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, Alanson, Pellston and Mackinaw City. The 7-mile section of trail between M-119 in Petoskey and Powers Road in Alanson was improved in 2013 with an asphalt surface. The 23-mile segment of trail between Alanson and Mackinaw City was improved in 2015 with a packed crushed limestone surface; two significant bridges were replaced in 2016.
The Top of Michigan Trails Council helped coordinate the various NWST projects with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Michigan Department of Transportation, Emmet County and the Emmet County Road Commission. Primary funding for the projects came from the Federal Transportation Alternatives Program, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Recreation Improvement Fund, Recreation Trails Program and Emmet County.
Emmet County maintains the portion of trail between Petoskey and Alanson, the DNR maintains he portion of trail between Alanson and Mackinaw City and Mackinaw City maintains the portion of trail within the Village limits.
Distance: 32 miles
Trail Surface: 7 miles asphalt between Petoskey and Alanson; 1 mile of road route in Alanson; 23 miles crushed limestone between Alanson and Mackinaw City; 1 mile of asphalt in Mackinaw City
Elevation: flat with small elevation changes
Allowed Uses: All non-motorized users (including horses) year-round and snowmobiles from December 1 to March 31
P= Parking, R= Restrooms, W=Water, A= Amenities (signs, benches, etc)
Spring Lake Park (P,R,W,A): Spring Lake Park on M-119 near Petoskey serves as the southern trailhead for the North Western State Trail. It has parking, bathrooms, water, a bike fix-it station, picnic pavilion, fishing pier and interpretive trail. To get to downtown Petoskey (3 miles) or Harbor Springs (6 miles) take the Little Traverse Wheelway via the pedestrian crossing on M-119 (just north of Spring Lake Park). Petoskey and Harbor Springs are full service communities with hotels, restaurants, breweries, shops and more, including one brewery directly adjacent to the trail!
Top of Michigan Trails Council has its headquarters across M 119 from Spring Lake Park. Trail users are welcome to stop by for maps (always available on the porch) and information (available M – F, 9:00 – 4:00 pm).
After leaving Petoskey the trail immediately runs adjacent to Mud and Round lakes. There is an overlook on Round Lake and a Michigan Historic Marker. 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 where there is an excellent natural spring to fill your water bottle 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 will pass through the community of Oden, where water is available near the gazebo east of Luce Street. East of Oden the trail curves off the railroad alignment, across a boardwalk and parallels US-31. At Powers Road the trail ends, and a shared road route is posted along Milton Road (.5 miles) into downtown Alanson.
Alanson Trail Access (P,R,W): Bathrooms and parking are available next to the Township Hall on the east side of US 31 (bathrooms are around back near the playground). A Park and Ride lot is also available near the trail north of M-68. Alanson is a small full-service community with a hotel, restaurants, shops and a bakery.
While you are in Alanson take time to enjoy its small-town charm. Check out the Inland Waterway Museum, the swinging bridge, Crooked River lock. Don’t 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 parallels US 31 through rural farmlands. In Brutus there is a great restaurant and a cider mill. Just before Pellston, the trail crosses the Maple River on a new bridge where there is a small parking area and scenic site.
Pellston Trail Access (P,R): In Pellston park along the community park on Main Street or Edgar Streets. There is a gazebo and the historic depot has been converted to a local history museum. There is a porta-potty located along the trail near the park. Pellston is a small full-service community with a hotel, restaurants and a store.
The trail veers west of the railroad corridor along Milton Road through the Village and is an asphalt surface. It then runs in front of the Pellston Airport which is worth a stop if you haven’t been there. The airport is built in an up-north log home theme and its restrooms and water are available to the public; there is a restaurant inside. North of the airport the trail crosses Van Creek and its tributaries, proceeding through forested wetlands.
The trail runs through the old part of Levering and then up to the community of Carp Lake. On its way it crosses various small tributaries and the Carp Lake River in a beautiful wetland area with excellent birding. In Carp Lake there is a general store just off the trail and two restaurants on or near Paradise Lake across US-31 from the trail. There is a pit toilet at the Paradise Lake Boating Access site on Paradise Trail.
From Carp Lake to Mackinaw City the trail traverses about four miles inland from US-31 through State Forest lands. Just before Trails End Road there is a small overlook of the windmills with an interpretive sign. From Trails End Road into Mackinaw City the trail is asphalt. After going under I-75 you will cross Nicolet Street and arrive at the Mackinaw City Trailhead, the northern terminus of the NWST.
From here you can visit Mackinaw City sites, Mackinac Island or continue your trail journey southeast on the North Central State Trail to Cheboygan and beyond.
Mackinaw City Trailhead (P,R,W,A): The trailhead is located on Mackinaw Crossings Drive just east of Nicolet Street. There is parking, RV/trailer parking, restrooms, water, interpretive signs and a pavilion. Mackinaw City is a full-service community with hotels, restaurants and shops.