ORV fall travelog: Sheridan Township Park to Timber Creek Campground. 

November 5, 2021

A pond located near Timber Creek Campground

ORV fall travelog: Sheridan Township Park to Timber Creek Campground. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

This fall weather has been perfect for getting out on the backroads and trails. Knowing the weather forecast looked decent for today, Friday Nov. 5, my friend Mike and I decided to get out in the woods and explore a part of the Manistee National Forest and surrounding areas. When the U.S. Forest Service opened up the majority of the roads to ORVs (off road vehicles) or OHVs (off highway vehicles, as they are known by the forest service) within the Huron-Manistee National Forest on Oct. 1, it meant a lot more opportunity to explore, especially for those of us who prefer taking our time and enjoying the scenery rather than speeding through the Department of Natural Resources ORV trails (which is fine if that’s your thing). 

Today’s mission was to drive from Sheridan Township Park near Round Lake in Mason County to Timber Creek Campground on US 10 in Lake County’s Sweetwater Township (without going down US 10, which is illegal for ORVs). I chose Sheridan Township Park because it’s a nice space to park the truck and trailer without getting in anyone’s way. 

I currently drive a Kawasaki 4010 Trans Mule. It’s not built for speed. Nor is it really built for diverse trail riding. It’s more of a utility vehicle, but it’s fun to explore with it as well. 

I recently downloaded the free Avenza Maps app, at the advice of USFS law enforcement officer Patrick Wiese. This app allows you to download various maps, many free, that will navigate on a mobile device even when it’s out of range of a cellular tower. It uses GeoPDFs and GeoTIFFs. There are several maps, including Manistee National Forest motor vehicle maps. 

ORVs are illegal on primary and secondary roads in the state of Michigan unless that municipality has an ORV ordinance.

With the exception of Meade Township, every municipality in Mason County, including the cities of Ludington and Scottville, allow ORVs. Why Meade Township doesn’t? That’s a really good question. It’s a real shame that the township board there hasn’t passed something that every other municipality in the county sees as a value. Lake County, which has no chartered municipalities, has a countywide ORV ordinance. 

Most of these ordinances are the same, but I would recommend that you become familiar with them before hitting the road. You can typically find them by doing a search online. These ordinances, in general, allow ORVs to ride on any primary or secondary road within that municipality. ORVs must travel as far right on the road as safely possible and cannot exceed 25 mph. They also must have a Michigan DNR ORV sticker. All the ordinances also limit use to half hour before sunrise until half hour after sunset. Headlights and taillights must be on and appropriate safety gear must be used (such as helmets for vehicles that do not have roll bars). ORVs are not allowed on state highways. There are way more details than that. 

Sheridan Township Park near Round Lake.

From Sheridan Township Park, we headed east on Dewey Road until it intersects with Groth Road, which is a seasonal two-track road on that side of the county that heads in a southeasterly direction. Groth eventually ends at Lanager Road. That portion of Lanager, between Decker and Millerton roads, is also a seasonal two-track road. We headed southwest on Lanager to Decker Road. From the gravel Decker Road, we headed east to the county line (Tyndall Road), and crossed over into Lake County on Centerline Road. 

Centerline is a paved road. I feel like we are breaking the ORV code when we are on a paved road. But, we needed to travel about 1.6 miles on Centerline in order to get to another seasonal road. As eastbound Centerline Road turns northeast, you can turn right and come to a fork. Fox Trail heads in a southeasterly direction. Sheppard Road is a sharp left, then travels southwest for a short distance, then south. We chose Sheppard Road. The two roads loop back into each other. 

While Sheppard Road is found on the county map, it is also listed as a USFS road, No. 5445. We took this south until we intersected again with Fox Trail, headed east until we came to USFS No. 6430, which eventually takes you to the Manistee National Forest Timber Creek Campground. This path is also shared with the Ward Hills Snowmobile Trail and features a very impressive pond created from beaver dams. 

Along 6430 is also where we encountered a volunteer with the Trailriders Snowmobile Club of Lake County preparing the trail for winter using a brand new John Deere 6195R tractor with tracks. This $300,000 tractor was purchased by the DNR with funds from ORV trail passes. It is operated by volunteers who maintain 170 miles of trails with four tractors in Lake, Oceana, Newaygo and Osceola counties. 

Timber Creek Campground is also a popular resting area for hikers of the North Country Trail as crosses near the campground. See my related story earlier this week on Joan Young of Scottville, who is about to embark on a year-long trek of the 4,600 mile national trail. 

Throughout this short trek, the DNR’s Little O ORV Trail crosses back and forth. The Little O trail is for ORVs less than 50 inches wide. 

After a short spin around the campground, we backtracked to Sheppard Road. This time, we headed south then west on 16th Street, which then took us to USFS No. 5256 and then 5254. Heading north on 5254 we only went a short distance before a fallen tree meant of end of the trail. We turned around and followed 5254 as it headed west to Tyndall Road. Then, back up Tyndall Road, backtracking to Decker Road west. 

This time, we took Lanager Road south. This is a great road that runs through an impressive tunnel of trees. The colors are perfect right now and won’t last much longer. Lanager runs along the east side of Gooseneck Lake in Mason County’s Branch Township, a lake that only has about four or five residents on it, the rest of it being MNF property. Lanager intersects with Taylor Road, heading south, and Filburn, heading west. Filburn then turns into Dunbar Road and heads north. We turned down 6478, which takes you to the public access canoe/kayak launching site onto Gooseneck Lake. This is MNF property. 

Preparing the snowmobile trails

The rest of the journey was secondary county roads, making our way back to Sheridan Township Park: Hansen Road, west to Campbell Road, east on Decker, back to Campbell Road, west on Stolberg Road, then north on Campbell Road again until Dewey Road. 

Our trip was about 22 miles, give or take. From a rough measurement on Google Maps, the drive from Sheridan Township Park to Timber Creek Campground is about 10 miles, then another 12 heading back the way we went. 

I’m looking forward to exploring more of the roads in the Manistee National Forest and some of the other backcountry and season roads. Feel free to share some of your favorite ORV trail routes. 

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