North Western State Trail

The 32 mile North Western State Trail connects the resort communities of Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Alanson, Pellston and Mackinaw City in northern Michigan. The trail is a 10’ wide universally accessible surface with both asphalt and limestone. It is open year round to non-motorized users and for snowmobiles from December 1 to March 31 each year.

photo: Fall Color on the North Western State Trail

Length: 32.00 miles
Loop Trail? No
Type: Rail Trail
Agency: State
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Bicycling (on pavement)
Dogs - On leash
Equestrian - Riding
Heritage and History
Motorized vehicles - Snowmobiling
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Roller/Inline Skating
Snow - Cross-country Skiing
Snow - Snowshoeing
Wildlife Observation

See more details.


Location: Rail Trail that connects Petoskey to Mackinaw City in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
State(s): Michigan
Counties: Emmet
Longitude: -84.904644
Latitude: 45.394971

Driving Directions

From Petoskey take US-31 north to M-119 north and within a 1/2 mile park at Spring Lake Park which is also the southern terminus of the trail.

From Mackinaw City take Nicolet Street to Mackinaw Crossings Drive and park at the Mackinaw City Trailhead which is the northern terminus of the trail.


The North Western State Trail (NWST) is 32 miles in length and connects all the incorporated communities of Emmet County including Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Alanson, Pellston and Mackinaw City. But not only does the trail link the communities of Emmet County where it is located, but helps to connect the entire 250+ mile Northern Lower Peninsula Trail Network. With the completion of the NWST, a trail user can now start in Alpena at Lake Huron and get to Lake Michigan in Charlevoix (140 miles) entirely on trail; completing a Great Lake to Great Lake adventure.

Most of the NWST is located on the former Grand Rapids and Indiana line of the Pennsylvania Railroad that ran between Grand Rapids and Mackinaw City from 1882 to 1961. Michigan Northern Railway operated the line until 1987. With the extensive resort and tourist based economy of the region, the rail line was nicknamed “the fishing line”.

Michigan Bell donated the northern 23 miles to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in 1989 and the DNR purchased the southern 5 miles in 2001. In other areas easements were obtained or agreements with local and state road agencies allowed for the trail in road rights of way.

DNR, in partnership with Mackinaw City, developed the northern 1.5 miles of trail with a 10’ wide asphalt surface in 2011. Emmet County then moved ahead in partnership with the DNR to develop the 7.5 southern miles with a 10’ wide asphalt surface from Petoskey to Alanson in 2013. And in 2015 DNR and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) worked in partnership to develop 23 miles from Alanson to Mackinaw City with a 10’ wide limestone surface. The trail improvements increases the facility’s accessibility and meets and exceeds the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The southern end of the trail starts (or ends) at Spring Lake Park where there is parking, bathrooms, picnic area and boardwalk trail. At this location the trail connects to the 26 miles Little Traverse Wheelway with direct connections to the Cities of Petoskey and Harbor Springs. On the north end, the trail ends (or begins) at the Mackinaw City Trailhead where there are bathrooms, parking and picnic area. At this location the trail connects with the North Central State Trail, which is a designated National Recreation Trail. The Village of Pellston currently has plans to develop a year round trailhead facility with parking and bathrooms; other trailside amenities are located in Conway and Oden.

The trail is an excellent recreation resources as it connects people to natural and historic resources. The trail runs along Spring, Mud and Round lakes, through wetlands and forest lands and across three scenic bridges over the Oden Creek, Maple River and the Carp Lake River. It connects to Lake Michigan and its sand dunes at Petoskey State Park, scenic wetland boardwalk trail at Spring Lake Park, Hiawatha Pageant Michigan Historic Marker on Round Lake, interpretive trails at the Oden Fisheries Visitor Center, the Inland Waterway Museum in Alanson, the Pellston Historic Museum and lighthouses and museums in Mackinaw City. In Mackinaw City you can catch a ferry to the historic and carless Mackinac Island, a must see Michigan attraction.

The trail segment Between Alanson to Mackinaw City is also a designed snowmobile trail and is groomed for that use between December 1 and March 31 each year. The trail corridor runs parallel to US-31 and it serves as a non-motorized transportation facility for the community. Mackinaw City, Emmet County, Harbor Springs Snowmobile Club and the DNR continue to manage and maintain the trail.

Additional Details

Width: 120 inches.
Primary Surface: Gravel
Secondary Surface: Asphalt

Average Grade: 1%
Maximum Grade: 2%
Elevation Low Point: 603
Elevation High Point: 760
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Brochure: Brochure developed locally to market the trail
Map: Northern Lower Peninsula Bikepacking Map
Website: Emmet County Website
Website: Top of Michigan Trails Council

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Trail Management:
Dennis McDermmot
Petsokey State Park Unit Supervisor
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
2475 M-119
Petoskey, MI 49770
[email protected]

Trail Management:
Marci Schmiege
Director Parks & Recreation Department
Emmet County
200 Division Street
Petoskey, MI 49770
[email protected]

Public Contact:
Emily Meyerson
Northern Lower Peninsula Trail Coordinator
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
2475 M-119
Petoskey, MI 49770
[email protected]



Maple River Bridge

Maple River Bridge

Trail users at the Oden Fisheries Visitor Center

Trail users at the Oden Fisheries Visitor Center


Trail users

Trail users

Carp Lake River Bridge

Carp Lake River Bridge


No reviews are available. Be the first to leave one!


Suggest an Edit

Do you see a problem with this trail data? Contact us below: