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Pigeon River Country State Forest

A rainbow over the fall trees in Pigeon River Country State Forest

Pigeon River Country State Forest

An elk running through a field

A forest known as "The Big Wild"

One hundred years ago, a unique, rustic area – the “Pine Barrens Country” that a young Ernest Hemingway called “wild as the devil” and “the greatest I’ve ever been in” – became the Pigeon River Country State Forest. Now home to one of the largest free-roaming elk herds east of the Mississippi, the Pigeon offers abundant opportunities to explore the outdoors.

At 12 miles wide and 20 miles long, it is the largest block of contiguous undeveloped land in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Read about the forest's history


Located in the north-central part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, just a few miles northeast of Gaylord, it is removed from civilization, and that’s what makes the 109,000-acre “Big Wild” so special.

If you’re planning a trip to the Pigeon, keep in mind that it’s managed differently than other state forests. To retain that “wild character” that provides an opportunity for a remote, undeveloped, backcountry experience, it isn’t peppered with a lot of infrastructure and signs. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to explore – you just have to be ready for an adventure. Also be aware that cellphone coverage is patchy. 

Check out the links below for more information about outdoor recreation in the Pigeon River Country State Forest, including maps.

E-mail the Pigeon River Forest Management Unit for more information.


The Pigeon River’s headquarters address usually will not work when entered into GPS. Coordinates for the headquarters are 45.169742°, -84.439495°. You can also use the following directions:

  • Take 1-75 to exit 290 (Vanderbilt exit).
  • Turn east onto Mill Street. This will take you into the town of Vanderbilt. Stay on Mill Street for half a mile.
  • Turn left onto Main Street. A sign at the intersection points to the left for the Pigeon River Country.
  • Main Street turns into Sturgeon Valley Road. Stay on Sturgeon Valley Road for 11 miles.
  • At the end of the pavement, turn left onto Twin Lakes Road.
  • Travel north on Twin Lakes Road for 1 mile. The headquarters is on the left-hand side of the curve, with a sign in front. The Discovery Center (open most weekends and holidays) is behind the headquarters and uses the same parking lot.
Open the Pigeon River Country State Forest map