Birch Grove Trail/NCT Loop - Manistee National Forest
The Birch Grove Schoolhouse was built in the late 1870s for students but today serves as a pleasant place to stay for hikers and backpackers walking the Birch Grove Trail - North Country Trail (NCT) Loop.
The 9.8-mile loop was completed in 2007 when the Birch Grove Trail was pieced together, a 6.4-mile route of forest roads, old railroad grades and foot paths diverting from the NCT in Newaygo County. The new trail not only connected its namesake schoolhouse to the national trail but also Diamond Lake County Park and Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary, the only wildflower sanctuary in the national forest system.
This description begins at Diamond Lake. Originally a company retreat for the Steelcase Corporation employees, the 156-acre Newaygo County park features a modern campground and a trailhead for the Birch Grove Trail. Both the Birch Grove Schoolhouse and Diamond Lake are best situated to be used as a base for hikers who can then undertake the loop as a day hike. Backpackers, however, can set up camp along the North Country Trail.
There are several ways to shorten the hike, including beginning at the schoolhouse and using 5 Mile Road to bypassing the segments south of it to Diamond Lake. This would be a 7.8-mile trek.
|Difficulty - Moderate|