Dickinson Trail Network brings new level of adventure to the U.P.

Dickinson County is quickly becoming a destination for eco-tourists looking to bike, hike, and snowshoe and serves as a hub for biking and outdoor enthusiasts heading to points north of Iron Mountain. 

The lure is the Dickinson Trail Network (DTN). The trail system is adjacent to many downtown districts, where small businesses benefit from increased traffic from tourists and residents alike. In addition, local businesses and industries use the DTN to promote healthy lifestyles with their employees and as a recruitment tool to attract and recruit young professionals to the community.

Established in 2019 as a 'dba' of the Dickinson County Bike Path, the DTN focuses on building, maintaining, and promoting off-road multi-use trails throughout Dickinson County, complementing the work done by the Bike Path group along paved roads. 

The community has already seen the economic impacts of DTN activities in Dickinson County, even as work continues to build and improve more trails. 

"As of October 2022, our volunteers have constructed more than 30 miles of new multi-use single-track trails on Norway's North and South Ogee Trailheads as well as Iron Mountain's Millie Hill and Pine Mountain," says Chad Susott, board president of DTN. "DTN also has ambitious plans for six miles of professionally built trails on Iron Mountain's Pewabic Hill."

The Ogee Trail Network on the north and south sides of Norway, offers more than 24 miles of easy, moderate, and advanced difficulties from Marion Park to Pier's Gorge and Strawberry Lake to Pine Creek. 

In 2020, DTN built a 1-mile trail along the beautiful Menominee River to Piers Gorge, connecting to a 2.6-mile loop in one of Dickinson County's most stunning natural areas. These trails, known as the 'Paper Route' and 'Travelling Riverside Blues,' in combination with the Alwine Outlook, are a must for any mountain bikers visiting the area. 

"In 2021, a 2-mile loop along Pine Creek boasted over 700 feet of gorgeous boardwalk constructed from locally sourced hybrid large lumber," Susott says. "New in 2022, 'Squatch Rocket' is a wide and smooth machine-built downhill flow trail with plenty of jumps and wooden features to satisfy thrill-seeking mountain bikers." 

The Millie Hill Trails offer nine trails overlooking downtown Iron Mountain that range in difficulty from easy to advanced difficulty with downhill flow, downhill technical, wooden skill features, and even a jump line! This system's newest trail, 'Millie-on-Aire,' lives up to its name with a million-dollar birds-eye view of the city and plenty of BIG AIR opportunities. 

Most of this system's trails are the original hand-built single track that put DTN on the map in 2019. However, in 2022, 'Knotty-by-Nature' got a serious upgrade with hundreds of feet of boardwalk and unique wooden skills features that are fun for riders of all ages and abilities.

DTN's Pine Mountain Trail system is under construction, with plans for three unique trails totaling over 2.5 miles. The first trail is bi-directional with a gentle grade suitable for all trail users. The following two trails will be downhill direction only, with features that will appeal to advanced and expert mountain bikers. These trails are on Dickinson County land west of the world-famous Pine Mountain Ski Jump. DTN continues to work with the Pine Mountain Resort to promote plans for a multi-mile trail system on the ski resort property with possible lift service in the future.

DTN is in the final planning and fundraising stages for a professionally built trail system on Pewabic Hill in Iron Mountain. The new trail will showcase 6-miles of world-class professionally built trails, which will include the types of berms, bridges, and jumps you see at the best bike parks in the Midwest. 

DTN worked with the city of Iron Mountain to secure a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grant in the amount of $183,000 for this new trail system. The grant requires $64,000 in matching funds, which DTN agreed to fundraise independently. So far, DTN has successfully raised over $30,000 from donations from local businesses and generous individuals. DTN is also looking into additional grants, trust funds, and fundraising avenues to fund this trail system. The group expects to break ground on this ambitious, professionally built project in the Spring of 2024. 

A trail under construction in the Dickinson network.

All DTN trails are designated as multi-use for non-motorized uses and prioritize sustainable design and thoughtful construction to minimize environmental impact. The trail systems in Copper Harbor, Marquette, and Munising use the same approach. 

DTN switches from trail building to trail grooming during the winter months to provide year-round enjoyment. Their snowmobile grooming machines create classic cross-country glide tracks and multi-use corduroy snow surfaces, while the snowdog and Rokon machines create 24" wide singletrack trails ideal for fat biking. 

DTN also has an agreement with the Fumee Lake Natural Area to maintain all the trails. The duties conducted by DTN volunteers include spring clean-up, clearing reported down trees on trails, and winter grooming duties for cross-country skiing and fat biking.

Staying true to their roots, DTN maintains four bike paths, including the Iron Belle trail connection, with plans for a fifth along Little Badwater adjacent to the Menominee River in Breitung Township. 

"From building and maintaining trails to signage - all of this work is done by volunteers," according to Susott. "The Dickinson Trail Network has gained community and local government support through the accomplishments over the past four years, and the momentum is just beginning."

Looking forward, DTN plans to roll out a restructured marketing campaign, develop a robust Trail Partnership Program for local businesses and corporations, and continue to connect the community through trails and partnerships. These collaborations will allow companies and individuals to financially support the organization through in-kind donations in exchange for the indirect benefits a thriving trail user community offers to the area and directly through the promotion of their place of business.

To learn more about Dickinson Trail Network or to make a donation, visit www.dtntrails.org. Check them out on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates on the trail systems.