North Western State Trail


23 Reviews

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North Western State Trail Facts

States: Michigan
Counties: Emmet
Length: 32 miles
Trail end points: North Central State Trail at Mackinaw Crossings Dr (Mackinaw City) and Spring Lake Park on SR 119 (Petoskey)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016181

North Western State Trail Description

The North Western State Trail—formerly known as the Petoskey to Mackinaw Trail after its endpoints—passes through many communities along the way, including Conway, Oden, Ponshewaing, Brutus, Pellston, Van, Levering, and Carp Lake. In 2018, the scenic route was recognized with a National Recreation Trail designation.

Following the route of the former Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, the rail-trail is open to all non-motorized uses year-round, and to snowmobiles from December 1 to March 31. The northern section of the trail, from Mackinaw City to Alanson, was resurfaced with a hard-pack aggregate and asphalt in 2015. The southern 7-mile section between Alanson and Petoskey is paved with asphalt. Bikes with wider tires, like mountain bikes, are recommended for the unpaved sections. 

Carp Lake and Mackinaw City on the north end are especially suitable as staging areas for off-trail excursions onto lightly traveled local (paved and gravel) roads. The northern trailhead in Mackinaw City also serves the North Central State Trail, which extends south 62 miles to Gaylord, meeting the 71-mile North Eastern State Trail along the way in Cheboygan.

Near the North Western State Trail’s southern end at Spring Lake Park in Petoskey, you can hop across State Route 119 to pick up the Little Traverse Wheelway. The paved 26-mile rail-trail extends north to Harbor Springs and south to Charlevoix.

Parking and Trail Access

There is a small parking lot and restrooms at Spring Lake Park on SR 119 at the south end of the North Western State Trail in Petoskey. To reach the park from the south, take US 31 north through Petoskey to SR 119. Turn left on the highway towards Mackinaw City and travel for about 0.5 mile; parking is on the right.

There is also a trailhead alongside the trail at the Oden State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center. Additional parking is available at Pellston at the old rail depot and on side streets in several other small towns along the way. At the north end of the trail in Mackinaw City, there is a sizeable trailhead for parking. Restrooms can be found in the adjacent mall.


North Western State Trail Reviews

Made for a good afternoon ride

July 2023 we rode from Mackinac Bridge to Petoskey. Leaving Mack City, the trail was paved for a short distance then switched to pea sized gravel that seemed freshly placed and was slightly loose in some spots until Alanson where it was paved all the way to Petoskey. We rode with 40mm tire gravel bikes and had no issues. Smooth road bike tires would likely be challenging in looser gravel and sand at some road crossings. With 25 or 28mm, with strong confidence and bike handling skills, it might be okay. Scenery was true upper MI forest with very few views of water. Petoskey Brewing at the end of the trail also has good food. Would recommend the trail!

Highly Recommend

We rode this trail from Mackinaw to Petosky as part of a three day ride on several Northern Michigan trails. We were all on mountain bikes and had no issues at all with the trail surfaces. The scenery was incredible along the way, and once you get to Alanson the last 8 miles into Petosky are all paved so it is very easy going. Good signage and a lot of nice stops along the route.

Passable for a toad bike.

In early June 2022 I followed the trail from Mackinac City to Petosky. The crushed limestone surface was in good condition and OK on a road bike with 25mm tires. The majority of the path is fairly straight with few hills and unvaried scenery - good zen experience Quite a few downed limbs and trees on the path which had to be climbed over or walked around. The coastal route to Harbor Springs is more interesting.

Loose gravel makes it tough in spots

We rode this as part of a ride from Charlevoix to Alpena along the trails. The paved portions from Petoskey to Alanson are very nice, but the gravel is too deep and loose once you are north of Alanson. We trudged along with full packs and camping gear for a while, but once we hit Pelston we decided to ride on the highway shoulder the rest of the way to Mackinaw. I think that saved us over an hour and allowed us to reach Mackinaw and get set up at the KOA a half hour before the rain hit.


Rode Pellston to Petoskey on the first day then Mackinaw City to Pellston the second day. This was a really nice trail! Not for road bike tires. Excellent signage, lots of places to rest and get refreshments or food.

Rode Pellston to Petoskey on the first day then Mackinaw City to Pellston the second day. This was a really nice trail! Not for road bike tires. Excellent signage, lots of places to rest and get refreshments or food.

tough ride

We started at the Pelston airport and rode to Mackinaw. Soft limestone and no opportunity to rest. Pedal, pedal, pedal the entire ride. We were riding our recumbent bikes. Really need to ride a different bike for this trail.

Great Ice Cream Parlor at Carp Lake.

Jump off at Carp Lake and have Ice cream at Harbor Lights Grill. Great scenery too.

Where are the critters?

Rode from alanston to petoskey. Good signage and good trail surface. But no animals, not even a chipmunk, this despite being in a "rural" area.
Lots of roadkill on the highways must be impacting the smaller mammals I used to see. The coach car museum was neat though.

Super smooth

I rode this during the summer of 2016 on our ride from Grand Rapids to the Mackinaw Bridge. This was by far one of the best sections of our ride. The state has taken a lot of precautions to make sure that this trail is to not be used by snowmobilers or ATVs. The surfarce may be dirt (or gravel), but it's so smooth it could easily be enjoyed by a road biker.

Beautiful, Mixed Surface Trail in Good Condition

We rode the entirety of the trail from Spring Lake to Mackinaw City and back. It is asphalt from Spring Lake to Alanson, crushed limestone until Mackinaw City. I have found surfaces described as “crushed limestone” to range from coarse, gray dust to pea gravel; think of this trail surface as a 75/25 mix of lentils and peas. For most of the non-paved section, the crushed limestone is applied as an ideally thin layer, although it is a little thicker in Alanson and Pellston. Nothing to whine about, but traction is diminished and you’ll pedal just a little bit harder in those areas (until traffic and winter compact the surface). I used 700 x 42 mm tires, my riding companion used 700 x 38 tires. That size range seemed just about right for the non-paved areas. The trail is very close to completely flat and grades are barely perceptible. As of October 2016, the trail is very well-groomed for its entirety.

You’ll get views of some nice lakes and ponds at the southern end of the trail. Portions to the north are almost completely tree-lined, even though you are just off the highway. Trail facilities (water, restrooms) are non-existent, but the trail is so close to the highway that there is no problem.

Very nice scenery overall. I recommend this trip.

Beautiful easy ride between Alanson and Oden

We parked in Alanson and rode to Oden and back. The trail was smoothly paved and easy in this section. We visited the State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center in Oden and found it interesting, fun and a beautiful setting. Note that the Hatchery is not in Alanson as it says under "Parking and Access", but on the West side of Oden.

not asphalt

I rode this trail a couple of weeks ago, starting in Mackinaw City down to Schmalzreid Rd. I was disappointed that after the first 1.5 mile or so it is NOT asphalt but pebbly stone. It's really not a bad surface for me, with my hybrid bike, but I was with a young friend with very narrow tires on his racing bike, and it's definitely not a surface for that sort of bike. In fact, we cut our ride short and came back on the shoulder of US 31. It's a beautiful trail, but I'm really writing this to register a complaint with your website -- it misleads the reader to think the trail is paved when it is not. For others' sake, please make it clear which section are/are not hard surface. I love RTC and TrailLink, but want to be able to depend on you for accurate information.

Great New Trail

Just rode this trail yesterday the 15 miles RT from Petoskey to Alanson. It connects nicely to the Wheelway in Petoskey at the Spring Lake Park with lots of shaded parking, modern restrooms and a bike repair kiosk. Petoskey State Park and downtown Petoskey are nearby. The trail is all asphalt and is flat all the way. There is a cute lending library just outside Petoskey before you get to the lake viewing area. See the attached photo. It goes right by the Oden Fish Hatchery where you can purchase food for 25 cents to feed the trout. There are restrooms and a little gift shop. The tour is great as well. The only thing I did not like was the closeness to 31 just before you get to Alanson. It was pretty noisy and not as scenic as other parts of the trail. Definitely worth a ride.

Levering to Brutus

I biked this trail and found it to be in great condition and well marked. It is a beautiful ride mostly along US 31 and going through pellston. There are places to stop, eat get water and restrooms. I highly recommend this trail for serious bikers and also casual bikers.

Improvements well under way!

Improvements scheduled to expand North Western State Trail
Contact: Emily Meyerson, 231-487-0931
Agency: Natural Resources

bicycle riders on trail with grass and trees around it April 9, 2015

The Department of Natural Resources today announced that the Alanson-to-Mackinaw City segment of the North Western State Trail will be improved and under construction this summer. Work will begin in April with tree clearing near intersections, and trail construction will begin June 1. Bridge work will continue through the fall.

The 23-mile trail segment between Alanson and Mackinaw City in Emmet County has been an unimproved rail corridor and designated snowmobile trail. Improvements this summer will make the trail (with a 10-foot-wide, packed crushed limestone surface) more accessible to nonmotorized users in the warmer months without snow, except in Pellston, where the trail surface will be asphalt. Once construction is completed, the trail will continue to be open year-round to all nonmotorized users, and open to snowmobiles Dec. 1 to March 31. Seven miles of this trail, between Petoskey at M-119 and Alanson, were surfaced with asphalt in 2013.

The North Western State Trail is 32 miles in length and, when complete, will connect Petoskey to Mackinaw City. The new trail segment will connect Alanson, Brutus, Pellston, Levering, Carp Lake and Mackinaw City to Petoskey and Harbor Springs.

“Once the North Western State Trail is complete, every incorporated place in Emmet County will be connected by trail,” said trail project coordinator Emily Meyerson. “Even better, when this trail is complete, you will be able to get on a trail in Charlevoix, go through Petoskey, Mackinaw City and Cheboygan, and on to either Gaylord (114 miles) or Alpena (138 miles) completely on multi-use trails. Just think what cool adventures await.”

The DNR owns and manages the trail corridor, located on the former Grand Rapids to Mackinaw Railroad. The Top of Michigan Trails Council has coordinated the trail project, with funding coming from various sources, including the Federal Transportation Alternatives Program, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Recreation Improvement Fund and Emmet County.

Still being improved.

I rode this from Mackinaw City to the Pellston airport and back to Mackinaw City on 8-21-15. It is paved asphalt for the first 1\4 mile or so. I rode this on my mountain bike. The trail has been improved over the basic dirt two track. It appears that they have just put down the fine gravel and the edges have been mostly filled with dirt and seeded. This trail is about 10 feet wide. This trail is very straight. Lots of trees. A little bit of road noise, but not much. There are signs up everywhere that say trail closed. Judging by the grass seeding I am guessing they may have this next year or later. It is mostly very nice riding through the woods.

Great smooth ride!

Great ride from Petoskey to Alanson! Construction from Alanson to Mackinaw city, bummed we couldn't ride.

Great Ride

We rode from Alanson to Charlevoix (approx 23 miles), well marked, smooth. The section from Petoskey to Bay Harbor is awesome allong the bay, it's about 4-5 miles so if you need a short ride it's an A+.

Great Ride

While camping at Petoskey State Park (across the street from the trailhead), I took a couple of rides on this trail. Due to time restrictions, I never made it quite to Alanson, but this path is fantastic!! Several of us took our kids on this trail with us and everyone loved it. Some of our group stopped at the fishery for a little visit. When we drove to Mackinac, it appeared that they are paving the path well beyond Alanson. Should make a wonderful path even greater!

Smooth as Silk!

Road this Trail July 24 2014 after finishing Little Traverse Wheelway. It's smooth as silk all the way to Alanson which is the 1st 7.5 mile paved section. If you are looking for a trail to put the Hammer Down you just found one. It's smooth. It's straight and it's long. But don't go too fast. Take time to enjoy the many pretty wooded areas and lakes. (Round Lake and Crooked Lake.)I can't wait until this is paved all the way to Mackinaw City! (32 miles)You could theoretically ride from Charlevoix via the Little Traverse Wheelway, and then all the way to Mackinaw City on the North Western State Trail.
I recommend Parking at Spring Lake Park. Its right at the Trailhead. There are restrooms and water. From there you have access to both the North Western State Trail AND the Little Traverse Wheelway. I liked it and will hopefully ride it again when I return. (See my other reviews Little Traverse Wheelway, Leelanau Trail, and Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Thx)

new trail to Alanson

My wife and I just rode this trail. We rode from Alanson to the Spring lake , the first mile or so is along the highway and not very nice. I don't know why this was done? there is a railroad grade just inside the tree's !! It would have been much nicer, and alot less expensive to build. After the section on the highway you rejoin the rail grade and the trail is much better. If we ride this trail again we will try to avoid the section to Alanson.

New Asphalt Section

The last time I looked at this trail was a couple of years ago. The southern end started at a nature center called Spring Lake Park across M119 from a section of the Little Traverse Wheelway. It was only dirt, so I did not attempt it on my bike. Last week, I was pleased to discover that there is now an asphalt section from the park that ends at the outer limits of Alanson. It is exactly 7 miles long. It has some great views of a couple of lakes along the way. There is also the beginning of a safe crosswalk from the LTW trail to this one. When I return for my vacation next year, I hope to find more work completed.


I rode this trail last summer on my mountain bike. I parked at the park on the south end and rode north to just a little past the Pellston airport and turned around and rode back. There was some construction at the south end where the were installing some small pipe underground. There was some sections where the branches had grown in and it was difficult riding. There was one section where the grass had grown up to 3 feet tall and was most difficult but I got through that also. There could be more signs on the path for attractions such as a sign for House of Pies or for other food or water stops. There were no signs. This year I have not ridden it but I drove past it and it looks like parts of the trail are being re-routed closer to the noisy highway. It will be paved also from what I have read. More updates to come later this summer.

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