The Waterloo-Pinckney Trail
Hiking in Michigan - Midwest Backpacking

The Waterloo Pickney Trail

Nestled within the heart of the Great Lakes State, the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail beckons outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers with the promise of breathtaking scenery and exhilarating adventures. This blog post is your guide to exploring the beauty and wonder of the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail, an exceptional hiking and backpacking destination in southeastern Michigan. This is perhaps the only real opportunity for backpacking in southern Michigan, and as such, shouldn’t be missed.

The Trail

The Waterloo-Pinckney Trail is a 36-mile-long footpath that winds through the picturesque landscapes of southeastern Michigan. Named after the towns of Waterloo and Pinckney that bookend the trail, this outdoor haven is a testament to Michigan’s commitment to preserving its natural treasures for generations to come. Here is a map of the trail.

Trailhead Access

Accessing this captivating trail is both straightforward and convenient. Several well-marked trailheads offer easy entry points, and parking facilities are available to accommodate visitors. Whether you’re embarking on a day hike or a multi-day backpacking adventure, the trail awaits your exploration.

Scenic Delights

As you traverse the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail, you’ll be treated to an array of scenic delights:

  1. Lush Forests: The trail leads you through dense hardwood forests, offering a cool, shaded respite during the summer months. In the fall, the foliage erupts in a blaze of vibrant reds and oranges, creating a tapestry of color.
  2. Chain of Lakes: The trail skirts the shores of several stunning lakes, including Big Portage Lake, Silver Lake, and Pickerel Lake. These aquatic oases provide opportunities for swimming, fishing, and peaceful contemplation.
  3. Wildlife Encounters: Keep a keen eye out for Michigan’s diverse wildlife. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and a plethora of bird species may grace your path. Birdwatchers will relish the opportunity to spot woodpeckers, warblers, and even bald eagles in their natural habitat.

Recreational Activities

The Waterloo-Pinckney Trail caters to a wide range of outdoor activities:

  1. Hiking and Backpacking: The trail is a mecca for hikers and backpackers, with varied terrain and trail conditions. Day hikers and long-distance trekkers alike will find ample opportunities to explore and challenge themselves.
  2. Mountain Biking: Cyclists will appreciate the mountain biking options available on portions of the trail. The undulating terrain and forested paths provide an exciting and scenic ride for bike enthusiasts. However, keep in mind that the trail is closed to biking in the Waterloo Recreation Area.
  3. Camping: For those eager to extend their adventure, the trail offers both primitive and modern camping sites at several campgrounds along the trail. These include Portage Lake, which is a modern campground, The Pines, which is rustic, Green Like, Blind Lake, and Crooked Lake, all of which are rustic campgrounds.

Conservation Efforts

The Waterloo-Pinckney Trail’s natural beauty is preserved through dedicated conservation efforts. Environmental organizations, park rangers, and volunteers work diligently to maintain and protect the trail. Visitors are encouraged to respect trail guidelines, practice responsible outdoor ethics, and contribute to the preservation of this cherished natural sanctuary.


The Waterloo-Pinckney Trail is an exceptional destination for those seeking to reconnect with the wonders of the natural world. Whether you’re an avid hiker, an intrepid backpacker, or simply someone in search of tranquility amidst Michigan’s wilderness, this trail offers an unforgettable experience. Plan your visit to the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail, immerse yourself in its breathtaking landscapes, and discover why it stands as a testament to the natural splendor of the Great Lakes State.

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If you’re looking for a shorter trail in Southwest Michigan, check out the South Swan Creek Trail Loop. Paddlesports more your style? Check out our Kayak Safety Gear recommendations and kayak safety tips from

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