North Country Trail – Old US-131 Campground to Kalkaska

Solar Communications Chair

We did around 48 miles of this; we opted to take a shortcut utilizing the Shore to Shore Trail to make one of our long days a bit shorter.  Had we taken the NCT for the entire length, I would guess it closer to 52.

A team from Solar Outdoors completed the section of the North Country Trail from the Old US 131 Campground to the trail town of Kalkaska over the 4th of July weekend.

This is an excellent section of trail with varying terrain, limited road walks, views of multiple rivers, access to several lakes, and the opportunity to stay at some nice state forest campgrounds.

Difficulty

There are some decent hills in this section, but for the most part, it is relatively flat.  We found the trail very well maintained and well-marked with blue blazes.  The trail appears to have been rerouted in places recently, which caused us some confusion especially right after we stayed at Guernsey Lake Campground.  This was caused more by me looking at the Gaia App (which is not up to date) than by the maps I used from northcountrytrail.org.

Camping

There are opportunities here for backcountry camping, with some very amazing locations.  I was surprised to find large sections of the trail bordering private land.  This section of the trail could probably be done with only backcountry camping, but you would have to be flexible on the miles per day.

There are several State Forest Campgrounds along this route.  I often like using these, as they offer some cool amenities (fire ring, vault toilet, picnic table, and water pumps) and it makes planning easier.

Bugs

Bugs are obviously dependent on the season, but for early July we saw only a few biting flies, mosquitoes, and only one tick (that did not make it past my permethrin barrier).

4th of July

For being a holiday weekend, the trails were remarkably empty.  I think we saw five people while on the trails.  The campgrounds, however, were another matter.  The campgrounds were beyond packed.  Fireworks, music, and partying went well past midnight at several of these.  For a tired backpacking group looking to beat the heat by leaving early, this is very frustrating.

Thanks to everyone who joined me on this outing!  Most of this section was unknown to me before this trip, which makes planning more challenging.  The busy campgrounds and a couple of long days with high heat made this trip more difficult.  Thanks to everyone for their patience and good spirits.