Hiking and Backpacking in the Pigeon River Forest

Backpacking is an adventure that blends hiking with back country camping. It lets you broaden your horizons to enjoy a richer, more immersive outdoor experience. A key distinction from day hiking is the size of your pack—your backpack (and you) must carry all of life’s essentials on your back. And you must choose those essentials with care.

When walking in the Pigeon River Country State Forest, remember that you are in an area that is over 106,000 contiguous acres of forested land. It is a WILD area that does not provide cellphone technology. Although most of the forest is located within ½ mile from a road or drivable trail, there are very few road signs in the forest. Carry a topographical map, know how to use it and your compass.

It is always advisable to notify a trusted person about your hiking plans, expected date, time and location to start your hike and also when you plan on finishing your hiking experience. Notify this trusted person when you are out of the forest and plan on heading back home.
Carry your shelter or know how to build a shelter from materials found on the ground in the forest. Carry water; purify water from lakes and streams. Weather can change rapidly in northern Michigan. Be prepared. At certain periods during the warmer months you will be hiking with various insects. Be prepared for their company.

You can hike anywhere in the forest boundaries (unless specifically prohibited by DNR rule or state law). There are many marked trails ranging from less than a mile long to over 80 miles long. Many of the trails are designed as “loops” to bring you back to your starting location and vehicle. Check out the trail section on this website.

When hiking, be respectful of others, of the land, waters and fauna, and always remain calm.


Pathways of the Pigeon River Country State Forest

All these pathways can be found on our waterproof map (order here) except for the new Towerman’s Watch. We provide the latitude and longitude in minutes, leaving out the 45°N and 84°W, since they are the same across the area.

Towerman’s Watch Interpretive Pathway
A great introductory pathway to the Pigeon River Country State Forest, the Towerman’s Watch Pathway begins at the PRC Headquarters. Highlights on the main 3 mile loop include the Witness Tree, a beaver pond, and the P.S. Lovejoy Monument.

Shingle Mill Pathway
With five loops ranging from ¾ to 11 miles long, this is the PRC’s most popular pathway. Visitors hike and bicycle in the summer or cross country ski and snowshoe in the winter.

Inspiration Point Pathway
This ¼ mile pathway near the intersection of Osmun and Clark Bridge roads runs through remnants of the 1930’s CCC camp to a scenic overlook.

Pickerel Lake Pathway
This 2-mile pathway loops around Pickerel Lake from its trail head at the boat launch next to the campground.

Sinkholes Pathway
Michigan’s most visible sinkholes are along this 2½-mile trail that loops around five such depressions, some more than 100 feet deep.

High Country Pathway
The High Country Pathway (HCP), 80 miles long, offers one of the Lower Peninsula’s best near-wilderness experiences. It passes through habitats ranging from rolling hardwood forests and meadows to low-lying wetlands. It was designed to provide the backpacker with roughly one week of outdoor adventure.

North Spur / Midland to Mackinaw Pathway
The North Spur horse trail and the Midland to Mackinac hiking trail overlap as they pass through the PRC and allow horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking

Clear Lake / Jackson Lake Pathway
This pathway runs through the Atlanta Management Unit between Clear Lake State Park and Jackson Lake CG.

Green Timbers Pathway
Scenic vistas, prime wildlife habitat and eight miles of Sturgeon River (10’N 34’W) frontage dominate this 6,300-acre tract on the west side of the PRC, known as Green Timbers.