Downtown Kalkaska is the home of the National Trout Festival

trout sculptureNorthwest Michigan has become one of the top regions for vacationers and rightfully so. The area has everything. There are famous sand dunes, rivers for kayakers and fishermen, festivals, huge forests and miles of trails. People who make their way to the northwest for the first time are sometimes surprised to discover that they can’t get there on the Interstate Highway System. At some point on the trip they will have to travel on a Michigan back road and, unless your route hugs the shore of Lake Michigan, the journey will very likely pass through Kalkaska. Even the North Country Trail and the Iron Belle hiking trails go through Kalkaska County. Embraced by the Pere Marquette State Forest and within a few miles of major shopping destinations, Kalkaska has developed as a sort of headquarters for sports lovers and nature lovers. It’s almost like everyone who goes there just loves to play outdoors. Throw in some major festival events and you have a town that really is a favorite destination in all four seasons.

Kalkaska is a designated Trail Town courtesy of the North Country Trail Association. Several miles of the NCT and the Iron Belle Trail pass through the Pere Marquette Forest and into town. The Iron Belle shares a portion of the North Country Trail. More walking trails are found in the Skegemog Natural Area, the School Forest, and others. A favorite, and seldom visited trail, winds through the Seven Bridges Park, known as the "Jewel of Kalkaska County".  The Leetsville ORV Trail offers 20+ miles of trail riding, click here for more trail and camping info.

speeder carDowntown Kalkaska is the venue for several events; three of them remain on my “must do” list every year. Kalkaska is on a major railroad route and the railroad is still in use here. In June they have a most unusual event, the Speeder Cars come to town.  Speeder Cars are railroad motor cars that were used by safety inspectors and to move maintenance crews quickly. They were mainly boxy affairs that could move faster than walkers or those using a hand car. Each year dozens of speeder cars make the excursion from Petoskey to Cadillac with a stop at Chalker Park in downtown Kalkaska. Some of them have been tricked out for the event. There is even one speeder that has the body of a mini Cooper, one of only five in the world. The Speeder Cars stop in town for a while so spectators can get pictures and check out these very cool vehicles.

Another is the Color Tour Train. The Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso brings the Northern Arrow to Kalkaska each October.

Kalkaska is also host to the National Trout Festival. The festival kicks off at the Trout Fountain to celebrate the opening of trout season in April. The Trout King and Queen Coronation is followed by a week of trout fishing, clinics and competitions, food, races and parades. This event has been going on for more than 75 years and gets bigger every year.