Passing through the gentle hills and secluded forests of northern Michigan, North Central State Trail is a wonderful destination to explore with a furry friend. It spans over sixty miles, meaning that you’ll have plenty of trail to explore at whatever pace you like, whether you want to stop by for a short stroll or experience the trail in its entirety over multiple days. The trail is made of crushed limestone, and it is a part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a program that converts old railroad lines into public-use trails. The best part about the trail is its wonderful setting in Otsego and Cheboygan counties, both of which are known for their beautiful woodlands and abundant wildlife.
There are several trailheads with access to North Central State Trail; a good place to begin your hike is at the southernmost trailhead in Gaylord. The trail runs north from here at an easy, downhill grade for about eight miles and arrives at Vanderbilt Trailhead. On the way, it passes through two tunnels and has multiple opportunities to observe the scenic setting. After Vanderbilt, there are four more trailheads, one of which is the northern endpoint at Cheboygan. There is also a rest stop between Topinabee and Cheboygan, and there are four parks near the trail as you head north from Wolverine Trailhead.
Because of North Central State Trail’s large size, it is helpful to plan ahead. Amenities are available throughout the length of the trail, as the trailheads all provide access to restrooms and drinking water. Make sure to follow the rules and guidelines of the trail, which require that you clean up after your dog (you will have to bring your own bags) and that your dog remains leashed at all times.
North Central State Trail is a furrific location for anyone looking to hike with their dog in northern Michigan; come visit and you’ll see why!