Manistee National Forest

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on

Discover the Manistee National Forest

The Manistee National Forest encompasses over 480,000 acres, and together with the Huron National Forest, occupies almost a million acres of national land in Michigan’s lower peninsula. This is where thousands of people enjoy a myriad of activities–such as hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing, hunting, snowmobiling, and ORV use.

Due to heavy logging in the late 1800s, these forests were almost completely cleared, so the Huron National Forest was established in 1909, followed in 1938 by the Manistee National Forest as a way to preserve this area for generations to come. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) helped reforest the land, planting pine trees in straight, even rows, which can still be seen today.

The Manistee National Forest is not one continuous piece of land, but is spread out over nine counties and is broken up by towns and private property. Three major rivers meander through the Forest–Pine, Pere Marquette, and Manistee. The Pine River is a bit rough and only recommended for experienced canoeists. The Manistee River is a bit more calm and perfect for families, and great for fishing! Check out the latest Manistee fishing reports, grab your pole and enjoy the scenery while you fish the Big Manistee or Little Manistee Rivers. We also provide fishing reports for the Pere Marquette River if you’re looking for trout, steelhead, and salmon.

The North Country Trail through the Manistee National Forest. | West Michigan Guides Stock Photo.

The popular North Country Trail stretches 4,600 miles from New York to North Dakota and through five other states, with 100 miles of the Trail found within the Manistee National Forest.

It is the longest hiking path in the United States, and passes through ten National Forests. Every year, thousands choose a section of the Trail to discover–from snowshoeing in the winter to camping in the summer. 

Located in the Manistee portion of the forest is the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness. It sets just north of the Ludington State Park and along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Many of the dunes found here are up to 4,000 years old and 140 feet high with an expansive beach area. In a section just north of the dunes is the Lake Michigan Recreation Area. Here you can picnic, bike, hike, and swim–and there are 99 campsites with tables and fire rings. 

For more information, please contact the Ranger District Stations for the Manistee National Forest:

412 Red Apple Rd, Manistee, MI 49660
(231) 723-2211

Baldwin/White Cloud
650 N. Michigan Ave., Baldwin, MI 49304
(231) 745-4631

Discover More of Manistee in West Michigan...

Along the Lake Michigan shoreline between Ludington and Manistee, you’ll find a quiet area in all its natural splendor, carved from years of wind and water. The Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness encompasses almost 3,500 acres between Ludington and Manistee, with 7,300 feet of undeveloped shoreline. These dunes are close to 4,000 years old, with some rising as high as 140 feet.

One of the most symbolic icons of Manistee is the North Pierhead Lighthouse located between the 1st Street and 5th Avenue beaches. Standing watch over Lake Michigan waters, the North Pierhead Lighthouse welcomes boaters and is a reminder of Manistee’s great maritime history. First built in 1869, it burned in the Great Fire and a new one was constructed in 1872.

For some, winter is one of the best seasons in West Michigan. No crowds…the air is fresh and clean…and snow provides some of the best entertainment around! Here in Manistee County, there are numerous places in which to enjoy this time of year. Choose your activity–snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing–and you’ll find a wide open space that’s waiting for you!

Once billed as “one of the most modern theaters in the State of Michigan,” the Vogue Theatre has been renovated into the beautiful landmark that so many Manistee residents remember. In February 2011, filmmaker Michael Moore came to Manistee with his vision for the Vogue… that its marquee lights would illuminate the downtown region and draw visitors to Manistee once again.

Take a tour on the Historic S.S. City of Milwaukee car ferry and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Acacia docked in Manistee, Michigan.

Protecting our natural resources is a priority here in Michigan, and thanks to our state parks, everyone can enjoy the woods, wildlife and fresh air. In 1988, the Michigan Audubon Society received a property gift from M.E. and Gertrude Gray, which became Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary. This 72-acre site sets upon high, sandy bluffs that overlook Lake Michigan.

The Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts is a cultural center in West Michigan and plays an integral part in Manistee’s history. Named after local lawyer and entrepreneur Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell, it's the home to the Manistee Civic Players and hosts ballet performances, art exhibits, weddings, and more. It opens its doors for public tours on specified dates in the summer.

Manistee is an exciting place to live and a wonderful place to visit. With its location along Lake Michigan, you can enjoy fantastic fishing, boating, and swimming. The Manistee-Huron National Forest, which stretches for miles, offers hiking, biking, and camping. Within the city, you can watch a production at the Historic Ramsdell Theater, and stroll the very popular Manistee Riverwalk.