Outdoor trails

MARQUETTE – The inaugural Marquette Trails Festival will feature such traditional outdoor activities such as a bonfire, making s’mores and listening to bluegrass music. However, it also has a deeper purpose: getting people outside to celebrate Marquette’s world-class trail system.

The North Country Trail Hikers have partnered with the Noquemanon Trails Network for National Trails Day weekend, June 6-8.

“By the North Country Trail Hikers partnering with the Noquemanon Trail Network for their Marquette Trails Fest, we hope to bring more hikers out to enjoy the woods on National Trails Day weekend,” said Lorana Jinkerson, NCT Hikers president. “Our joint hike on Friday night will allow those coming to Marquette for the bike races to share a family hiking experience prior to all the NTN events on Saturday and Sunday. And, of course, all are welcome to come hike away from all the bike races on Saturday afternoon at the Tourist Park trailhead where the NCT and NTN trails partially coincide.”

That trailhead could be considered a tangible symbol of the cooperation between the two trail groups for the weekend that, Jinkerson said, serves to enhance Marquette’s North Country Trail Association Trail Town status.

NTN board member Wendy Frye said the network is excited to showcase the trail systems in Marquette, including the NTN South Trails, the North Country Trail and the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

“The Marquette Trails Festival is designed to bring together all trail users,” Frye said, “including hikers, runners, casual and thrill-seeking mountain bikers.”

The weekend will kick off with a family hike and bonfire at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Marquette Mountain. The NCT Hikers and the NTN are sponsoring a night of scenic hikes, in conjunction with the Upper Peninsula Health Plan, to focus on Marquette’s South Trail System.

Hikers will have the option of taking a self-guided hike with several suggested routes, or they can join a group hike, each of which is anticipated to be two to three miles and last one or two hours.

After the hike, participants are welcome to join the celebration at the ski hill, which will include the aforementioned s’mores, bonfire and music as well as food vendors and a beer tent for the tired and thirsty (but still in a celebratory mood).

The actual National Trails Day, that Saturday, will include hikes starting at the Tourist Park Trailhead where the NCT Hikers will host hikes from 1 to 4 p.m. Participants can either head north toward Forestville or east toward Lake Superior, with both destinations offering their unique wilderness experiences.

Blackrocks Brewery is sponsoring the trails fest.

The NTN has a schedule of events that includes a mountain biking dual slalom for kids and adults at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Friday, respectively, at the Benson Grade.

Saturday’s events at Marquette Mountain include a 9 a.m. mountain biking cross-country long race and a short race following at 9:30 a.m. A youth mountain bike race is set to begin at 12:30 p.m., followed by a trail tour at 1 p.m. and a downhill bike event at 5 p.m. The day ends with a 7 p.m. party at Marquette Mountain.

The new iron Range Roll also takes place that day on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

Sunday is a full day as well, starting with the Twin Peaks Half Marathon at 8 a.m., the 5k Trail run at 8:15 a.m., the 1.5 Mile Kids Run at 9 a.m. and the noon Enduro. The events start at the South Trailhead.

People can register for the NTN events at marquettetrailsfest.com.

John Bennett, NTN race committee member, noted the area’s large, well-maintained non-motorized trail system for hiking and biking puts Marquette on the map as one of the premier Midwest destinations.

“There are not many places that have the opportunity Marquette has in regards to the location, terrain and environment,” Bennett said. “As long as we can continue to build and support this prestigious trail network, our community will continue to benefit for years to come.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.