North Western State Trail


Discover the natural beauty and quaint small towns along “The Fishing Line” from Petoskey to Mackinaw City along the North Western State Trail. The trail runs along the former Grand Rapids and Indiana line of Pennsylvania Railroad (once known as “The Fishing Line”) that opened in 1882 and continued in some areas until 1992.

The North Western State Trail is 32 miles from M-119 in Petoskey to the trailhead in downtown Mackinaw City. The 10’ wide asphalt trail is 7.5 miles, from M-119 at Spring Lake Park to downtown   Alanson. The unimproved section of trail from Alanson to Mackinaw City, 24.5 miles, is dirt, sand and gravel (a project to improve this section is in the works).

Distance: 35 Miles
Trail Surface: 7.5 miles of asphalt from Petoskey to Alanson, with balance of railroad ballast, mixed dirt and stone




The Petoskey to Alanson section of trail, 7.5 miles, has been improved with a 10’ wide asphalt surface. The trail begins at Spring Lake Park on M-119 where there is parking, restrooms, an interpretive trail and picnic facilities. To get to downtown Petoskey (3 miles) or Harbor Springs (6 miles) take the Little Traverse Wheelway via the pedestrian crossing of M-119.

The trail immediately runs adjacent to two small lakes with great views and wildlife viewing.  At the Round Lake overlook a small beach can be accessed via the Little Traverse Conservancy’s Fochtman Nature Preserve trail.

Conway & Oden

The trail continues through the small community of Conway and onto the Michigan Fisheries Visitor Center where there is parking and bathrooms. The Center is a great destination with interesting interpretive displays, hiking trails and the Oden Fish Hatchery.

Back on the trail and you go through Oden before the trail curves off of the railroad alignment, across a boardwalk and along US-31. At Powers Road the trail ends and a shared road route is posted along Milton Road (.5 miles) into downtown Alanson. Bathrooms and parking are available next to the Township Hall (bathrooms are around back near the playground).


While you are in Alanson take time to enjoy its small town charm. There are great restaurants and shops, the Inland Waterway Museum, the swinging bridge and Crooked River locks. And, do not miss Sanctuary Park (at the end of East Street) where a hand propelled ferry takes you to an island boardwalk trail.


Pellston to Levering

This is a 6-mile stretch that again follows the highway most of the way. Emmet County has built the trail across part of the front of the airport that will connect for the in-town section to the south and the existing trail to the north of Ely Road. The airport is open long hours and has many amenities.

In Levering, because the trail passes on the far west side of town there is no real trailhead but cyclists can find parking and restrooms at businesses along the highway east of the Mill Street and Levering Road crossings.

Levering to Carp Lake

This 5-mile segment runs generally out of sight of US 31 except near Carp Lake. At times the surface can be soft and wet but is generally suitable for mountain bikes. Carp Lake is a good trailhead with a convenience store trailsid . There is also a DNR boat launch along the frontage road about ½ mile south of the blinking light.

Carp Lake to Mackinaw City 

Nearly all of this 6-mile stretch runs inland from US 31 through forest and wetlands on the way to Mackinaw City. The segment is generally in fine condition for hybrid bicyclists. In Mackinaw City the DNR Trailhead is located off the Straits Highway behind the Mackinaw Crossings and the Baymont Hotel. The trailhead is right in the center of town and includes parking with restrooms in Mackinaw Crossings and other nearby businesses.