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Backpacking on the Shingle Mill Pathway

Backpacking on the Shingle Mill Pathway is a great trip that can be accomplished easily in a day and a half. The Shingle Mill Pathway is located just a few hours north of both Grand Rapids and Detroit, Michigan, making it a great spring or summer weekend destination.

Check out our firestarters to help you have a safe backpacking trip!

You can find out a TON of great information from Jim DuFresne’s classic book, Backpacking In Michigan (You can find it here) (Yes, it’s a classic).

This is an amazing overnight backpacking trip that’s drivable in an afternoon from Grand Rapids, Michigan or Detroit, Michigan. It’s a 10 to 11 mile loop, with a six mile loop as well. The trail starts by meandering along the Pigeon River and skirts some small lakes in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. This is pretty much the epicenter of the elk herd in Michigan as well. I was notable to see many animals, since there were quite a few people in the campsites that dot the trail. I did see some snakes, toads, birds, and frogs. And insects, of which there were plenty of. I also conveniently left my bug spray in my vehicle, so camping in the swamp (the dispersed camp site at the south end of Grass Lake), was quite interesting.

Our Survival Chainsaws are a great addition to your camping and backpacking gear. Check them out here.

The best part of this hike is the varied landscape. You start out in dry pine woodland, that’s interspersed with meadows and clearings. Then it transitions to swamp land, and then hardwood forests, and then back to sandy pine woodlands with the occasional clearing. I think that this could be a great hunting and backpacking trip as it’s state land, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities to do those trips here in the lower peninsula.

This is definitely a great hike. And even if you’re a beginner, I would recommend backpacking on the Shingle Mill Pathway as an annual trip. Most of the hills are easy with minimal exposed roots and the trails are (mostly) well-marked. There are ample camping opportunities, both dispersed as well as state of Michigan rustic campgrounds along the river, of which there are a few. Those campgrounds do need to be reserved, and from the couple that I walked through, they appeared to be completely full. So if you’re planning on camping at one of the state campgrounds here, you’ll want to plan ahead.

This has been my favorite trip to date and I look forward to returning. Update: The Jordan River Pathway is amazing also. Check out our YouTube video!

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Backpacking on the Shingle Mill Pathway
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NCT: Nichols Lake to Condon Lake With Kids!

Nichols Lake to Condon Lake

Backpacking from Nichols Lake to Condon Lake with kids! Note, this hike is part of the North Country Trail: Nichols Lake to Highbank Lake hike found in Jim DuFresne’s book, Backpacking In Michigan. Always a good idea to bring along a firestarter or two. Check out ours here.

Nichols Lake to Condon Lake on the North Country Trail (Bitely, Michigan area). May 2020.

Took the kids (6 and 7 as of this trip!) on a quick overnight backpacking trip on a section of the North Country Trail near Bitely, Michigan. We parked at Nichols Lake which is just a short drive west of Bitely, Michigan.

There’s a boat ramp as well as parking for the trailhead to the North Country Trail, so there’s ample parking (note: you have to purchase a parking pass there, so bring cash). We hiked north about 3.5 miles to Condon Lake where we spent the night, and then hiked out the next morning. The kids did terrifically! And overall, it’s not a difficult stretch of trail and definitely able to be hiked by younger children.

Check out our survival tinder balls! We used them on this trip and had a great camp fire going in no time.

There are a lot of bugs as much of this trail alternates between hills and swamps, so I’d definitely recommend on bringing the bug spray here. We saw several different groups of campers and hikers, including a number of people mountain biking this section.

The kids did quite well, but we pushed and they were a bit tired as to be expected once we made it back to the car. They enjoyed helping gather firewood, eating our ramen, and drinking tea. One thing to note as mentioned, is that bugs are quite an issue in this stretch as it is mostly swamps interspersed with hills. You’ll definitely want to bring along some decent bug spray(or mentally prepare yourself) for kids, as they tend to not enjoy getting ate by mosquitoes. We ended up doing about 3.5 miles up the trail, and then another 3.5 miles back.

Most people it appears use this as through-hike spot, and for obvious reasons. There’s not a lot to see from a nature perspective as it’s a well traveled area but with minimal sights. The small lakes don’t offer much in the way of fishing, although we did catch a small bass out of Condon Lake(there isn’t much access to the lake from shore outside of the campground located on the north west shore of the lake).

But it was still an enjoyable overnight trip!