Pine Valleys Pathway
Before even hoisting their packs for an overnight trek to Lost Lake, some hikers think their already lost. At the Pine Valleys Pathway parking lot there are signs and directional arrows for snowmobiles, off-road vehicles, and cross-county motorcycles, leading many to wonder whether they are even at the right trailhead.
But half hidden in the back of this staging area for motorized activity is what you’re looking for; the start of the Pine Valleys Pathway. Before there were snowmobilers and four-wheelers racing through this section of the Pere Marquette State Forest, there were hikers and skiers.
Pine Valleys was built in the mid-1970s when Nordic skiing was booming in Michigan and the Forest Management Division was building trail systems to accommodate skinny skis. But at Pine Valleys planners also added a walk-in camping area at Lost Lake and soon this pathway became as popular for backpackers looking for an overnight adventure as for cross-country skiers. Eventuyally mountain bikers also discovered this series of loops.
Located 13 miles north of Baldwin, the pathway is a system of three interconnected loops that total 8.2 miles. The southern loop was heavily clear cut in the late 1980s and today still resembles a match stick forest of aspen. The northern loop is bisected by two-tracks, snowmobile routes and the Little Manistee Trail used by ORVs. Mountain bikers often choose to follow the premiere of the system for the most mileage possible, a ride of 6.1 miles.
For hikers, however, the middle loop is a gem, a forested path that leads you on a 4.1-mile hike to the lake and back. Here you are isolated from the nearby motorized activity and can enjoy a quiet evening camped along the shores of Lost Lake. While this portion of the pathway does attract an occasional mountain biker or horseback rider from a camp on Stewart Lake, chances are good that you will have the trail as well as the lakeside campground to yourself throughout most of the summer.
|Difficulty - Moderate|