Ogemaw Hills Pathway

13.6 Miles

Biking / Hiking / Cross Country Skiing in the AuSable State Forest

The Ogemaw Hills Pathway is located at the corner of Clear Lake Road and Fairview Road. Take Exit 212 (West Branch Exit) following Business Loop 75 to Fairview Road (5 miles to Ogemaw Hills Pathway).

Ogemaw Hills Pathway
  • Ogemaw Hills Pathway Map
    Ogemaw Hills PAthway

    Hiking Cross Country Skiing Mountain BikingClear Lake Road and Fairview Road - AuSable State ForestTrails: 13.6 MilesPhone: (989) 473-2258

    Download Map - pdf format 1.83 mb

Ogemaw Hills Pathway is located in the hills north of West Branch at the comer of Fairview and Clear Lake Roads. The trails wind through approximately 15 miles of the AuSable State Forest providing groomed cross country trails for all skill levels.

To thoroughly enjoy this area you should understand the dynamic forces that were at work shaping our landscape thousands of years ago.

Ogemaw Hills Pathway

As you drive along the 1-75 Business Loop into West Branch or travel Fairview Road, notice the well defined ridge of hills to the north referred to by geologists as the 'West Branch Moraine'. The morainic system' arcs southwest towards and through Clare County and continues south­ward before being terminated by the Maple River in lonia County.

About 16,000 years ago the 'Saginaw Lobe', part of a larger retreating glacial front thousands of feet thick, formed these recessional moraines along with others during the course of an interval that may have taken several hundred years.

The moraines also generally mark the border of glacial Lake Saginaw which formed in front of the melting ice lobe and retreated back into present day Saginaw Bay. This is an area of flat terrain from West Branch to Flint commonly referred to as the 'Saginaw Valley'.

Glacial terrain is just one aspect that defines the pathway. Man's impact past and present is very much in evidence. In 1903, with thousands of acres of abandoned cutover and burned over stumplands, the Michigan state forest system was born with the establishment of a 'forest reserve' on 34,000 acres of land that came to be known as the Higgins Lake and Houghton Lake State Forests.

Cross Country Skiing - Ogemaw Hills Pathway

Ogemaw Hills Pathway is located in the hills north of West Branch at the comer of Fairview and Clear Lake Roads. The trails wind through approximately 15 miles of the AuSable State Forest providing groomed cross country trails for all skill levels. Because of its location skiers can usually count on 6 to 10 more inches of snow on the trails than in the lower areas around West Branch and Rose City due to the elevation difference.

The Ogemaw State Forest, the state's fifth of 53 separate reserves, was administrated in 1914, embracing some 4,160 acres. The appointment of a 'forest custodian', Grover Zettle of West Branch, was made on April 23rd. A location for headquarters was selected in the forest off Dow Road (2 miles southwest of the pathway) with quarters established in tents until housing was completed in June. A tree served as a temporary lookout until a fifty foot steel tower was completed in September of that year.

Many pioneer farms were on poor sandy soil (glacial outwash) that could not support themselves and eventually abandoned, reverting to state ownership for non-payment of taxes. With the hardships of the Great Depression, some two million acres of land reverted back to the state in 1939. The clearing you enter as you ski or hike are old farm fields slowly being reclaimed by forest. Old fence lines, orchards, rock piles, lilacs and foundations long since abandoned can be found.

By 1971 the Ogemaw State Forest comprised 80,470 acres. In 1978 the various state forests were consolidated into six large District forests. The Ogemaw became part of the AuSable State Forest comprising 728,000 acres.

Hiking Ogemaw Hills Pathway

In terms of forest cover types the area varies from large expanses of jack pine on the sandy plains, to low conifer swamps. The tree species are primarily associations of jack pine, red pine, and black oak, in the sandy areas. Finally on the ridges along the higher elevations bigtooth aspen and red oak are found on the better quality soils. Much of the state forest land originated after the large forest fires during the early 1900's, and many areas were replanted by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Ogemaw Hills Pathway Map

Ogemaw Hills Pathway
Ogemaw Hills Pathway
Ogemaw Hills Pathway