This section of the North Country Trail (NCT) has a stated length of 89.0 miles, though there has been at least one re-routing since the current version of the map was printed. Section MI-03 passes through two counties: Kent and Newaygo.
The trail continues north from the previous section (MI-02) to the Grand River and crosses the river by bridge into Lowell. After proceeding north along the route of the Flat River, the NCT turns northwest towards Newaygo and the Manistee National Forest.
The Western Michigan Chapter maintains the NCT in Kent and Newaygo Counties.
The NCT passes through a few undeveloped areas in this section. These include the Lowell State Game Area, Fallasburg County Park, and the Rogue River State Game Area. The northern part of this section enters the Manistee National Forest. I estimate that 23 of the 89 miles are located in these areas. Otherwise, the route for this section follows mostly road connectors.
The North Country Trail Association (NCTA) national headquarters is located in this section, in Lowell.
Descriptions on this page are made in the New York-to-North Dakota direction.
Most pictures will be placed in the trip and trailhead reports, attached as children, but some of scenic ones will be attached to this page.
The NCT either crosses or is located near the following highways in Michigan:
* M-50: follows the route of this highway to I-96
* I-96: crosses south of Lowell
* M-21: crosses in Lowell - parking available
* M-44: crosses near Grattan
* M-57: crosses near Edgerton
* US-131: crosses near Cedar Springs
* M-46: crosses several miles east of Kent City
* M-82: crosses near Tift Corner
* M-37: crosses north of Newaygo
Trailheads are located off local roads near these highways.
For Kent County, there are trailheads or parking located along the route of the NCT, such as:
* in the city of Lowell
* for the Lowell State Game Area on Flat River Drive
* at Fallasburg County Park
* at Wabasis Lake Park - the NCT passes by on a road connector
* at access to the White Pine Trail
* Solon Street trailhead
* Red Pine trailhead
For Newaygo County, there are trailheads or parking located along the route of the NCT, such as:
* at Kimble County Park
* 40th Street trailhead
Starting section MI-03, heading north (-->ND) from section MI-02
Leaving section MI-03, heading south (-->NY) into section MI-02
Section MI-03 of the NCT starts where 76th Street ends at Wingeier Avenue, southeast of Grand Rapids in Kent County. The trail proceeds north on roads and crosses the Grand River into the city of Lowell. The NCT crosses the Flat River, passes near NCTA national headquarters in Lowell, and continues north on road connectors. The NCT returns to trail north of Lowell and runs along the east bank of the Flat River before turning east to the Lowell State Game Area. After the game area, there is a short road connector to Fallasburg County Park. After the county park, the trail crosses back over the Flat River and goes about 10 miles north on roads to the intersection of Ashley Avenue and Hart Street.
At this point the NCT turns to a generally west direction for 15 miles (passing Wabasis Lake Park) until the intersection with the White Pine Trail. The NCT turns north and runs concurrently with this trail for 2.6 miles, then leaves the White Pine Trail when it crosses Indian Lakes Road. The NCT proceeds west on Indian Lakes Road until it comes to Pine Island Drive, then it turns north again. After some short road connectors, the trail enters the Rogue River State Game Area. The northern end of the NCT in the game area is the border of Kent and Newaygo Counties.
Note for county highpointers: the Kent County High Point, called Fisk Knob, is located 4-5 miles east of this point just a short distance south of the county line.
From this point, the NCT continues generally north on road connectors and crosses the Muskegon River on a bridge just below the Croton Dam. The road connector ends at Kimble County Park as the NCT becomes actual trail again, continuing in a northwest direction. Soon, it starts to enter parcels of the Manistee National Forest. The Coolbaugh Natural Areas are located in the vicinity of this part of the NCT. Section MI-03 ends at the intersection of the NCT with M-37 (Evergreen Drive).
Typical season-appropriate hiking gear, including bug spray and sunblock.
Maps are a good idea, too.
Western Michigan Chapter:
Current guide from the North Country Trail Association:
Current online maps from the Western Michigan Chapter:
Lowell State Game Area
Rogue River State Game Area
Birch Grove Trail
Manistee National Forest: Croton Dam to 40th Street Trailhead
Link for purchasing map MI-03:
USGS maps can be downloaded at:
Maps and Route ChangesMap: MI-03 -- 76th Street to M-37
There have been two changes to the route of the NCT since the current version of map MI-03 was created.
The trail follows roads in Lowell until crossing the Flat River. At that point, the NCT continues north into a park along the east bank of the river (this route used to be Lafayette Street) and in two blocks the route turns right along the south side of Unity High School and proceeds to the corner of N Monroe Street and High Street SE. Instead of continuing straight on High Street SE, the NCT now turns left onto N Monroe Street. From there:
Butterfly on flower, seen north of Lowell
* Continue north on N Monroe Street until the trail reaches Oakwood Cemetery (about a half mile, and this is where the NCT blazes end)
* Turn right (east) on Fremont Street and proceed one block.
* Turn left (north) on N Washington Street SE and continue to the Lowell city line (a short distance after the cemetery ends on the left).
* Continue north for about a quarter mile past a few houses. Look for a blue blaze at the edge of a wooded area on the right side of the road.
* Continue on the new trail portion of the NCT, which climbs along the elevated east bank of the Flat River. Be sure to respect the private property sign indications.
* Continue to where the new trail joins the trail indicated on the map, near Grindle Drive SE.
West of Croton:
After crossing the Croton Drive road bridge over the Muskegon River, the map indicates that the NCT continues as a road connector for about 0.5 miles and before becoming trail. However, the route of the NCT now turns into the Kimble County Park and down to the lower parking area near the river. The trailhead is at the far end near the river. Please note that the NCT is not marked until the trailhead.
USGS 7.5 Minute Topos (all in Michigan)
Cannonsburg (just a corner)
Sand Lake SW
Notes and Revisions
Submissions and suggestions are welcome to improve this page!
27 Apr 2010 - page created
14 Jun 2010 - editing, hyperlinks added, maps added
20 Jun 2010 - editing, pictures added
21 Jun 2010 - editing, picture added
22 Jun 2010 - pictures added
18 May 2011 - updated link for map purchase
20 May 2011 - editing
22 May 2011 - typo fixed
31 May 2011 - corrected Route Description and added "West of Croton" route change; picture moved and caption edited