You’ve heard of the National Scenic Trails, which are routes of outstanding recreational opportunity traversing areas of great natural beauty and historical interest, extending for 100 miles or more. You’ve heard about the North Country Trail, and now you’d like to know: how long is the North Country Trail?
The North Country Trail is 4,600 miles long and traverses eight states, from North Dakota to Vermont. It is generally hiked in sections. Although as yet incomplete, it is possible to thru-hike it, and several people have done so. A Michigan woman is currently attempting a one-year thru-hike.
From the wide-open landscapes and dramatic skies of North Dakota, along the shores of the Great Lakes, through the Adirondack Mountains, through numerous small towns and big cities, to the forested beauty of New England, the North Country National Scenic Trail is the ultimate hiking experience!
Why Is The North Country Trail So Long?
The North Country Trail is 4,600 miles long because it winds through eight states along the route, passing through Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, skirting three of the Great Lakes.
Once reroutes have been completed, the North Country Trail will connect the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Long Trail in the East with the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in the West.
The North Country Trail passes through ten National Forests, four areas managed by the National Park Service, and more than one hundred state forests, parks, and game areas. It shares routes with the Finger Lakes Trail in New York, the Buckeye Trail in Ohio, the Iron Belle Trail in Michigan, and the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota.
It can be hiked as anything from a thru-hike to a casual walk along a tiny section, offering diverse landscapes and exciting hiking opportunities.
To hike the entire route has taken several people as much as a decade, doing it in sections. However, Joan Young of Michigan is currently attempting to walk it over one year (at 73!).
The Route Of The North Country Trail
As the North Country Trail covers such a long distance and passes through so many states, any route description is necessarily cursory. Nevertheless, we hope to give you some idea of the trail’s beauty.
The North Country Trail In North Dakota
In west-central North Dakota, 33 miles of off-road trail are found within the Lonetree Wildlife Management Area, which features native and restored prairie, wetlands, and woodlands. Twelve miles of the off-road trail passes through the Audubon National Wildlife Refuge.
One passes through the Missouri Coteau landscape in central North Dakota, a patchwork of agricultural land and native grassland with wetland and numerous shallow pothole lakes.
One finds the Ekre Grassland Preserve and Sheyenne National Grassland in eastern North Dakota, with grassland, cows, and fences.
The North Country Trail In Minnesota
In northwestern Minnesota, road walks traverse the Red River Valley and the Leaf Hills, with a loop trail in the City of Fergus Falls and a short segment in Maplewood State Park.
In north-central Minnesota, one passes through glacially scoured landscapes with the renowned myriad lakes and wetlands. This section offers excellent hiking without the crowds.
The North Country trail is still being developed between the Kekekabic Trail and the Chippewa National Forest. Long-distance hikers generally use the Mesabi Trail for this section. The Border Route trail follows the border with Canada and lies partly within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The Superior Hiking Trail follows Minnesota’s North Shore through Duluth to Wisconsin.
The North Country Trail In Wisconsin
In western Wisconsin, one passes through managed forests and the Douglas County Wildlife Area prairie, which is particularly beautiful in late summer and fall.
The trail then passes through the Chequamegon National Forest, Porcupine Lake Wilderness, and Rainbow Lake Wilderness, in an area with forest and small lakes. In eastern Wisconsin, one traverses wild, rocky outcrops with numerous waterfalls.
The North Country Trail In Michigan
One passes through secluded areas with numerous rivers, streams, waterfalls, and lakes in the western Upper Peninsula. One then hikes through several wilderness areas, including the 43 miles of Lakeshore Trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, before passing through the Lake Superior State Forest, Hiawatha National Forest, and Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
In Lower Michigan, one passes through flat meadows, rivers, lakes, and ridges before traversing the Manistee National Forest, passing by Grand Rapids, and going through two State Game Areas. One then heads through the lush farmland of southern Michigan, dotted by myriad lakes.
The North Country Trail In Ohio
The North Country Trail links up with the Wabash Cannonball Trail. It goes through the Maumee State Forest and the oak savanna of Oak Openings Preserve Metropark before joining the Buckeye Trail for 900 miles. This trail winds through the hilly terrain along Ohio’s western, southern, and eastern borders through lush vegetation and small towns to Beaver Creek State Park.
The North Country Trail In Pennsylvania
The North Country Trail goes through northwestern Pennsylvania, offering waterfalls, views of Slippery Rock Gorge, and wildlife viewing. The trail goes through Pennsylvania State Gamelands, along rivers and old-growth forests, before entering the Allegheny National Forest, which offers wildlife viewing, camping, and beautiful scenery.
The North Country Trail In New York
In New York, the North Country Trail shares its route with the Finger Lakes Trail for over 400 miles. The trail passes dramatic ridges with scenic views of deep valleys, many waterfalls, and the Finger Lakes before passing through the Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area, several canal towpaths, and woodland trails.
The trail then passes through around 158 miles of the Adirondack Park, with dense forest rich in streams, lakes, bogs, and the famed Adirondack Mountains, before finishing in Vermont.
Helpful Information About Hiking The North Country Trail
The trail covers thousands of miles and diverse terrain. The North Country Trail Association (NCTA) recommends contacting local chapters and affiliates for more information.
They also recommend contacting local land managers and researching information on camping, permits, accessibility, availability of water, and so forth on the various public and private lands that the trail traverses.
The following links are an excellent place to begin:
For local NCTA chapters, visit here.
Visit here for the North Country Trail Long Distance Hikers Club, chaired by Joan Young.
For two Facebook groups that serve the North Country Trail, visit these links: North Country Trail Community and Trail Angels of the NCNST.
By now, you should have itchy feet to explore part (or even all) of the fantastic North Country Trail. Wherever you find yourself along the trail, you should see something dead right for your hiking requirements and abilities.