North Central State Trail – Gaylord to Mackinaw City
This beautiful 61-mile trail has become one of the premier cycling trails in the Midwest. Its flat terrain makes for easy bicycling through an area of great and diverse natural beauty. Most users’ highlights will include the valley of the Sturgeon River and its tributaries and the section north of Topinabee along the west side of Mullet Lake. The terminal towns of Gaylord and Mackinaw City, Vanderbilt, Wolverine, Indian River, Topinabee, and Cheboygan also offer plenty of amenities. The improvement to the old rail corridor was completed in 2007, and was made possible by a nearly $2 million federal trail enhancement grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation in 2005 and the cooperation and contributions from governments and individuals along the way.
In 2008 the trail was named as one of the top five autumn destinations in the nation by Rails to Trails Conservancy.
Gaylord to Vanderbilt (TPRA) – 7.6 miles
Gaylord is the southern terminus of the North Central State Trail. The trailhead is located about one mile north of downtown on Fairview Road (sometimes called Five Lakes Road) at the soccer complex. There are restrooms at the soccer complex. To get to the trailhead from downtown Gaylord take Old US 27 north to Fairview and turn left to the trailhead. Parking is available on the south side of Fairview at the Soccer Complex. The 7.6-mile trail to Vanderbilt passes through a mixture of farmland and forests with some nice country views.
Vanderbilt to Wolverine (PRA) – 10.9 miles
There is parking where the trail crosses Garfield near the Vanderbilt Village Hall. Next to the Village Hall is a porta-john. Even though this 10.9-mile segment follows I-75 closely, it has a remote feeling and is quite scenic including the segment which goes through a beautiful marsh where beaver have been plentiful.
Lumberjack Park is immediately east of the Village of Wolverine along the banks of the Sturgeon River. Here you will find parking and restrooms near the historic railroad depot. Within “downtown” Wolverine there is a market and restaurant.
Wolverine to Indian River (PRA) – 9.6 miles
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.
Indian River to Topinabee (TPRA) – 5.6 miles
This scenic segment of the trail features the “spreads” of the Indian River as it enters Mullett Lake and offers many views of the lake on the way to Topinabee. Topinabee has a lovely park which includes parking, restrooms, a playground and a historic depot which houses the village’s library. The park also has a very nice public swimming beach. There is a market in Topinabee along with several restaurants.
Topinabee to Mullett Lake Village (R) – 6.6 miles
From Topinabee the trail continues north along Mullett Lake, to Mullett Lake Village. The village is a small resort community with many 19th century cottages which can be seen by leaving the trail at Polish Line Road and continuing on the road which parallels the lake. It goes past the cottages and rejoins the trail just beyond the golf course which will be on your left. If you prefer to stay on the trail you will go behind the golf course. There are no public restrooms in the village but there is a porta-john at the public ramp north of the cottages on the lake. If you stay on the trail and do not go through the village you will miss the porta-john.
Mullett Lake Village to the City of Cheboygan (TPRA) – 5.3 miles
After leaving the village the trail parts ways with Mullett Lake and crosses US 27 as it takes a straight path to the City of Cheboygan. This section goes through forest which gives way to pleasant farm lands as it enters the city. As the trail approaches Lincoln Ave. you will go past the beginning of the North Eastern State Trail which will be on your right. The NEST goes 70 miles to Alpena. Continuing on the NCST just past Lincoln Ave. you will enter the city’s trailhead where there is plenty of parking, restrooms and a pavilion. From the trailhead it is easy to walk or ride into downtown Cheboygan. It is a city of 5,000 people with plenty of restaurants, several ice cream shops, a bike shop, brewery and other amenities.
Cheboygan to Mackinaw City (TPRA) – 16.3 miles
Running entirely along the west side of US 23, this 16.3-mile segment features some pleasing views of Lake Huron through the trees and across the highway. Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park is an interesting destination with reconstructed water mill, zip line and other amenities. From the Park the trail continues north across US 23 into Mackinaw City and ends at that village’s trailhead where you will find parking and restrooms. From the trail It is an easy walk or bike ride into Mackinaw City, with its many attractions. Those wishing to continue their journey can head south from the trailhead on the North Western State Trail to Petoskey or take a ferry to Mackinac Island and enjoy cycling around and through the Island.