North Central State Trail


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North Central State Trail Facts

States: Michigan
Counties: Cheboygan, Otsego
Length: 74.9 miles
Trail end points: Mackinaw Highway (Mackinaw City) and Bradford Dr. (Frederic)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016210

North Central State Trail Description


The nearly 75-mile North Central State Trail offers a multi-use trail adventure into the hills, agricultural areas, woods, and waterways of Michigan, with connections to well-established tourist towns at both ends. 

About the Route

From the northern end, the trail leaves off just south of the famed Mackinac Bridge spanning 5 miles across the Straits of Mackinac (pronounced “Mackinaw”) to join the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. 

Leaving off from Mackinaw and heading south, the trail is paved and well-used for the first half mile, after which its surface turns to well-maintained crushed stone and is sparsely used. The trail’s route is mostly flat throughout its length, even where there are rolling vistas.

Although the route parallels US 23 for the first 15 miles, it boasts the beautiful northern woods as its backdrop, where trail users can spot interesting birds as well as an occasional view of Lake Huron, to the east. Rail buffs may be interested in the remaining railroad tracks and historical markers along the trail, chronicling old rail towns. Snowmobiles use the trail in season, and trailside businesses cater to them.

Usage increases again as the trail reaches Cheboygan, at about mile 16. The Cheboygan trailhead offers parking, restrooms, water, and picnic facilities. Trail users can also detour off the trail here for food and beverage options. Those planning to continue south should fill their water bottles at the trailhead, as water is scarce between Cheboygan and Gaylord.

Continuing south from Cheboygan, the trail passes through a popular section of trail that skirts Mullett Lake, a beautiful, 15-mile-long inland lake that stretches to Indian River. A highlight of this segment is the town of Topinabee, which has a public beach, park and playground, parking, and restrooms, as well as a library inside an old railroad depot. Nearby Indian River has restrooms, a market, covered picnic tables, a playground, and a train depot repurposed into a boutique.

Trail users should be extra-vigilant when crossing busy MI 68, south of Indian River, as the trail is located near an entrance ramp from I-75. South of Indian River, the trail feels more solitary and wildlife sightings increase; be on the lookout for turkey, deer, snakes, and frogs.

As you near the trail’s southern endpoint, you’ll pass a state forest campground and then a train depot in Wolverine. You’ll parallel I-75 between Wolverine and Vanderbilt, after which the remote feel of the trail continues until reaching Gaylord. The trail here passes through downtown Gaylord and then continues on to Waters. The trail's southern endpoint is located just past Waters along Bradford Dr. in Frederic.


At the trail's northern endpoint, it connects to the North Western State Trail.

In Cheboygan, the trail connects to the North Eastern State Trail.

The North Central State Trail is part of the Iron Belle Trail, two routes that cross over 2,000 miles, and both peninsulas of Michigan.

Parking and Trail Access

The North Central State Trail runs between Mackinaw Highway (Mackinaw City), which offers parking, and Bradford Dr. (Frederic).

Parking is also available at:

  • MDOT Roadside Park, 5536 US-23 (Cheboygan)
  • 1550 Topinabee Shore Dr. (Indian River)
  • Otsego Lake State Park, 7136 Old US Hwy 27 S (Gaylord)

See TrailLink Map for all options and detailed directions. 

North Central State Trail Reviews

awesome trail

I’ve ridden this trail many times from Topinabee to Wolverine and back; topinabee to cheboygan and back. Great trail for gravel bike. Well maintained, safe, and very scenic.

Beautiful and well maintained

Rode the entire length of this trail from Gaylord to Cheboygan, then to Mackinaw City the next morning. Excellent crushed gravel surface, very easy to ride on with a mountain bike. The scenery is beautiful along the entire route and there are numerous great stops along the way. Gentle downhill all the way to Wolverine, then it was basically flat into Cheboygan and along Lake Huron to Mackinaw. We also rode the opposite way a couple days later, and the uphill climb back to Gaylord was very doable, even at the latter stages of a 50 mile ride. I highly recommend this ride.

Mackinac City start

8/28/2022. Rode trail from Mackinac City south for 10 miles and then back. It was awesome. Trail in good shape. Large trees provided shade( unlike Oklahoma). Very quiet solitary. Came around a corner and within 5 yards of a big buck. Thanks Michigan!

Very chill trail

We started just south of Gaylord going northbound. Once we got past Gaylord, it was all downhill. Very peaceful shaded trail. We really liked the little visitor center in Vanderbilt. Everything flattened out once you got to Indian River. Things opened up a little bit (shade started disappearing) between Mullet Lake and Cheboygan.


Terrific ride along Mullet Lake!

We started in Topinabee, parked at the trailhead there which has great restrooms, parking, and a small beach (look over the edge of the sidewalk area to find the beach!). There's a gas station/store right across the street. Rode the smooth, well-maintained, crushed limestone trail along the lake to Cheboygan--about 13 miles, much of which we could see the sparkling lake to our right. We passed the Cheboygan trailhead (where there are also good restrooms and a shelter) and stopped in downtown Cheboygan for lunch at Mulligan's, a local pub, where we could eat outside. Good lunch food and great service. Rode back to Topinabee and then spent an hour swimming at the beautiful small beach there on Mullet Lake--really charming! All day (on a Monday) we saw probably a total of 14 people on the trail, walking or biking. While there are many road and driveway crossings, we probably had to actually stop for cars only 2 or 3 times. About 50% of the time we were riding in well-shaded areas. This was a lovely 26 mile day trip next to the lake and through the woods--a flat, easy, unpopulated rail trail through wonderful Northern Michigan!

Northern Central State Trail

Love this trail! Rode from Wolverine to Indian River and back. 20 miles! The trail was an easy ride for beginners who want to ride for distance. Great views along the way! Lunch in Indian River at the 310 Station was delicious!

Short Section

Wife and I rode Cheboygan to Topinabee round trip 26 miles. So lucky to have experienced this wonderful reuse of old rail lines.

Great 40 mile ride from Vanderbilt to Indian River and back.The 7 mile stretch north of Vanderbilt was especially stunning at the peak of the fall colors.

Great 40 mile ride from Vanderbilt to Indian River and back.The 7 mile stretch north of Vanderbilt was especially stunning at the peak of the fall colors.

Mackinaw to Cheboygon

We only rode a portion of the trail, but it was nice. We went in September 2020 after a hard rain the night before. In the areas near cities the trail had too much loose gravel but greatly improved as we got farther from towns. It was mostly hard packed clay and fairly smooth. Best suited for off-road bikes.

north central state trail

Worst trail ever! Loose gravel all the way to mackinaw. It would be better to ride on the actual railroad ties than to ride this trail. Needs ALOT of work.

Lots of posts in the trail at different sections to stopUtv and golf cart users from getting on trail.However they are too close for recumbent trike to squeeze through.

Lots of posts in the trail at different sections to stopUtv and golf cart users from getting on trail.However they are too close for recumbent trike to squeeze through.

Trail is well maintained Lots of trail heads in different towns and villages but not listed on maps.Wolverine, Vanderbilt, topinabee.

Trail is well maintained Lots of trail heads in different towns and villages but not listed on maps.Wolverine, Vanderbilt, topinabee.

Trail is in great shape

Rode from Mackinaw City to Wolverine. All miles are odometer from Mackinaw City trail head, Cheboygan = 16.2 (water and restrooms at trail head), Topinabee = 28.5 (water and restrooms at trail head), Indian River = 34 (I think I saw restrooms, but I'm not sure since I didn't stop), Wolverine = 44 miles. Nice river and lake views, occasional creek and or babbling brooks. Plenty of places to eat and drink along the way. Last year I did the section from Waters, up thru Gaylord on onto Wolverine so with today's ride, I completed the trail. There is a good bit of shade in the MC to Cheboygan section and not much shade from Indian River to Wolverine. It was 92 degrees towards the end of my ride.

Cheboygan to Indian River

Very nice flat trail. 17.5 mi. Trees on both sides made for a mostly shaded trail. The first and last part was along farms and wooded areas. In the middle was along beautiful Lake Mullet. There were many pretty flowers. I enjoyed looking at the lake houses and cottages as well. A great ride.

No parking at the Gaylord Trail Head!

Love this trail!

HOWEVER, on Saturday mornings, there is no parking at the Gaylord trail head. The soccer activities at the park take all parking for several hours.

ALSO, the soccer participants actually park on the trail, totally blocking it.

Unfortunately, this weekend (9/23), while attempting to navigate around parked cars on the trail, I got hung up in the sand and fell. Bent my derailleur and bloodied up my leg!

I informed the police that the trail was blocked. My suspicions are it did little good.

Love this trail!!!

137 miles: A labor of love

Now that I have done this trail two years in a row, both coincidentally on labor day weekend, I feel like I can write a real review.

110 miles on this trail in 8 hours in 2016, and 137 miles in 10 hours 2017.
I know the average trail user will likely be riding under 50 miles, this review is aimed more for crazy endurance riders.
If you are looking for an intense challenge of both mental and physical toughness, while taking in the beauty of Northern Michigan, then this network of NWST, NCST and NEST trails are a MUST ride.

As others have stated, this is NOT hard packed, the gravel is loose, so there is very little coasting. You will want to stand and pedal once in a while to get some nice momentum, and help save your butt in the long haul.

There are LONG, long, very, very mind-numbing straight stretches of trail where there is absolutely nothing but dense forest on either side of you. These are the times when you need your mental toughness, especially on the way back if you're doing a round trip...

You'll appreciate passing through Wolverine by the Sturgeon River - my favorite segment is along Mullet Lake in Tapinabee - once you reach the restroom in Cheboygan, you can choose to hop on the NEST trail 71 miles to Alpina, or continue roughly 20 miles to downtown Mackinac.

I started my trip in the Gaylord area, rode to Mackinac City, took the NWST trail 20 miles West a little past Pelliston, roughly 10 miles from Harbors Springs, before turning back and heading back towards Gaylord.

The last 30 miles of this ride were torture.. it seems no matter how great a saddle and bib, at a distance like this on gravel, on a mtb, will have you feeling like your saddle is made of shards of glass and red ants.

Best of luck to you, and be sure to allow yourself to stop at least a few times to take pictures of the scenery!

cheboygan to gaylord

Rode this 49 mile section in August 2017. Beautiful trail with nice secluded parts. Indian River to Gaylord is pretty steady but gentle climb. Trail is good for my hybrid Trek. Section from Indian River to Vanderbilt was especially pretty.

Share the trail with some animal buddies

Biked from Gaylord to Topinabee. The trail is very nice and secluded. Check the wind direction before you begin. We had a strong headwind for some of the ride. However, even with the wind there were areas where you tucked behind the trees. Trail is cinder and moves from farmland to forest. Deer, Skunks, Racoons, and Fox all shared the trail or crossed it during our ride. Sheep and goats grazed in fields along the way. Very enjoyable and crosses creeks and rivers with bridges that tempt you into a water stop. Just outside of Topinabee (Breakers) is a bar/restaurant (about 33 miles of biking). It is parallel to the trail on the left and hard to miss. Reward was a great beer, wonderful atmosphere, and the food (did not eat) looked great. Next year plan to do the trail from Mackinaw.

Beautiful Trail! Gaylord out 13 and Back.

We got a late start and found the trial head in Gaylord at the soccer fields. We biked about 13 miles out and returned getting back before sunset. The trail is a gentle downgrade from Gaylord. When you head back be prepared for it to be a slight uphill the entire way. This is a beautiful trail. We rode several miles beyond Vanderbilt and then turned around. Had we gotten an earlier start we would have gone further. It is one of those trails where you must force yourself to turn around and head back. Even my companion who rarely bikes and was getting tired and dreading the ride back experienced some moments of wishful thinking that he could handle a longer ride just so we could go a bit further down the trail! It really is that beautiful. You feel as if you are out in the middle of the woods even though you are often quite close to the highway. The trail is well cared for and even though we went between rain storms the trail was fairly firm under our wheels. Since we left fairly late we only saw three other people on the trail but many more were returning to the trailhead as we were unloading the car to start. We plan on returning Michigan and biking the rest of the trail!


Yesterday my wife and I rode from Mackinaw City to almost Cheboygan. The trail surface was very smooth and the trail is in excellent shape. I highly recommend the trail.

I have covered this trail in segments from Gaylord to Cheboygan on both Mountain Bike and Rode Bike. I use Indian River Trail head and my home base starting point most of the time. Also I use Wolverine and the "Thirsty Sturgeon Bar & Grill" as a start point going south to Vanderbilt. I like this part of the trail because of the Beaver dam and pond about 5 miles south of Wolverine. Very nice area. Additionally at the same area is what I call 5 mile hill. It is about a 1-2% grade for just short of 5 miles and it terminates at Vanderbilt.
Going North from Indian River is a beautiful ride to Cheboygan, passing through Topinabee along the shore of Mullett Lake with gentle slopes and good level areas too. I recommend this trail to all.

Very nice ride

My wife and I rode from Cheboygan to Indian River and back on a beautiful fall day. A covering of bright leaves or pine needles at spots made for a very pretty ride. There were great views along Mullett Lake. Topinabee had a nice park along the trail with several history boards about the area. While not as fast as a paved trail, we found the crushed limestone trail packed hard, with very few soft spots. We were out to enjoy the day, not make speed or distance.

Nice trail..

We rode this trail from Gaylord to the Straits and liked the changing scenery along the way, including the nice rest stops at each town. Yes, the crushed stone is a little more difficult to ride on than asphalt, but we were helped by the gentle decline. This is not a trail for skinny tires, I believe.

Directions: the Gaylord traihead directions are not quite accurate. After turning onto Center Rd, look to turn west onto Fairview to find the parking lot.

North Central Trail

Great map and great trail. Thank you for the first map downloaded!

Could be Wonderful - Needs to be Paved

Wife and I just returned from 3 days of cycling using Cheboygan as a hub. On our 1st day we went northeast 35.5 miles on the North Central State Trail from Cheboygan to Mackinaw City and back. On our 2nd day we went south 26.3 miles on the NCST from Cheboygan to Topinabee and back. Could only give these two sections a 3 star rating.

Good News: Great trail head services in Cheboygan. Mackinaw City of full of things to see and do and the trail heavily wooded and constantly shaded – no sunburn here. Topinabee is a cool little town with two restaurants, beach and a gas station. The trail is a mix of shade trees and some open farm fields.

Bad News: The crushed limestone surface is too deep and causes a lot of rolling resistance. On my 700 X 38mm tire I felt as if I was “snowplowing” through the crushed limestone. In fact, on similar RTTs that have numerous street crossings but are PAVED my average moving speed is 14.5 mph. However, my speed on these two sections was only 10.6 mph. So plan your trip accordingly. The crushed limestone is most troublesome at street crossings were it can be 3” deep and stop you dead in your tracks.

Actually these sections of the trail seemed very lightly used, particularly the route to Mackinaw City. This section parallels MI Route 23 that has a paved shoulder for cyclists and when we were on the unpaved trail we saw a large group of cyclists (40+ people) using the shoulder of the road. It was VERY tempting, but my wife hates being that close to traffic.

The trail probably has more use in in a SINGLE day in the winter by snowmobilers than by cyclists during the ENTIRE summer.

Wish this trail was paved as they did with the Leelanau Trail in Traverse City or the Little Traverse Wheelway – Charlevoix to Harbor Springs.

Indian River to Mackinaw

Great ride today. The path is very level, and the crushed limestone surface was easy to ride on our hybrids. There were a few places where the surface was soft and a litle treacherous, mostly near street crossings, but these were few and far between. This stretch was 34.5 miles from the trailhead at Indian River to the base of the Mackinaw Bridge. There was stiff westerly wind, but most of the path was protected by trees so this wasn't a major factor. Very good ride!

Good Trail

Biked from Gaylord to a few miles north of Vanderbilt. Between mile marker 132-133 we spotted a bear on the trail about 100 feet ahead of us. This area of the trail is heavily wooded. At this point we headed back to Gaylord!

Other than this the trail is nice - the surface is very easy to ride on.

Love this trail!

My husband and I ride this trail every spring. We start in Gaylord on a friday morning and ride to Mackinaw City where we rent a cabin for 2 nights on Lake Huron. We ride back to Gaylord on Sunday. We ride hybrid bikes with no problem on the hard packed stone. The trail is very well marked all the way up and there is a good mix of small towns and wooded countryside. There are plenty of bathroom stops and places to eat and buy drinks along the trail. This is one of our favorite trips.

Vanderbilt to Indian River

We rode this trail from Vanderbilt to Indian RIver and back. Easy ride there and noticeably more effort on the way back, but still a very nice ride.
Beautiful scenery along the entire trail. If you are wondering about the crushed limestone, we where on the trail withTrek hybrids and did fine. A little more effort then riding on asphalt, but no problems at all.
When going north on this trail, make sure you stop at the Thirsty Sturgeon just passed Wolverine, - great place with good food and very friendly service.
If Indian River is your turn around point don't forget about the Cross in the Woods, it is only a short mile from the trail and well worth the visit.

Vanderbilt to Indian River

We rode this trail from Vanderbilt to Indian RIver and back. Easy ride there and noticeably more effort on the way back, but still a very nice ride.
Beautiful scenery along the entire trail. If you are wondering about the crushed limestone, we where on the trail withTrek hybrids and did fine. A little more effort then riding on asphalt, but no problems at all.
When going north on this trail, make sure you stop at the Thirsty Sturgeon just passed Wolverine, - great place with good food and very friendly service.
If Indian River is your turn around point don't forget about the Cross in the Woods, it is only a short mile from the trail and well worth the visit.

Excellent trail

I used this trail as part of a multi-day bicycle camping tour. The surface of the trail was packed well with just the right amount of crushed limestone. Only a few spots the surface was loose and we had to be careful. The signage was also excellent marking private drives as well as providing the cross street names to help locate you on the trail.

North Central State Trail--Michigan

this week rode the trail north from Gaylord to Indian River, much of it is downhill. The trail is in great shape, the compacted stone is holding up well.For more information look at the Top of Michigan Trails Council's website.

Pretty Nice Trail for biking

I have ridden this trail from Gaylord north towards about Wolverine and turned around and rode back. That section was nice, for a rail trail. It is straight, small size crushed stone, free from branches coming into the trail space. It is nice because there are no interstate or smaller highways running parallel, thus you have some quiet.

I have also ridden this from Indian River to Cheboygan and back. That is nice as well. The trail runs along the side of Mullet Lake for a spell, very scenic.

You would think that signage is not so important for a rail trail but when you get into Cheboygan you are presented with other trails intersecting and sometimes the signs (in August 2010) were not helpful. On the whole this is a nice trail. Not a hundred stop signs like the trail from Charlevoix to Petoskey and a whole lot smoother too at points where the trail crosses driveways.

5 day bike tour along full length of the trail (3 of us)

The trail was perfect near the whole way. I will say, though, that coming back (south) is quite a bit harder due to the elevation gain. Frankly, we're just not used to it here in illinois. In any case, we had a wonderful trip.

We parked our car at Alpine lodge in Gaylord, and spent the first night there. It's a decent hotel, with a pool, hot tub and some games in an atrium area. Kind of a time warp, but I'm a sucker for those. We set up the bikes and started off the next morning. Within the first mile, we got caught in a downpour. I asked the girls if they wanted to go back and wait it out, but both shouted NO. In short, we were so psyched up to start, nothing was going to stop us (loved that attitude!).

~30 miles north, around 4pm, we found the Tobinbee Johnson Motel. It's kind of in the middle of no where, so we just ended up ordering dinner in. Probably the low-light of our 5 days.

The next day, we rode up to Mackinaw City. About halfway up, we stopped for lunch in Cheboygan (Anchor/Captain? something Restaurant- along the river - nice), and also got the obligatory vanilla malt at the Dairy Barn (do not miss it!). The last 16-18 miles from Cheboygan to Mack City are quite beautiful, but also monotonous. about 8 miles north of Cheboygan, there's a very nice lakeside park along Lake Huron that's easily worth a stop.

From there, we went up to near the tip of Mack City to stay at the Riviera Hotel. I loved this place from the start. Family run, great friendly service and advice, off the beaten and busy path, great views of the bridge and Lake at the point where lakes Huron and Michigan converge. And, right near the original fort and it's park-like atmosphere. Reasonably priced as well. Did I mention the pool?

On our 'off day' in Mack City, we took the tandem over to Mackinaw Island for the day. The girls were pretty tired of biking, so I promised them I would do all the peddling, the 15 year old on the back seat, and the 12 year old in rented trailer. Fortunately, the path that goes around the island is not only paved, but also mostly flat. What a beautiful day we had. Clear skies, slight wind, perfect. We swam some, built a rock castle in the shallow water, and had lunch along the docks. Then, ferried back to the mainland.

We spent two nights at the Riviera, said our good-bye's and peddled south to Indian River. Along the way, we stopped at Mullet lake for a quick swim and cool off. The beach is right along the trail, and there's a gas station right there also (I seem to recall a Chaco Taco!).

At indian River, we met up with our Warm Showers host (great folks!) [side note: if you plan on bike touring, learn about you can stay with like-minded, biking enthusiasts virtually anywhere] ... Anyway, we were shown around town by two of the most darling and long time residents. After dinner (along the river - very fun), our hosts took us up river (maybe .3 miles?) to a unique spot that had recently been developed for kids to swim in the river. Basically, it's about 100' long deck at the rivers edge, with no rail. Down river along the deck, is a ladder up from the water. So, you jump in up river, float down, and get out. Very cool. The girls had a blast.

After, our very kind hosts fed us breakfast, we rode off to Wolverine for lunch. There aren't many close-to-trail lunch options in Wolverine, so we ended up stopping at the same place we stopped at on our way north. It's a very local place with only a few tables with very basic fare. Still, we liked it a lot. One of the great parts of a bike tour is that you do get to be in and among the locals of the area, and learn much more than you can imagine doing so. You also meet some really kind people along the way. After lunch, we stopped at the park across the street and sat by the river for an hour or so. The peaceful nature was beautiful. The last stretch almost did us in. My hunch is that most of the elevation gain comes between Wolverine and Gaylord, as we were sure feeling it. We had to stop again about half way at a small pizza place in Vanderbilt. Ice cream, french fries, and Gatorade and then we hit the road again, finally making it back to the car. My 15 year old daughter was SO excited she actually did it! And, admitted to me that she didn't really think she could do it before we started. Still, there it was. Done. I figured we rode about 150 miles in those 5 days.

The MTB tandem had 2" knobbies, the mixte had 1.25" slicks. Both worked fine on the trail.

Bugs didn't seem too bad, but I do seem to recall my daughter using the off a couple of times.

I would definitely recommend this trip, but as with all bike tours, don't created a tight agenda -- but be flexible. I always find it easiest to go with the 'flow'. Particularly true with two daughters!

Gaylord to Mackinaw City Rail-Trail (North Central Rail Trail

I rode this from Gaylord to Mackinaw City on Aug 7, 2011. The surface is hard packed with a thin layer of gravel. I had an old Schwinn road-style bike with 27 x 1 1/4 tires which was fine. Wider tires would have been OK, but I was fine. I would not take my 23mm tire road bike on it. The scenery is beautiful and the towns are evenly spaced with good services. I left Gaylord at 6:30 am and was a little nervous about being in semi-darkness, but as the sun came up all was well. I got to Vanderbilt an hour later. Not much there, and all was still closed anyway. Wolverine had a great market with excellent coffee. That plus 2 bananas was only a dollar, and the customer ahead of me paid! A nice surprise and we had a nice visit. Indian River has a bike shop. Topinabee has a roadside park with clean bathrooms and a small store. The trail goes around Cheboygan, so no data about that. From there it's 16 miles to Mackinaw City which is a long slog, but I was tired. Now I'm resting on Mackinac Island which I would say is bicycle heaven because there are no cars, but with some of the inexperienced cyclists here I'm not so sure!

This is a great Michigan adventure. Drive north, stay at the Hampton in Gaylord and ride the rest of the way in !!

Gaylord to Mackinaw City Rail-Trail

June 7th, rode the first 10 miles from Gaylord & back....very nice trail with wonderful farm country vistas & stretches of cool woods & large maples, portions of the trail bordered by bog, tamarack & spruce. The crushed stone is noisier than asphalt, but still a very nice bike ride. Slight downhill grade leaving Gaylord makes for a very fast trip and the return is noticeably more effort returning. At about the 8 mile mark, past the tubing plant & logging yard, there was frequent bear "sign" on the trail. Also ran into an aggressive Ruffed Grouse, which kept attacking the bicycle and ran after us down the trail.
This should be a great fall ride.

Gaylord to Mackinaw 5 day round trip

This was a 5 day vacation trip for two couples, all on some form of mountain bike, the week of August 23rd 2010. The trail is in good shape, but the fine gravel surface can be loose in spots and would be difficult on a road bike.

We arrived in Gaylord on the Sunday night and stayed the night at the Holiday Inn Express. Perfect accommodations, as expected from a mid-range chain operation. They gave us permission to leave our van in their parking lot for the week - much appreciated. Dinner on Sunday night was at the Mexican restaurant right next to the hotel. We all enjoyed the food, but the super-sized margaritas were only super-sized from a lime juice perspective. The tequila serving would have been suited to a “small”.

We had arranged luggage transport with Big Bear Adventures ( . They don’t mention this service on their website, but we talked to co-owner Patti Anderson, and she arranged for her father-in-law, Andy, to take care of it for us. The price was very reasonable at $150 to have luggage for four adults moved four times over the course of the trip. The Anderson’s are friends of the folks that run Mancino’s pizza & subs in Gaylord, and they arranged to drop our luggage off at Mancino’s for us to gather at the end of our trip. A great spot to fill that hunger gap at the end of the last long uphill day!

Andy Anderson met us in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn at 9 Monday morning, we handed over our luggage, and we were off.

Finding the trail-head was our first challenge. A close look at a map before we left the hotel would have easily solved this problem, but since we all consider ourselves to be capable navigators, we preferred to do it the hard way. After wasting 30 minutes, we were finally on our way.

The trail runs slightly downhill for a good 10 miles, so it was an easy start to our day. Before long we had reached Wolverine, where a local resident recommended Meadows Bar & Grill for lunch. Meadows is jut north of Wolverine, and right on the trail. The food is good quality pub fare, and the place was very clean. Oh, and the beer was cold.

Wolverine to Indian River was fairly secluded and natural, but anytime we stopped for a breather, we could hear the howling truck tires on I-75 a couple of miles away. The trail was not spectacularly scenic - we know this because we took almost no pictures along the trail on the first day. It does pass through lots of mixed forest, and there is no doubt that the ideal time to ride the trail would be in October when the leaves are turning.

Arriving in Indian River, we dropped in to Big Bear Adventures to meet Patti, who capably provided restaurant recommendations, along with a short list of sights to see in the area. One of those sights was “Cross in the Woods”, a short ride up the road. We took several pictures there – a great stop for anyone with a religious bent. From there, we rode into Burt Lake State Park, and got a view of the beach at Burt Lake. If it had been a hot day, it would have been the perfect opportunity for a swim.

Our accommodations in Indian River were at the Northwoods Inn. It’s only a minute or two off the trail at the north end of town, and we had arranged to stay there on both our northbound and southbound nights. We had struggled to find suitable accommodations in Indian River – there were no recommendations on any of the usual websites, and we were somewhat nervous. I finally checked with the Chamber of Commerce in Indian River, who told me that Northwoods was definitely a nice place. And I have to agree. The rooms were clean and comfortable for four adults. The beds were firm (and I mean firm) but didn’t interfere with a good night’s sleep. Breakfast in the morning included Belgian waffles, which left our tummies in good shape for the day’s ride.

The second day of riding broke down into two segments. The first was north along the shore of Mullet Lake. I use the term “shore” loosely, because for much of this leg, there is a road and cottages between the trail and the lake. Lots of nice cottages, mind you, but not the scenery we were hoping for.

Upon reaching Cheboygan, we left the trail and toured downtown, looking for a good lunch spot. It’s apparent that Cheboygan has felt the impact of the recession, with the majority of stores in the downtown area closed. We found the State Street Coffee Company, at the corner of State and Main, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch of salads and sandwiches, along with coffee that the coffee-drinkers in the crew loved. We made a note to stop in on our way back.

Heading out of Cheboygan, we had expected to ride in view of Lake Huron for the afternoon, but as it turns out, there is a highway and cottages between the trail and the lake, so we had to settle for glimpses. There is a park area around the half-way point that is right on the lake, and provides a good rest spot, but you have to watch carefully for the sign on the trail that identifies it. The rest spot provides the first view of the islands of the Straits of Mackinaw.

We arrived in Mackinaw City by mid-afternoon, where we checked in at Brigadoon Bed & Breakfast. From an accommodation perspective, this was the highlight of our trip. We enjoyed complementary fresh-baked cookies and lemonade in the afternoon, an amazing dessert in the evening (more calories than any of us had burned on the trail that day) and breakfast each morning fit for a king. The bedroom décor was probably more suited to my mother (lots of flowers and pink), but the beautiful four-poster beds made for a very restful night.

On our third day, we took our bicycles on the ferry to Mackinac Island. This island allows no motor vehicles, just horses and bicycles. The paved road around the edge of the island is an 8 mile ride, and the view is breath-taking. Our cameras are filled from our day on the island, and if you’re into fudge and t-shirts, you’ll enjoy the shopping as well.
There are trails that criss-cross the island’s high land, which provide a great way to get away from the huge crowds in town in the afternoon. Without a doubt, the island was the highlight of our trip, and I would highly recommend a visit.

After our second delightful night at the Brigadoon, we packed up and headed back toward Indian River for another night at the Northwoods Inn. The ride was an easy one, some downhill, and we were finished early in the afternoon. One of our riders realized he’d dropped his wallet 7 or 8 miles back on the trail, so while he did the extra 15 miles to collect his wallet, the rest of us had time to enjoy some cold beer and quiet reading under the trees in front of the inn. One of the nice features at Northwood was the big fire pit, where the manager built a nice fire to enjoy each night, and we did exactly that.

On day 5, the temperature was pushing into the 80’s by the time we hit the trail southbound to Gaylord. Once south of Wolverine, it was clear we were traveling uphill, and into a fairly strong headwind. That last 15 miles in the heat was quite a challenge, and we were very happy to reach the trailhead in Gaylord by 3 in the afternoon.

Overall, a great cycling vacation that I would happily recommend, especially that beautiful day on Mackinac Island. For the trail specifically, it certainly wasn't as scenic as we had hoped, and hence the overall rating, but the opportunity to ride it when the leaves have turned would be a completely different experience.

Great trail

Aug. 23, 2010 Rode from Vanderbilt to Gaylord and back, was glad I read the reviews as it was nice to go downhill mostly on the way back. Averaged 8 to 10 on the way there and 15 to 18 on the way back, fun! 2 days later rode from Indian River to Mullet Village and back. Can't wait to go back and do the other sections. It take a little extra effort to ride on the gravel compared to asphalt but our hybrids handled it easily.

Great trail to combine biking and kayaking

Kayak and bike: Drop off your kayak gear in Wolverine at the park on the east side of the trail, near Henley's canoe rental (the former railroad depot). The West Branch of the Sturgeon River joins the Main Branch at the South end of this park The park has a pit toilet, kid's play area and a pavilion. I lock my kayak gear to the pillars of the pavilion and drive to my take-out point, the DNR Rondo site. This site is on the bike trail, and off Old 27 about 4.3 miles North of Wolverine. It is just North of Rondo Road. At the DNR Rondo site, the trail crosses the Sturgeon River on an old railroad bridge with very thick rusty steel beams. The take-out point for kayaks at the Rondo site is just past this bridge on the left. There is a wood platform on the river bank to assist in loading/unloading. I leave my car here and ride my bike on the trail back to Wolverine, locking it to the pavilion. Then I kayak to the Rondo site using the old railroad bridge as my visual aid to the take-out point. ( This stretch of the Sturgeon River is one of fastest in the Lower Peninsula, so some kayaking skills are very helpful). I load the kayak on the car, drive back to Wolverine and get my bike. GREAT TRIP. The kayaking, biking and loading/ unloading gear takes about 3 hours total. This can easily grow to 4 hours with beginner level kayakers.

Bike: There are many nice starting points along the towns on Old 27. Gaylord, at the South end of the trail, is the highest altitude so heading North is the easy direction all the way to Indian River. From Indian River to Cheboygan the trail is very slightly down hill as you head North. The trail starts in Gaylord one mile North of M-32 (Main St.). There is parking at the Soccer fields on Fairview Rd. half way between Ohio St. and Old 27 (Center St.). The trailhead is not marked well in Gaylord, However, the railroad tracks still cross Main St. and Fairview Rd. The tracks are pulled up just North of Fairview Rd. Between Vanderbilt and Wolverine, there is a stretch of 5 miles (North of Alexander Rd.) with no road crossings, no driveways, no buildings, just the sound of I-75 traffic in the distance. In Indian River you can sit and eat at the "Inn Between" while watching the boats on the Indian River. They have great Fish-n-Chips. Further North, Topinabee has a very nice park on the trail with a beach on Mullet Lake. The trail also has nice clean year-around restrooms at this park.

Snowmobile: This trail looks so much different in the Winter, but it's still beautiful. Just North of Vanderbilt, the walls of evergreens on each side of the trail collect snow for a great visual show. The swamps and creeks (with a large Beaver dam) South of Wolverine are very nice. Several bridges cross the winding Sturgeon River in this area and deer are common on the trail. Riding to Mackinaw City is really a great trip. The towers of the "Mighty Mac" bridge are visible for several miles and the entire Straits area is very unique in the Winter.

Beautiful color trip,,October need to find a place to cool off!

We started at Vanderbilt (48 degrees, sunny, 10 a.m.) and rode to Gaylord so we could have choice of where we would lunch. Jets pizza was close but not that easy to find....stop and ask at gas station. It was UP Grade all the way to Gaylord and wind in our face (the wind in our face we try to plan so coming back in easier.) It is quite a grade...of course you don't see it but we were biking 4.8-6 mph going to Gaylord with lots of effort and averaged 11 coming back with no keep that in mind especially if taking children or retirees like us. It is all out in the country and that is nice. Next summer we will camp at Wolverine and try some more. Gaylord has lots of neat shops but one by the rail road tracks is called the Spud and old deco. place to visit. You come into north side of Gaylord and Bike path ends...snowmobile trail continues along side of rail road....not bikable....yet, anyway. Enjoy.

Vanderbilt to Mackinaw City

Day 1: rode from Woverine to Vanderbilt and back; slightly uphill to Vanderbilt. Little shade on trail. Few services in Vanderbilt - we had to settle for an ice cream bar at a small grocery store.
Day 2: got shuttle to Cheboygan and rode bikes to Wolverine. This was a beautiful ride and easy to ride either direction. Had lunch in Topinabee.
Day 3: roundtrip from Mackinaw City to Cheboygan. Level ride; shaded by pine trees; some views of Lake Huron.
The bike trail is a nice trail to ride and has very little traffic. There was a spot on the to Wolverine from Cheboygan where you could jump into the river and cool off.

If you need a shuttle, you might inquire at Henleys Canoe in Wolverine. Ask for Denise.

Trail Finished Sept. 2007

The 62-mile rail trail between Gaylord and Mackinaw City Michigan in the north part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan was completed in September 2007. The surface is a compacted limestone that is suitable for virtually any bicycle tire. Its uses include not only bicycling but also walking, horseback riding, and in the winter snowmobiling. The trail begins and ends in either Gaylord, or Mackinaw City Michigan. It runs through not only those towns but also Vanderbilt, Wolverine, Indian River, Topinabee, and Cheboygan. The trail goes through marshes, along the Sturgeon River, Mullett Lake, and Lake Huron. Each of the towns it runs through has convenience stores, and restaurants; there is plenty of lodging near the trail as well. The trail is very near the ferry docks in Mackinaw City, which makes it easy access to Mackinac Island, made famous for its carless streets and fudge! For more information go to the web site of the Top of Michigan Trail Council, Additonal information on the entire trail network in Michigan can be found at

Great Trail

The Mackinaw City -Cheboygan Trail is actually part of a larger 62 mile rail trail from Mackinaw City to Gaylord Michigan that has just , fall 2007, been completley resurfaced with a compacted crushed limestone. The surface is compatable with virtually any type of bicycle and bicycle tire. The trail coming north from Gaylord runs through the towns and villages of Vanderbilt, Wolverine, Indian River, Topinabee, Mullett Lake Village, Cheboygan, and Mackinaw City. The trail running north, again from Gaylord, borders the Sturgeon River, crosses the Indian River, borders Mullett Lake, and after going through Cheboygan runs along the Straits of Mackinac. Once in Mackinaw City Mackinac Island is only a ferry ride away. For further information contact the Top of Michigan Trails Counci at 1-231-348-8280, , by email at or its website at

great potential

"I have ridden all the improved sections of this RTC trail, usually in 8 to 10 mile segments one way. It is newly conditioned with crushed limestone which makes for a surface hard enough for riders to use their road bikes, as my wife and I have done on several occasions with absolutely no problems. Anyone wishing more definitive information can email me. Glad to help out. Terry"

"Cheboygan-Gaylord, Mi Trail"

"About two weeks ago, your trail description of the surface being grass, ballast, and dirt would have been correct. Howevr, The first 7.3 miles from Gaylord North to Vanderbilt has been graded and crushed limestone has been applied and rolled. My wife and I biked it yesterday, August 11. Great surface - smooth and firm. "

Wildlife aplenty

"Riding south out of Wolverine, on 7-18-03, past Trowbridge Road, under the interstate, up through the beaver meadow, I saw three elk on the trail. I also spotted a whitetail and a kit beaver.

The trail was mostly packed gravel with some loose. Parking is available at the town park across from Henley's canoe and kayak livery, just off exit 301 on I-75. I highly recommend this trail."

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