The North Eastern State Trail (NEST)—formerly known as the Alpena to Cheboygan Rail-Trail—is one of the longest rail-trails in Michigan. Surfaced in smooth, crushed limestone, the trail offers an extended journey for snowmobilers, hikers, cyclists, and equestrians through some of the most remote and unpopulated regions of the state.
The trail follows an old Detroit and Mackinac Railway line, first developed in the late 1800s to ship Michigan's vast supplies of timber to points beyond. What loggers didn't haul out was left on the ground, setting the stage for devastating forest fires in the early 20th century and turning entire towns into ash. Many of the towns were never rebuilt. The most recent owners of the line, Lake State Railway, abandoned operations in 1992, allowing the right-of-way to be turned over to outdoor recreationists.
The trail passes through the hearts of some communities, as well as near state parks and recreation sites, boat launches and campgrounds. Yet it's remote in other areas, and at times you won't see a building for miles along this incredible corridor. From its wetlands and woodlands to all sorts of waterways, the North Eastern State Trail offers an incredible wealth of scenery. Wildlife abounds: coyote, fox, deer, raccoon, elk, black bear and beavers inhabit the area. A wide variety of bird species will please twitchers.
History buffs will like this trail, too, as the route takes in old logging towns, railroad stops, and even the town where wooden steering wheels for cars were once manufactured—Onaway. In Millersburg, the halfway point, the last remaining railroad depot stands; it has been renovated into a history museum and year-round trailhead.
There is a new trailhead in Cheboygan with restrooms, parking and a shelter. This trailhead also serves the 62-mile North Central State Trail. At the southern end of the trail in Alpena, the route connects to the paved Alpena Bi-Path via Woodward Avenue on the north end of the city. In the future, the planned Rogers City Spur Trail will take trail users from the North Eastern State Trail near Posen north to Rogers City on Lake Huron.
Trail access is available in several towns along its length, including Posen, Hawks, Millersburg, Onaway, Aloha and the end points of Alpena and Cheboygan. Refer to the website for the Top of Michigan Trails Council under 'Related Content' at right for more information.