Iron County

Iron County is notable for its multi-use (motorized and non-motorized) long-distance trails, which are focused on the Iron River – Crystal Falls area and are described here.

Another trail, which has been funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation and is only partially complete, is the Iron County Heritage Trail. This will be a 22-mile non-motorized route connecting the Cities of Crystal Falls, Iron River, Caspian, and Gaastra. The trail will be a supplement to the 14-mile State-designated Iron County Historic Heritage Route, providing pedestrian and bicycle access to area historic sites.

Numerous municipal and State and National Forest trails are located throughout the county, with most in the southern third near Iron River and Crystal Falls. These local trails are listed below.

Trails in Iron County are listed and described below. Most of these are trails over land; water trails are denoted with Waves. Iron County offers probably the best selection of long-distance float water due to its relatively level terrain compared to the rest of the region. Good descriptions of the Brule, Net, and Paint Rivers are available here on the City of Crystal Falls website.

Bates Township:

  • Deer Marsh Interpretive Trail is a 3.1-mile hiking loop accessible from Forest Road 2125 south of Sidnaw or from Lake Ste. Kathryn National Forest Campground in the same general area. The trail runs through a 300-acre marshy wildlife area. A boardwalk and bridge through a marshy area are incorporated, as is a 1.3-mile gravel-surfaced section with wheelchair accessibility. The rest of the surface is fiber-chipped. Numerous descriptive signs and viewing platforms are located along the trail. The trail traverses varying terrain with varying degrees of difficulty. Families and other leisurely hikers should allow about four hours to travel the route.
  • Waves Paint River: See Iron River Township.

City of Crystal Falls:

  • Waves Paint River: See Iron River Township.
  • Paint River Boardwalk runs upstream along the east side of the Paint River from just north of Highway M-69 and is handicapped-accessible. Amenities along the board walk are benches, barrier-free fishing piers, and a signed interpretive nature trail spur.

Crystal Falls Township:

  • Bewabic State Park Nature Trail, a hiking pathway that can also be used for (ungroomed) cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, is an easy 3.2-kilometer/two-mile, one-hour hike. The trail begins in the campground and ends in the day use area of the park. Benches are located along the trail. The park is located between Iron River and Crystal Falls just south of Highway M-69.
  • DNR Nature Trail is a half-mile pathway located at the Department of Natural Resources field office near the Highways U.S. 2 and U.S. 141 junction.
  • Waves Michigamme River: See Mansfield Township.
  • Waves Paint River: See Iron River Township.

City of Iron River:

  • Apple Blossom Trail is a city-owned non-motorized paved pathway with multiple segments totaling 2.5 miles. The trail has interpretive signage, and fishing piers are located along the trail.

Hematite Township:

  • Waves Net River is a slow river perfect for long-distance floating and fishing. At 24.5 miles, it is well-suited for a 2-day trip. The river is secluded, beginning slightly west of U.S. 141 in northern Iron County and weaving south to join the Paint River west of the community of Amasa. The put-in farthest upstream is on the East Branch at Park Siding Road near U.S. 141, with additional access at Wide Waters Road nearly 7 miles downstream on the main branch. Two other dirt roads provide access farther downstream, the southern of which is Net River Road, which is located midway between two suggested portages: Chipmunk Falls and Snake Rapids. Three miles downstream of Snake Rapids, the Net joins the Paint River. Camping along the Net River is mostly primitive, though the river does run through much state and federal forestland.

Iron River Township:

  • Waves Paint River offers opportunity for a 45-mile trip over the course of up to a week. The best starting point is the Paint River Forks National Forest campground off C.R. 657 (Gibbs City Road) northwest of the City of Iron River. A dedicated carry-down launch is here. Several miles downstream is the Paint River Forks National Forest campground, which is really only two campsites with streamside access. (Upstream of Blockhouse, the river runs mainly through federal forestland, after which most land is in private ownership.) A portage is necessary for leisure paddlers at Hemlock Rapids, 3 1/2 miles upstream of C.R. 643 (Bates-Amasa Road), a road that many paddlers use as a starting point for just that reason.U.S. 141, a take-out location, is located nearly 10 miles downstream from C.R. 643.Beyond U.S. 141 3 1/2 miles is the Crystal Falls Power Dam, followed by M-69 1 1/2 miles farther. Beyond that crossing is a 9-mile backwater stretch passing through and south of the City of Crystal Falls. The backwater terminates at Little Bull Rapids, where Peavey Pond can be accessed via a canal for entrance to the Michigamme River system. Otherwise, continuing down the Paint another two miles (at the midpoint of which is a take-out) yields the difficult Horserace Rapids, which should be portaged by most; a campsite 1 1/2 miles farther; and the Brule River 2 1/2 miles below the campsite. A take-out can be had at a power plant three miles downstream on the Wisconsin side of the Brule.

Mansfield Township:

  • Lake Mary Plains Trails is a 6-kilometer/ten-mile system of loop trails trail offering hiking, mountain biking, and (groomed) cross-country skiing opportunities. The main loop is 5.5 kilometers/3.4 miles long and includes a boardwalk. The other two loops branch off with lengths of 7.2 kilometers/4.5 miles and 6.3 kilometers/3.9 miles. The trail passes through varied terrain including pine plantations and various other treestands. Signs are located at every half-mile. The trailhead is at the Glidden Lake State Forest Campground, which is located on Lake Mary Road south of M-69 east of Crystal Falls.
  • Waves Michigamme River: Connecting with several notable reservoirs and tributaries as it passes through western Marquette and eastern Iron Counties, this river can be utilized for a 25-mile overnight trip. The Iron County segment begins in the Michigamme Reservoir, which is an interesting water body in itself for paddling, and continues downstream past the Way Dam (the reservoir’s outlet), through the Peavy Reservoir, and ultimately to the mouth of the river at the junction of the Brule and Menominee Rivers at the state border northwest of Iron Mountain.

Mastodon Township:

  • Waves Brule River: Along the southern Township and State border, the Brule River offers approximately 20 miles of mostly flatwater from C.R. 189 to F.R. 2150. Big Bull Rapids in the lower 3-4 miles may present an obstacle for casual paddlers. Stream reaches above and below this segment may have some water suitable for paddling.
  • Waves Michigamme River: See Mansfield Township.
  • Waves Paint River: See Iron River Township.

Stambaugh Township:

  • Cook’s Run Hunter Trail is composed of three loops ranging in length from 1.4 kilometers/0.9 miles to 2.8 kilometers/1.75 miles long, with a total length of 4.3 kilometers/2.7 miles. The trailhead is located at the junction of F.H. 16 and F.R. 3210 south of U.S. 2  west of Iron River. The trail is signed “Hunter Trail” with a small parking area. The trail travels through woodlands on mostly flat terrain. It is utilized by bird hunters in fall but can be used by anyone for hiking or cross-country skiing.
  • George Young Recreation Complex, located east of Gaastra on C.R. 424, is a private club whose trails accommodate hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. The Wolf Track Nature Trail is a 3.9-mile two-loop system with a 1-mile interpretive section as part of one loop. The second loop is a route around Scott Lake. The Wolf Track system is open to the public for hiking free of charge in spring, summer, and fall, but registration in the clubhouse is required. The trails are also open to mountain biking. The complex opens 6 kilometers of cross-country and skate ski trails as the Iron River Nordic Cross-Country Ski Center in winter. Trails suit all skill levels and are open Thursday through Sunday from late morning through late afternoon. Trails run to Wagner Lake and traverse various other parts of the complex. Ski equipment rental is available.
  • Waves Brule River: Along the state border, the Brule River offers approximately 30 miles of mostly flatwater downstream of M-73. Access can also be had at M-189 11 1/2 miles downstream, Scott Lake nearly 7 miles farther, or at least 5 other locations over the next 20+ miles, after which the Brule enters Paint River Pond and joins the Michigamme shortly thereafter. Some prohibitively shallow stretches can be expected during relatively dry late summers and falls. Big Bull Rapids in the lower 3-4 miles of the river may present an obstacle for casual paddlers. Camping is available at the Brule River (Chequamegon) National Forest Campground at the intersection of WI-55 and M-73 in Wisconsin and primitively on state- and federally owned land along much of the river.
  • The Listening Inn is a bed and breakfast located near Amasa off Highway U.S. 141 north of Crystal Falls. Normally 14 kilometers/9 miles of groomed traditional cross-country ski trails over varied terrain for all skill levels are provided. Two beginner ski loops and separate snowshoe trails are also offered. A fee is charged for trail use, and rentals of skis and snowshoes are available.
  • Morrison Creek Hunter Trail is located on F.R. 3480 about one mile east of F.R. 657. Terrain is relatively flat and takes about 45 minutes to walk. While intended mainly for hunters, any hikers can use the trail.
  • Ottawa Recreation Area is an National Forest facility with camping, picnic, boat launch, swimming, and other recreation facilities, provides access to four trails. The location of the developed campground and other facilities is on Lake Ottawa Road off Highway M-73 southwest of Ironwood.
    • The Ge-Che Trail is a 14.5 kilometer/9-mile-long, moderate-to-strenuous dirt trail through hardwood forests. There is one overlook vista. The trail is used for hiking in summer and cross-country skiing (with trails of various skill levels, including 7.6 kilometers/4.75 miles marked intermediate) in winter. Trailheads are at the boat launch and in the campground; the trails wind around the three lakes in the facility.
    • The Stateline/Treaty Tree Trail near Brule Lake  is an easy, 0.4-mile trail through hardwood forests that leads to historic sites along the Brule River, including Mile Post Zero, which established the original state border with Wisconsin.
    • The 0.8-mile  Timber Lake Trail is a little-used flat pathway suitable for transporting a small boat or canoe to the trophy trout lake. The trailhead is best accessed on foot or by ORV; a small automobile can use the access road in dry conditions.
    • The Ottawa Recreation Area trailhead provides access to a network of trails throughout the campground and surroundings in the developed facility.
  • Pentoga Park is an Iron County park with two trails:
    • The Brule River Trail is 5 miles long.
    • The Indian Ceremonial Bowl Trail is 1 mile long. The park is located on Chicagon Lake at the juction of C.R. 424 and C.R. 639 south of U.S. 2.
  • Ski Brule Snowshoe & Cross-Country Trails are a 33-kilometer/20.5-mile system of groomed cross-country ski and snowshoe trails is available at this primarily downhill ski resort along with rentals and a beginner’s package including a ski lesson. Ski Brule is located southwest of Iron River near the state border.

Click here or on the map below for a printable PDF map and land-based trail information table.
Iron County Trail Map
Due to the small scale and level of detail in the map, we recommend using Adobe Reader version X (10) or higher to print in tile format or to print a selected area of the map.