Multi-state national trail cuts right through West Michigan

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LOWELL, MI-- While most of us may be familiar with the White Pine or Fred Meijer Trail, I wonder how many of us realize there is a national trail that spans seven states and 4,600 miles? It's called the North Country National Scenic Trail and is headquartered in Lowell.

The trail was designated in 1980 by congress and begins in upstate New York on Lake Champlain. The walking and hiking trail runs through Pennsylvania, Ohio, directly through West Michigan and Lowell, north through the Manistee forest, and to the Mackinac Bridge where it crosses in to Michigan's Upper Peninsula and goes west through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and eventually in to North Dakota. It's one of 11 national scenic trails across the country and is the longest of all of them.

It took several thousand volunteers many years to make and connect the trails through all seven states...and it's a work still in progress according to North Country Trail Association Executive Director Bruce Matthews. In fact, there's still about 1800 miles to build and protect and volunteers are always being sought. The trail is administered by the National Parks system and what makes it unique is that it tells the collective story of American peoples both struggling to live with a harsh climate and landscape as well as experiencing the joys of recreating in the great north woods of the United States. What's known or called the Red Plaid Nation!

"The North Country Trail is more of a primitive foot path. It's conducive to hiking. There are few places where bikes can go on it, but it's primarily a more natural experience through the woods and fields" says Matthews. In fact, a handful of folks have been known to pack up their house (on their back) and hit the trail in late winter, through summer, and late fall and conquer all 4,600 miles. Camping is allowed in several spots!

There really is some raw, beautiful scenery and countryside along the North Country National Scenic Trail...especially here in Michigan. It's a well-marked trail whose headquarters came to be here because of all the people involved and their vision in the 1970s and 80s. Their first office was actually located in White Cloud in Newaygo County, but was eventually moved to Lowell in 2001 and there it remains. Murals were painted on the side of their Lowell building by Lowell high school students depicting the various seasons along the trail.

If you'd like more information on the North Country National Scenic Trail you can visit their local website here. The National Parks Service trail website can be found here. What's the best part of this trail? It's absolutely FREE. You may enter or exit the trail anywhere at any point!

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