The North Central State Trail connects Mackinaw City, Cheboygan, Gaylord, Indian River, and Topinabee. The route covers approximately 62 miles and has a crushed limestone surface. The trail between Cheboygan and Mackinaw City is often bordered by trees, but there are some chances to see Lake Huron along the way. The trail offers views of Mullett Lake, farmland, wooded areas, and open country.
The mile markers use the historic Michigan Central Railroad numbers from Bay City to Mackinaw City. Mile marker number 121 is north of Gaylord and number 181 is south of Mackinaw City.
Length: 62 Miles
Type: Riding, Hiking, Biking, Snowmobiling
Terrain: Woods, farmland, open country, crushed limestone surface.
Trailheads and access points from south to north:
Symbols: P= Parking, R= Restrooms, W=Water, A= Amenities (signs, benches, etc)
Gaylord to Vanderbilt – 7.6 miles
Gaylord Trailhead (P,R,A): The trailhead is temporarily located at the Gaylord Youth soccer complex where there is parking and porta-potties. To get to the trailhead from downtown Gaylord take Old US 27 north to Fairview Road and turn left to the soccer fields. Parking is available on the south side of Fairview. Coming soon is a downtown trailhead and a trail extension into to town and south to the community of Waters! Gaylord is the southern terminus of the North Central State Trail. The 7.6-mile trail to Vanderbilt passes through a mixture of farmland and forests, goes through two tunnels and has beautiful country views.
Vanderbilt to Wolverine – 10.9 miles
Vanderbilt Access (P,R,A): Parking is available along E Main Street where the trail crosses. This 10.9-mile segment is remote and scenic including a four mile segment which goes through Stewarts Creek marsh where beaver are plentiful and the birding is excellent. North of Stewarts Creek trail users will cross the main branch of the Sturgeon River twice and the west branch of the Sturgeon River immediately before the Village of Wolverine.
From Wolverine going north you will continue to follow the Sturgeon River part of the way and cross it twice on the 9.6-mile route to Indian River. The trailhead in Indian River, Marina Park, is adjacent to the Chamber of Commerce office on US 27 at the north edge of downtown. You will find parking and many amenities on US 27 which is Indian River’s main street. There are restrooms next to the Chamber Office.
Wolverine to Indian River – 9.6 miles
Wolverine Trailhead (P,R,W,A): The Village has two parks between the trail and the Sturgeon River. Parking, restrooms and amenities are available at both parks. From Wolverine heading north you will continue through the lovely Sturgeon River Valley for 9.6 miles, paralleling the river most of the way. North of Wolverine the trail runs in front of Haakwood State Forest Campground (where you’ll find water and pit toilets) and then crosses the river near the Rondo Access Site (where there is river access, parking and a pit toilet).
Indian River to Topinabee – 5.6 miles
Indian River Trailhead (P,R,W,A): The trailhead, demarked by the Indian Totem, is adjacent to the Chamber of Commerce office on S Straights Highway at the north end of downtown. At the trailhead you’ll find parking, restrooms, water, picnic pavilion, playground, and interpretive signs. This scenic 5.6 mile segment of trail features the “spreads” of the Indian River as it enters Mullett Lake and offers many views on the way to Topinabee.
Topinabee to Cheboygan – 11.9 miles
Topinabee Trailhead (P,R,W,A): The Topinabee Park on the east side of US-27 serves as a trailhead and has parking, restrooms, water, pavilion, interpretive signs, swimming beach and a playground. About half of this 11.9 mile segment is along the lake and the other half rolls through forest and farmland. From Topinabee the trail continues north along Mullett Lake; at times the trail is directly adjacent to the lake with incredible views. At other times it runs behind the historic resort communities along the lake. The trail goes through rural farmland before it reaches Cheboygan. Just as you enter the City of Cheboygan you will see the turnoff for the North Eastern State Trail. Stay left and you will soon arrive at the Cheboygan Trailhead.
About 1/4 mile south of the Trailhead (just south of W Lincoln Ave) the North Eastern State Trail branches off the trail and goes southeast toward Aloha, Onaway and Alpena.
Cheboygan to Mackinaw City – 16.3 miles
Cheboygan Trailhead (P,R,W,A): The Cheboygan Trailhead is located between Lincoln Avenue and Taylor Streets just east of Western Avenue. It has parking as well as trailer/RV spaces, restroom, water and a pavilion. Running entirely along the west side of US 23, this 16.3-mile segment of trail runs primarily through forest land with limited views of Lake Huron. About eight miles northwest of Cheboygan a small sign will indicate MDOT roadside park. If you take the small connector trail and cross the highway there is a park with pit toilets, water, and a picnic area. From the Park the trail continues another three miles, across US 23 into Mackinaw City and ends at the Mackinaw City Trailhead which is the trail terminus.
Mackinaw City Trailhead (P,R,W,A): The trailhead is located on Mackinaw Crossings Drive just east of Nicolet Street. Here you’ll find parking, RV/trailer parking, restrooms, water, interpretive signs and a pavilion. The trailhead serves two trails, the Mackinaw City to Petoskey Trail and the North Central State Trail.
Those wishing to continue their journey can head southwest from the trailhead on the North Western State Trail to Petoskey.