The 62-mile North Central State Trail (formerly the Gaylord to Mackinaw City Rail-Trail) offers a multi-use trail adventure into Michigan's north woods, with connections to well-established tourist towns at both ends. With its new crushed limestone surface and a reasonable mileage between towns, this trail will surely tempt touring cyclists to try a weekend trek to famous Mackinac Island and back. Northern Michigan scenery from hilly agricultural fields, quaint little towns, forests, lakes and rivers to native wildlife and wildflowers abounds.
Starting from the southern terminus of Gaylord at the county fairgrounds, you quickly leave civilization for the peacefulness of the woods and rolling farm fields. The first town is Vanderbilt with plenty of trailside parking and restroom facilities. From Vanderbilt to Wolverine, the trail parallels quite close to I-75, but the feel is still remote with the buffer of woods and steep hilly landscape all along the route. At several bridges along the way and at Lumberjack Park in Wolverine, you may encounter canoeists and inner-tubers enjoying the Sturgeon River. Wading and swimming is allowed but use caution as the current is somewhat swift.
The town of Indian River has plenty of eateries, shops, camping, hotels, scenic Burt Lake and other attractions. Trail user parking and tourism information is available at the Chamber of Commerce located on the trail in town.
Leaving Indian River, the trail soon brings you within mere feet of the shores of beautiful Mullett Lake, which stretches for a crystalline 15 miles. A mile or so before Topinabee you will find a public beach, parking, restrooms and other amenities. After leaving the lake the trail takes a direct shot across farm fields to roll into Cheboygan. Leaving the trail to head north into town will allow you to catch your first views of giant Lake Huron. A ferry boat from the city dock can take you to Bois Blanc Island for some enjoyable biking on lightly traveled roads.
When you head northwest again, the trail is tree-lined with pine, maple and oak, and parallels US 23 on this 14-mile stretch into Mackinac City. You get several glimpses of Lake Huron through the trees. Mill Creek State Park is about midway between the two towns and offers nature and historic education. Your final destination is the premier resort town of Mackinaw City, home to the 5-mile, suspension-style Mackinac Bridge, historic Fort Mackinaw and many other attractions, as well as the ferry boats that will carry you to world-renowned Mackinac Island.
Parking and Trail Access
Gaylord: Take Interstate 75 to Exit 282 and go east on Main St (M-32) for 0.75 mile to N. Center Street. Turn left for 1 mile to the trailhead on the left and trail on right.
Indian River: Take I-75 to Indian River Exit 310. Go west on Onaway Road and down the hill to Club Street; turn left and park at the park.
Mackinaw City: Take I-75 to Exit 338 and go left onto Mackinaw Hwy for 0.5 mile to Sheplers Drive; turn right for 0.25 mile to the trailhead on the left.