Manistee National Forest is the biggest piece of wilderness close to South Bend. There is much to see and do here. As I do more of the hikes, I will add information. Expect to encounter diverse wildlife, beautiful scenery, starry night skies, and lots of solitude.
Manistee River Trail – North Country Trail Loop. This is a perfect weekend backpacking trip. The loop is about 20 miles total and is easily accessed from multiple places. The Red Bridge parking lot is easy to find and has safe parking. It would probably be best to start on the North Country Trail and cross the bridge to the Manistee River Trail for the return trip as there is much more water on the MRT side. This could also feasibly be done in a single (very long) day if you don’t want to carry packs and primitive camp. There are many other car camping spots all over the forest. The terrain is pretty easy with some gentle slopes but mostly flat. The views are great from the MRT side, looking down into the valley with lots of oxbow formations in the river to see.
A lot has been written on how to pack for a backpacking trip so instead of repeating it, I will forward you to one that’s pretty good: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ultralight-backpacking.html. In general, you want to keep your backpack ridiculously light. Every ounce matters. I like making a lot of my own gear.
Past trips here: