates.

Nearby Services

1. Hotel XYZ – Convenient lodging option near the North Central State Trail.
2. Restaurant ABC – Nearby eatery offering a variety of food options.
3. Campground 123 – Camping facility located close to the trail for outdoor enthusiasts.
4. Bed and Breakfast 456 – Cozy accommodation with breakfast included, perfect for a relaxing stay.
5. Fast Food Chain XYZ – Quick and convenient food service option near the trail.
6. Gas Station 123 – Emergency services available, including fuel and basic supplies.
7. Hospital ABC – Nearby medical facility for any emergency needs.
8. Grocery Store XYZ – Convenient store for food and supplies during your visit.
9. Motel 123 – Affordable lodging option near the North Central State Trail.
10. Diner ABC – Quaint diner offering delicious meals for hungry trail-goers.

North Central State Trail Difficulty Notes

The North Central State Trail, located in northern Michigan, offers a moderate difficulty level for outdoor enthusiasts. Spanning over 60 miles, the trail provides a diverse terrain that includes both paved and unpaved sections. While the trail is generally flat and suitable for all skill levels, there are occasional inclines and rougher surfaces that may pose a challenge for beginners. Additionally, the trail passes through scenic landscapes, including forests, wetlands, and charming small towns, adding to the overall enjoyment and experience. Whether you are a casual cyclist, hiker, or runner, the North Central State Trail offers a rewarding adventure with a manageable level of difficulty.

Features And Attractions

The North Central State Trail is a 62-mile long rail trail located in northern Michigan. It passes through several scenic areas, historical sites, and natural landmarks. Here are some notable points of interest along the trail:

1. Gaylord: The trail starts in Gaylord, a charming town known for its vibrant downtown area, unique shops, and restaurants.

2. Otsego Lake State Park: Located just south of Gaylord, this state park offers beautiful views of Otsego Lake, with opportunities for swimming, boating, and fishing.

3. Waters: A small community along the trail, Waters is known for its picturesque landscapes and peaceful atmosphere.

4. Vanderbilt: This historic village features several well-preserved buildings, including the Vanderbilt Area School, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

5. Pigeon River Country State Forest: As the trail continues north, it passes through the Pigeon River Country State Forest, a vast wilderness area known for its diverse wildlife, including elk, deer, and black bears.

6. Wolverine: This small town is home to the Wolverine Historical Museum, which showcases the area’s history, including its railroad heritage.

7. Indian River: Located near Burt Lake, Indian River offers stunning views of the water and is a popular spot for boating, fishing, and other water activities.

8. Cheboygan: The trail ends in Cheboygan, a historic waterfront community known for its lighthouses, marinas, and access to Lake Huron.

These are just a few of the scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks along the North Central State Trail. Exploring the trail will provide you with many more opportunities to discover the beauty and history of northern Michigan.

Usage Guidelines

– Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Horseback riding is not allowed on the trail.
– Motorized vehicles, including ATVs and motorcycles, are prohibited.
– Hunting and trapping are not permitted on the trail.
– Camping is not allowed along the trail.
– Fires and fireworks are strictly prohibited.
– Littering is against the rules; please dispose of trash in designated bins.
– The trail is open year-round, but certain sections may have seasonal restrictions due to weather conditions or maintenance work.

Seasonal Information

The North Central State Trail, located in northern Michigan, offers a picturesque and diverse experience for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. The best times to visit this trail largely depend on personal preferences and the activities one wishes to engage in. However, the spring and fall seasons are particularly popular due to the mild temperatures and stunning natural beauty.

In the spring, the North Central State Trail comes alive with vibrant colors as wildflowers bloom and trees regain their lush foliage. This is an ideal time for hiking, biking, and birdwatching, as the trail is less crowded and the weather is generally pleasant. The trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding forests, wetlands, and rivers, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers.

During the fall, the North Central State Trail transforms into a kaleidoscope of autumn hues, attracting visitors from far and wide. The trail is enveloped in a tapestry of reds, oranges, and yellows as the leaves change, creating a picturesque backdrop for outdoor activities. Hiking or biking along the trail during this time allows visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the changing seasons and enjoy the crisp, cool air.

It is important to note that the North Central State Trail has seasonal closures during the winter months. Due to heavy snowfall and icy conditions, the trail is not accessible for hiking or biking during this time. However, winter enthusiasts can still enjoy the trail by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The snow-covered landscape offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere, providing a unique experience for those seeking winter adventures.

In conclusion, the best times to visit the North Central State Trail are during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is mild and the natural surroundings are at their most vibrant. However, each season offers its own unique charm, and visitors can enjoy a variety of activities throughout the year. It is important to check for seasonal closures during the winter months, but even then, the trail offers opportunities for winter sports enthusiasts to explore its beauty.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces near the trailhead with sufficient space for wheelchair users to easily enter and exit their vehicles.
2. Accessible Trailhead: A trailhead area equipped with accessible ramps, pathways, and signage to ensure easy access for individuals with mobility impairments.
3. Paved Pathways: The trail features paved surfaces, allowing wheelchair users to navigate the trail smoothly and comfortably.
4. Restrooms: Accessible restrooms are available along the trail, equipped with features such as grab bars, wide doorways, and accessible sinks.
5. Picnic Areas: Wheelchair-accessible picnic areas with tables and benches designed to accommodate individuals with mobility impairments.
6. Trail Signage: Clear and visible signage along the trail, including braille and tactile elements, to assist individuals with visual impairments.
7. Accessible Seating: Benches and seating areas along the trail designed to accommodate individuals with mobility impairments.
8. Trail Width: The trail is wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users and individuals with mobility aids, ensuring safe passage.
9. Trail Surface: The trail surface is smooth and even, allowing for easy wheelchair navigation and reducing the risk of tripping or falling.
10. Trail Grade: The trail features gentle slopes and minimal inclines, making it easier for wheelchair users to traverse.
11. Accessible Water Fountains: Wheelchair-accessible water fountains are available along the trail, designed to be easily reached and used by individuals with mobility impairments.
12. Trail Crossings: The trail includes accessible crossings at road intersections, featuring curb cuts and audible signals for individuals with visual impairments.
13. Trail Lighting: Adequate lighting along the trail, ensuring visibility and safety for individuals with visual impairments or those using mobility aids.
14. Accessible Information: Trail maps, brochures, and other informational materials are available in accessible formats, such as large print or electronic versions, for individuals with visual impairments.
15. Assistance Animals: The trail allows for the presence of service animals, providing support and assistance to individuals with disabilities.

Safety Information

When visiting the North Central State Trail, it is important to keep the following safety information in mind:

1. Trail Conditions: Be aware of the current trail conditions before starting your journey. Check for any closures, maintenance work, or weather-related hazards that may affect your safety.

2. Proper Attire: Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the trail. Dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions, and wear sturdy shoes or boots that provide good traction.

3. Hydration: Carry an adequate supply of water to stay hydrated, especially during hot weather. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and other health issues.

4. Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen and wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing to shield yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. This is particularly important during summer months when the sun is stronger.

5. Insect Protection: Use insect repellent to protect yourself from ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. Check for ticks after your visit and remove them promptly to prevent tick-borne illnesses.

6. Wildlife Awareness: Be aware of your surroundings and respect the wildlife. Keep a safe distance from any animals you encounter and avoid feeding or approaching them. Remember, they are wild creatures and can be unpredictable.

7. Trail Etiquette: Follow trail etiquette to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. Stay to the right side of the trail, pass on the left, and announce your presence when overtaking others. Be courteous and share the trail with other users, including cyclists, walkers, and runners.

8. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a fully charged cell phone and let someone know about your plans, including your expected route and estimated return time. In case of an emergency, call 911 or the appropriate emergency services.

9. Stay on the Trail: Stick to designated trails and avoid venturing off into unknown areas. Straying from the trail can lead to getting lost or encountering hazardous conditions.

10. Be Mindful of Traffic: If the trail intersects with roads or other crossings, exercise caution and follow traffic rules. Look both ways before crossing and yield to vehicles when necessary.

Remember, safety is paramount when enjoying outdoor activities. By following these guidelines, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience on the North Central State Trail.

Conservation Notes

The North Central State Trail, located in the state of Michigan, holds a conservation status that is of significant importance. This trail is recognized as a vital corridor for preserving and protecting the natural habitats and biodiversity of the region. The conservation efforts surrounding the North Central State Trail focus on maintaining and enhancing the ecological integrity of the area, ensuring the long-term sustainability of its ecosystems.

One of the key conservation aspects of the North Central State Trail is the preservation of its diverse plant and animal species. The trail traverses through various habitats, including forests, wetlands, and meadows, providing a home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Efforts are made to protect and restore these habitats, ensuring the survival of native species and promoting biodiversity. Conservation initiatives also aim to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species, which can disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Furthermore, the North Central State Trail plays a crucial role in conserving water resources. The trail runs alongside rivers, streams, and lakes, which are essential for the survival of aquatic species and provide a source of drinking water for local communities. Conservation measures are implemented to maintain water quality, prevent pollution, and preserve the natural flow of these water bodies. Additionally, the trail’s conservation status includes the protection of riparian zones, which are critical for stabilizing stream banks, filtering pollutants, and providing habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species.

In summary, the conservation status of the North Central State Trail is focused on preserving and protecting the diverse habitats, plant and animal species, and water resources found along its route. These efforts aim to maintain the ecological integrity of the area, promote biodiversity, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the trail’s ecosystems.

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