The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (MST) is a long-distance trail for hiking and backpacking, that traverses North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. The trail's western endpoint is at Clingman's Dome, where it connects to the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its eastern endpoint is in Jockey's Ridge State Park on the tallest sand dune on the east coast. The trail is envisioned as a scenic backbone of an interconnected trail system spanning the state. As such, the trail's route attempts to connect as many trail systems and natural scenic areas as practicable. A little over half of the trail is complete in multiple segments across the state.
The Mountains-to-Sea State Park Trail was made an official land-based unit of the state park system by the General Assembly on August 2, 2000. Since that time, the State Trail unit has grown to encompass 691 acres (280 ha) in three tracts and 87 acres (35 ha) in conservation easements. Each of these tracts is leased to local governments for management as nature parks, under the guidance of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation (NCDPR). The vast majority of the foot trail is located on lands not directly managed as part of a state park unit.
The trail is a part of the North Carolina State Trails Program which is a section of NCDPR, and as of January 2011, 530 miles (853 km) of trail has been designated as a part of the MST by NCDPR.
The MST has the distinction of being the highest elevation long-distance trail in the eastern United States as it crosses Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet (2,037 m).
Sunset view from Clingman's Dome, the western terminus of the trail
|Length||1175 mi (1891 km)|
|Location||North Carolina, United States|
|Designation||National Recreation Trail |
North Carolina State Trail
|Trailheads||Jockey's Ridge, Clingman's Dome|
|Elevation change||6,684 ft (2,037 m)|
|Highest point||Mount Mitchell|
|Lowest point||Pamlico Sound|
|Sights||Appalachian Mountains |
|Hazards||American alligator |
American black bear
Diarrhea from water
|Surface||Natural, sand, gravel, boardwalk, asphalt|
The MST incorporates several other notable trails as part of its route.
Hikers should be aware that the Mountains-To-Sea State Trail does contain camping restrictions across its route. Hikers should research and follow all rules and regulations for camping, as the MST does cross through lands managed by various public and private land agencies & individuals.
In the mountain section, starting in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, camping is allowed at permissible campsites with a back-country permit. Please contact the GSMNP back-country office for permit and reservation information.
Camping within the Blue Ridge Parkway corridor is prohibited except for permissible parkway campgrounds (Doughton Park, Julian Price Park, Linville Falls, Crabtree Meadows, and Mt. Pisgah). In some areas, hikers can cross the BRP boundary lines into the Nantalhala and Pisgah National Forests to camp at well-established campsites. Planning is being done to create designated, private campsites for the MST on parkway land; however, the only backpack site currently open is in Julian Price Park.
On the North Carolina Piedmont section of the MST, camping is not permitted along the Sauratown Trail section (from Pilot Mountain to Hanging Rock State Parks) since the trail is managed and maintained on land leased from private landowners. A list of nearby campgrounds and lodging is maintained on the Sauratown Trails Association Website. There are three privately managed campgrounds a short distance off the Sauratown Trail.
Camping inside the North Carolina State Parks are only allowed at permissible camping sites and campgrounds. Large sections of the Falls Lake State Recreation Area, and neighboring public lands managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, also prohibit camping.
Stealth camping or any illegal camping along the MST is highly discouraged. Possible citations and fines may be enforced if such camping is found by the managing land agency.
The MST as a State Trail unit of the state park system encompasses 691 acres of land in three tracts. The NC Division of Parks and Recreation (NCDPR) leases each of these tracts to local governments for operation as nature parks.
Shallow Ford Natural Area consists of 191 acres (77 ha) located in Alamance County along the banks of the Haw River, and it is managed by the Alamance County Recreation and Parks Department. The natural area has a small, volunteer built trail network, which includes the MST, a few primitive campsites, a canoe access and a picnic area. The natural area was acquired to help fill in a gap in the MST.
The Richardson-Taylor Preserve, formally known as the Morton-Richardson Tract, is a new 440-acre (180 ha) nature preserve that was jointly acquired by the Guilford County Open Space Program and the State of North Carolina. The preserve was acquired in two parts, the Taylor Tract and the Richardson Tract. The 196-acre (79 ha) Taylor Tract was bought by the state park system from the Morton family, who also sold Grandfather Mountain to the state. The Richardson Tract was bought by Guilford County, partly using grants from the state. Both tracts are intended to be managed together as a buffer for the Greensboro Watershed and as a corridor for the MST to reach Haw River State Park from the watershed trails. The Greensboro Parks & Recreation Department manages the preserve with guidance from the Guildford County Open Space Committee and the NC Division of Parks and Recreation.
A third tract was leased to the Town of Clayton for use as part of the Clayton River Walk. The River Walk serves as an extension of the Neuse River Trail into Johnston County, and it is also utilized as part of the East Coast Greenway's route. NCDPR owns the northern most property the River Walk crosses.
The trail currently passes or is planned to pass through several notable natural areas in North Carolina. This list notes them from west to east:
These are images of or along the MST going from west to east:
The General Assembly authorizes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to add the Mountains to Sea State Park Trail to the State Parks System as provided in G.S. 113-44.14(b).
The Art Loeb Trail is a 30.1-mile (48.4 km) trail located in Pisgah National Forest in Western North Carolina. The northern terminus is at the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp in Haywood County, while the trail's southern terminus is located near the Davidson River Campground, near Brevard, in Transylvania County. Along the way, the trail traverses several significant peaks, including Black Balsam Knob (6,214 ft), Tennent Mountain (6040 ft) and Pilot Mountain (5095 ft). The trail also passes the base of Cold Mountain, made famous by the novel and film.
National Geographic Adventure listed the trail as one of the thirty best North American hikes. They praised the views offered on the high Appalachian Balds, the challenging climbs, and the trail's diverse landscape.Bartons Creek Township, Wake County, North Carolina
Bartons Creek Township (also designated Township 2) is one of twenty townships within Wake County, North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, Bartons Creek Township had a population of 22,055.The township occupies 38.0 square miles (98.3 km2) in the northwestern corner of Wake County, including portions of the city of Raleigh.The township is bounded by the border with Durham County, Old Creedmoor Rd, Baileywick Rd, Creedmoor Rd, Strickland Rd, Falls of Neuse Rd, the Neuse River, and Falls Lake. The community of Falls is located partially within the township. Notable features include the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Falls Lake State Recreation Area, and Blue Jay Point County Park. The entire township is within the Falls Lake watershed. I-540 goes through the southern portion of the township.Doughton Park
Doughton Park (Doughton Recreational Area) is the largest recreation area the National Park Service manages on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is located between mile markers 238.5 - 244.7 and at 36° 30' 59.0394" N, -81° 8' 40.92" W. The park is named after North Carolina politician Robert L. Doughton.Douglas Falls
Douglas Falls are a 60-foot waterfall located in Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States. It is on a tributary of Waterfall Creek which flows into the Ivy River, and it is within the Big Ivy section of the Pisgah National Forest. The stream flows off the slope of Craggy Pinnacle, starting just below the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is surrounded by a forest of very large Eastern Hemlock trees, which are dead following attack by the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Visitors should be very careful when visiting this falls, as the dead Hemlocks will start to decay and fall within the next few years.Downtown Elkin Historic District
Downtown Elkin Historic District is a national historic district located at Elkin, Surry County, North Carolina. The district encompasses 51 contributing buildings and 2 contributing structures in the central business district of Elkin. They were primarily built between about 1890 and 1950 and include notable examples of Early Commercial and Bungalow / American Craftsman architecture. Notable buildings and structures include the Gwyn-Foard House (c. 1855), Hugh G. Chatham Bridge (1931), Liberty Tobacco Warehouse (c. 1920), Harris Building (1902), U.S. Post Office (1937) designed by the Office of the Supervising Architect under Louis A. Simon, former Elkins Town Hall (1938–1939) built by the Works Progress Administration, Dobbin's Store (c. 1940), and the Riverside Hotel (1915–1925).It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. It has also been a part of the North Carolina Main Street Program since 1998 and is an accredited MainStreet community. Elkin's Main Street Advisory Board oversees the district and advises on beautification projects, assists with facade grants, and focuses on preserving the historical integrity of the downtown. You can learn more at www.elkinmainstreet.com. Many renovations have been completed recently, and the Reeves Theater is currently being renovated into a live music venue and cafe, scheduled to open in 2016, seating 300 people.
Elkin's historical downtown is unusual as it is along the Yadkin River, and its Main Street is included along the route of the NC Mountains to Sea Trail. It offers various trails including the blue trail along the Yadkin River, which is accessible at Crater Park, two blocks south of Main Street. The Overmountain Victory Trail borders the west side of downtown next to Big Elkin Creek, and a Civil War marker is across from the library at Front St and W Main St. You'll also find various new murals in the downtown depicting historical information, trails and a mural dedicated to the Yadkin Valley Wine Region, AVA, in which Elkin resides.Eno River State Park
Eno River State Park is a 4,200-acre (17 km2) North Carolina state park in Durham and Orange Counties, North Carolina. Together with the adjoining West Point on the Eno city park, the two parks preserve over 14 miles (22.5 km) of the Eno River and surrounding lands.
There are five public access areas with features including twenty-four miles of hiking trails, canoe launches, picnic areas, and historic structures.Falls Lake State Recreation Area
Falls Lake State Recreation Area is a North Carolina state park in Durham and Wake Counties, North Carolina in the United States. Near Wake Forest, North Carolina, it covers 5,035 acres (20.38 km2) along the shores of 12,410-acre (50.2 km2) Falls Lake.Haw River Trail
The Haw River Trail is a 70-mile (110 km) long multi-use trail being built through the North Carolina Piedmont. The trail follows the path of the Haw River from Haw River State Park on the Rockingham/Guilford County line to Jordan Lake State Recreation Area.Jennifer Pharr Davis
Jennifer Pharr Davis is a long distance hiker from the United States of America, author, speaker, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, and Ambassador for the American Hiking Society. She has hiked over 14,000 miles on six different continents, including thru-hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail (three times), the Colorado Trail, the Long Trail in Vermont, the Bibbulmun Track in Australia, and numerous trails in Europe and South America (e.g., the Tour du Mont Blanc, West Highland Way, Laugavegur, GR 11 (Spain), GR 20, and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Cotahuasi Canyon and the Inca Trail.
Pharr Davis lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband Brew and their daughter Charley. She attended the Asheville School. She first hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2005 after graduating from Samford University. To prepare for her initial hike, she attended a class taught by Warren Doyle at the Appalachian Trail Institute. In 2008, she set the record for the fastest Appalachian Trail hike by a woman, in 57 days and 8 hours, an average of 38 miles (61 km) per day. She had previously set the Long Trail trail record in 7 days and 15 hours in 2007. She also established the fastest known time on the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia in 2008.In 2011, Pharr Davis held the fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail completing it in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes. In 2015, Scott Jurek finished 3 hours and 12 minutes faster..
Pharr Davis has written a number of books: She has written two guidebooks about hiking in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, and one about hiking near Asheville, North Carolina. She has also written two memoirs- 2010's Becoming Odyssa, about her 2005 Appalachian Trail thru-hike, and 2013's Called Again, about her record setting A.T. hike. Jennifer has also written 2017's Families on Foot and 2018's The Pursuit of Endurance. As a member of the National Speakers Association, Pharr Davis has shared her trail lessons hundreds of time all across the country, including presentations to Fortune 500 companies, trade organizations, colleges and universities, K-12 schools, libraries, festivals, churches, and other non-profits. She has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR's Talk of the Nation, and The Early Show on CBS. Her articles have appeared in print and online editions for Outside Magazine, Trail Runner, and Blue Ridge Outdoors, and she has contributed to articles in Men's Journal, National Geographic Adventure, and Backpacker.
In 2008, Pharr Davis founded Blue Ridge Hiking Company, with the belief that "the trail is there for everyone at every phase of life" and with the goal of getting people outdoors on their own terms. The company leads half-day, full day and overnight trips in the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville.Pharr Davis is an ambassador for the American Hiking Society, and she was featured as one of National Geographic's Adventurers of the Year in 2012. She was also named Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine's Person of the Year in 2008, and her record-setting A.T. hike in 2011 was named "Performance of the Year" by Ultrarunning Magazine.
In 2012, Pharr Davis hiked 600 miles while six and seven month pregnant with her daughter, Charley, and once her daughter was born, she hiked with her husband and young daughter, in all fifty states by the time she was two.
In 2017, Pharr Davis hiked the 1,175 mile Mountains to Sea Trail in partnership with the Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail. With the support of her husband, Brew, she was able to complete this hike while still nursing her one year old son, Gus, who was born in 2016. Pharr Davis is also hiking the Continental Divide Trail in sections through the Rocky Mountains.Julian Price Memorial Park
Julian Price Memorial Park is a park of 4,200 acres (17 km2) at the foot of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, named in honor of Julian Price. It is at milepost 297 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and directly adjacent to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. Together these parks comprise the largest developed area set aside for public recreation on the Parkway. The park is managed by the National Park Service which received the lands from the Jefferson Pilot Standard Life Insurance Company shortly after Price's death when they received it through his will. The grounds are also known for the fact that the nation's largest National Lumberjack Association rally is held here annually.MillionMile Greenway
The MillionMile Greenway (MMG) is an organization and system of connected greenways across metropolitan Atlanta, the state of Georgia and the eastern United States. MMG intends to help individuals and local communities begin or expand their efforts at conservation and recreation.Mount Collins
Mount Collins is a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains, located in the Southeastern United States. It has an elevation of 6,188 feet (1,886 m) above sea level. Located along the Appalachian Trail between Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap, the mountain is a popular destination for thru-hikers. A backcountry shelter and a major trail junction are located along the mountain's northeastern slope. The mountain's summit is located amidst the Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest that covers much of the upper elevations in the central Smokies.
Like most of the Smokies crest, Mount Collins is situated along the Tennessee-North Carolina border, with Sevier County to the north and Swain County to the south. The mountain rises approximately 4,000 feet (1,200 m) above its southeastern base near Bryson City and just over 3,000 feet (910 m) above its northwestern base near Meigs Post Prong . The mountain is the 25th-highest mountain in the Eastern United States, the 7th-highest in Tennessee, and the 10th-highest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Sugarland Mountain massif— which rises in the Sugarlands and stretches nearly 10 miles (16 km) across the north-central section of the park— intersects the Smokies crest at the summit of Mount Collins. Two major watersheds— Little River and the West Fork of the Little Pigeon River— have their sources high on the mountain's northern slopes. The former flows down to Townsend and drains the northwestern Smokies before emptying into the Tennessee River. The latter drains the north-central section of the park, flowing through the Sugarlands, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville en route to the French Broad River.
Mount Collins is named after Robert Collins, an Oconaluftee resident who guided Arnold Guyot across the crest of the Smokies in the late 1850s. In 1859, Guyot correctly measured the mountain's summit at 6,188 feet (1,886 m). While originally named "Mount Collins", the mountain was known as "Meigs Post" throughout the late-19th century and early-20th century after a station constructed by Return Meigs near its summit. In 1931, Horace Kephart requested the mountain be named for him, but due to protests from Tennesseans (who favored their statesman Robert Collins over the North Carolinian Kephart), he settled on the mountain that now bears his name several miles to the east.Mount Mitchell
Mount Mitchell is the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest peak in mainland eastern North America. It is located near Burnsville in Yancey County, North Carolina; in the Black Mountain subrange of the Appalachians, about 19 miles (31 km) northeast of Asheville. It is protected by Mount Mitchell State Park and surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. Mount Mitchell's elevation is 6,684 feet (2,037 m) above sea level.Neuse River Trail
The Neuse River Trail is a 33-mile (53 km) long paved greenway located in the Raleigh area of North Carolina, running along the banks of the Neuse River from Falls Lake Dam to the town of Clayton. The route passes through the jurisdictions of Raleigh, Wake Forest, Knightdale, and Clayton in Wake and Johnston counties. The Neuse River Greenway trail is part of the Capital Area Greenway system as well as the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that crosses North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. Open to both cyclists and pedestrians, the Neuse River Trail is the longest greenway trail in North Carolina and the longest paved trail between northern Virginia and western Georgia.The Neuse River Trail is a part of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000 mile long system of trails connecting Maine to Florida.Neusiok Trail
The Neusiok Trail is a 20.4-mile (32.8 km) hiking trail located in the Croatan National Forest in Carteret County, North Carolina. The trail traverses the forest from a sandy beach on the Neuse River to a salt marsh on the Newport River, and along the way, it crosses cypress swamps, hardwood ridges, longleaf-pine savannah and pocosin—shrubby bogs The entire Neusiok is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) which spans North Carolina, and the MST in the Croatan is a designated National Recreation Trail.Sauratown Mountains
The Sauratown Mountains,( Pronounced Sar-a -town like Laura not Sour) which are sometimes called "the mountains away from the mountains", are an isolated mountain range located within Stokes and Surry counties in the U.S. state of North Carolina. The vast majority of the range is located in Stokes County, and even though the range occupies only 5% of Stokes County's area, it dominates the county's scenery from almost every direction. The Sauras rise sharply 800 to 1,700 feet (244 to 518 meters) above the surrounding terrain. The Sauratown Mountains were named after the "Sauras", a Native American tribe that lived in the area before European settlers arrived in the early 1700s. The range consists of rugged, heavily forested ridges frequently broken by large quartzite rock cliffs that can be seen for miles. The Sauratown Mountains are known for offering some of the best rock climbing in North Carolina. The highest point in the Sauratown Mountains is Moore's Knob, which rises to 2,579 feet (786 m).
The range is home to Hanging Rock State Park, which was formed in 1936 and contains Moore's Knob and other prominent peaks in the Sauratown Mountains. From 1935 to 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal agency, built a dam and 12-acre (49,000 m2) lake in the park, as well as hiking and climbing trails and picnic and campground areas.Uniquely shaped Pilot Mountain is also located in the range. Pilot Mountain State Park encompasses the westernmost end of the range.
A hiking and bridle trail, known as the Sauratown Trail, crosses the range and interconnects the two state parks. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail follows the Sauratown Trail, and it passes through both parks.The range is visible on a clear day from downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.Sauratown Trail
Sauratown Trail is a hiking and bridle trail in Stokes and Surry counties, North Carolina, which crosses the Sauratown Mountains and interconnects Pilot Mountain State Park and Hanging Rock State Park. It is the only bridle trail which goes between two NC State Parks. The trail is located primarily on leased, privately owned lands, and it is the longest publicly open trail on private lands in the state. The trail consists of a main trail of 22.2 miles (35.7 km) and two spur loops each about 6 miles (9.7 km) around. Altogether, the Sauratown Trail and its spurs total over 30 miles (48 km) of trail. The trail was dedicated by the Sauratown Trail Committee in October 1979. Since 2002, most of the main trail has been designated a part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.The Sauratown Trails Association was founded in 1988 to succeed the Sauratown Trail Committee, and it created the current trail's route and its spurs. The volunteer group is primarily responsible for the trail's maintenance and continued existence.Tanawha Trail
The Tanawha Trail, stretching 13.5 miles (21.7 km) from Julian Price Park to Beacon Heights parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, in the United States. Tanawha, the Cherokee word for fabulous hawk or eagle is an appropriate name for this trail that offers hikers views of distant mountains. Completed in 1993, the Tanawha Trail, like the final section of the Parkway it mirrors, is unique in construction. The trail traverses a fragile and ancient ecosystem and leads hikers through a surprising range of biological and geological terrains. Some sections tunnel through thickets of laurel and rhododendron. Others dip down into remote hardwood coves and then ascend into evergreen glens. Boulder fields and cascading streams punctuate the landscape.Sections above the Linn Cove Viaduct and along Rough Ridge are strenuous, but overall the trail is an easy to moderate walk. The many accesses from the Parkway let hikers choose as long a section as they like. To preserve this delicate area, hikers are encouraged to stay on designated paths, bridges, and boardwalks.Most of the Tanawha Trail is also incorporated as a part of North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST), which transverses the state from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.