Discover the natural beauty and quaint small towns along “The Fishing Line” from Petoskey to Mackinaw City along the North Western State Trail (NWST). 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 NWST is 32 miles in length and connects Petoskey and Mackinaw City. The 23-mile Alanson to Mackinaw City segment was improved in 2016 with two new bridges and a 10-foot-wide packed crushed limestone surface. The trail is open to all non-motorized uses year-round and snowmobiles from December 1 to March 31. The Top of Michigan Trails Council helped coordinate the various NWST projects with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Transportation, Emmet County and the Emmet County Road Commission. Primary funding for the projects has come from the Federal Transportation Alternatives Program, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Recreation Improvement Fund, Recreation Trails Program and Emmet County. Locally, the completion of the NWST creates connections to every incorporated community within Emmet County. But an even more exciting possibility provided by the trail was indicated recently by Emily Meyerson, MDNR Northern Michigan Trails Coordinator, when she said, “You can now go from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron–140 miles–on interconnected multi-use trails. This new trail allows a user to travel from Charlevoix to Petoskey, on to Mackinaw City, to Cheboygan and then to Alpena.”
Distance: 32 Miles
Trail Surface: 7.5 miles of asphalt from Petoskey to Alanson, with balance of crushed limestone. A small section of trail is paved in Pellston and also in Mackinaw City.
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 you’ll find 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 on 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.
The trail continues through the small community of Conway and on to the Michigan Fisheries Visitor Center where parking and bathrooms are available. 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 on the east side of US 31 (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. North of Alanson the trail is surfaced with crushed limestone, and follows US 31 with a good amount of greenspace separating the trail from the highway. A new bridge carries the trail over the Maple River just south of Pellston.
This is a 6-mile stretch that again follows the highway most of the way. The trail is paved through Pellston, and the village is planning to construct a trailhead on their property in the center of town. This is a good place to stop and visit shops and restaurants. Parking is also available here. Emmet County has built the trail across part of the front of the airport that will connect 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.
This 5-mile segment runs generally out of sight of US 31 except near Carp Lake. Carp Lake is a good trailhead with a convenience store. There is also a DNR boat launch along the frontage road about a half mile south of the blinking light.
Nearly all of this 6-mile stretch runs inland from US 31 through forest and wetlands on the way to Mackinaw City. 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.