North Western State Trail
Formed in 1854, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad began in Richmond, Indiana and reached the Straits of Mackinac in 1882 when the segment known as “the Fishing Line” was opened from Petoskey to Mackinaw City.
The railroad first haul logs and served to accelerate the settlement of Northern Michigan, a largely wilderness region in the mid-19th century. Then the GR&I turned to tourism when it teamed up with the Michigan Central Railroad to build the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in 1887. At the height of its service in the early 1890s, the GR&I had a fleet of 66 locomotives and 3,100 cars and had expanded to Cincinnati, Ohio to become the longest north-south line in the country.
Eventually a railroad that hauled lumber, settlers and tourists gave way to trail users when the Michigan Department of Transportation purchased 1,125 acres of GR&I rail bed in 1994. The purchased lead to the creation of White Pine Trail State Park, a 92-mile rail-trail from Grand Rapids to Cadillac.
The Fishing Line became the second GR&I rail-to-trail conversion. Formerly known as the Petoskey-to- Mackinaw City Trail, the North Western State Trail is a 32-mile route from Spring Lake Park on M-119 near Petoskey to downtown Mackinaw City. In between the trail passes through a handful quaint villages and towns, skirts the shore of several lakes and provides access to a dozen preserves, parks and beaches.
The North Western State Trail is a work in progress. In 2012, the 7.5-mile segment from Spring Lake to Alanson was paved and is covered separately on this web site with its own map. The rest of the trail – the 24.5 miles from Alanson to Mackinaw City – was resurfaced with compacted limestone in 2015, making it ideal for hybrid and mountain bikes as well as hikers.
|Difficulty - Moderate|