Experience all that is Northern Michigan along one of the many trails in Otsego County used for hiking, biking, x-country skiing and snowshoeing. The area abounds with pathways for outdoor enthusiasts of every skill and age level, and all are free to use with no trail passes required. Click here to view an interactive map of forest pathways and recreation areas.
Pine Baron Pathway If a short, family outing is what you're looking for, the Pine Baron Pathway, situated in the Mackinac State Forest, is only six miles from the heart of Gaylord. To reach it, take Otsego Lake Drive west to Old Alba Road, continue west to Lone Pine Road and go north to the trailhead. This system of gently rolling to flat terrain has four short loops which average two miles each. The total outside loop is only 6.25 miles, so it makes a nice hike with the kids. There are several benches along the way for resting, as well as some nice clearings; perfect for a trailside picnic. All the trails are clearly marked and easy to follow through peaceful pine forests and mixed hardwoods. Wildlife abounds, so keep your eyes open for the natural inhabitants of the Pine Baron Pathway.
Pigeon River State Forest
This land, which Ernest Hemingway called the "pine barrens east of Vanderbilt" and what Michigan pioneer conservationist P.S. Lovejoy liked to call "The Big Wild", is home to the largest herd of wild elk east of the Mississippi and forms a major part of the watershed of three of Michigan's premier trout streams, the Sturgeon, the Pigeon River, and the Cheboygan Black.
The Pigeon River Forest’s expansive 105,000 acres offers a unique wilderness experience with some of the best hiking in Michigan. Some of the trails are also available to mountain bikes.
Pigeon River State Forest Map
High Country and Shingle Mill Pathways
High Country Pathway
Feeling ambitious? Ready for some real wilderness adventures? Pack your gear head north through Vanderbilt then take Sturgeon Valley Road east to the High Country Pathway. High Country is a 70-mile loop that meanders east through Pigeon River Country, Thunder Bay State Forest and Black Lake State Forest. With rustic camping available at several points along the way, an ambitious hiker can cover the trail in 7-10 days. The terrain is varied, taking scenic vistas, challenging hills, stream crossings and thick growth.Read what the International Mountain Biking Association had to say about this trail!
A detailed, waterproof trail guide is available at the Pigeon River Country Forest's Visitor Center or by sending $4.75 to Pigeon River Country Association, PO Box 122, Gaylord, MI 49734. The 25-page guidebook includes detailed maps and descriptions of trees, and points of interest. It also includes information about the campgrounds.
Shingle Mill Pathway
If you would like just a taste of the High Country experience, check out the Shingle Mill Pathway. It is a popular trail system that begins at the Pigeon Bridge Campground, just off Sturgeon Valley Road, 11 miles east of Vanderbilt. The shortest of the five-segment pathway is 3/4 mile and the longest stretches for 12 miles. Trail difficulty increases with the length of each trail, with some steep terrain along the 6, 10 and 12 mile stretches.
Click Here for a Map of Trails in and around the Gaylord Area