Manistee National Forest, located in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan, is a hidden gem for horseback riders. With its diverse landscapes, lush forests, and serene waterways, this national forest offers some of the best horse trails in the region. Whether you are a seasoned rider or a novice equestrian enthusiast, Manistee National Forest has a trail that suits every skill level. Let's explore some of the best horse trails that this forest has to offer.
1. North Country National Scenic Trail:
The North Country National Scenic Trail passes through Manistee National Forest for approximately 460 miles, offering an extensive network of horse-friendly trails. This trail is a must-visit for any rider looking to experience the breathtaking beauty of the forest. The route is well-marked and offers stunning views of rivers, rolling hills, and dense forests. It's advisable to break up the trail into sections as riding the entire length may take several days.
2. Manistee River Trail Loop:
For riders who enjoy a scenic route along a river, the Manistee River Trail Loop is a perfect choice. This 20-mile loop offers a delightful mix of forested trails and breathtaking river views. The trail takes you through challenging terrains, including steep climbs and descents, which will test your horsemanship skills. Take your time and enjoy the picturesque overlooks, including the famous viewpoints like the High Rollways and the Suspension Bridge.
3. Pine Ridge Trail:
Pine Ridge Trail is a 13-mile loop known for its scenic beauty and diverse terrain. The trail passes through picturesque meadows, oak forests, and wildflower fields, creating a kaleidoscope of colors. The trail is well-maintained and offers a gentle ride suitable for any equestrian enthusiast. Don't forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning views along the way.
4. Big M Trail:
Considered a mountain biking trail, the Big M Trail is also open to horseback riders. This 37-mile loop provides a thrilling adventure through challenging terrains for experienced riders. The loop consists of three trails: Big M Loop, Camp 1 Loop, and G0 Loop. While riding, you will encounter hardwood forests, hills, and sand dunes. The trailhead has ample parking space, hitching posts, and restrooms, making it convenient for riders.
5. Udell Hills Trail:
Udell Hills Trail is a hidden gem within Manistee National Forest. Located near Cadillac, Michigan, this trail offers approximately 18 miles of scenic riding. The route primarily consists of forest roads and smaller paths, making it easier for novice riders. Udell Hills Trail takes you through a beautiful mix of hardwood forests and open meadows, providing a tranquil and serene riding experience.
Whichever trail you choose to explore, be sure to check with the Manistee National Forest headquarters for any temporary closures, trail conditions, and permit requirements. It's also essential to pack enough water, food, and first aid supplies for both you and your horse. Lastly, always practice Leave No Trace principles by minimizing your impact on the environment and leaving the trails as you found them.
Manistee National Forest is a paradise for horseback riders, offering a wide array of trails that cater to different skill levels. From picturesque riverside rides to challenging terrains with panoramic views, this forest has something for everyone. So, saddle up, enjoy the scenic surrounds, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Manistee National Forest. Happy trails!