10 Highlights of the Mountains to Sea Trail
Stretching 1175 miles across the state of North Carolina, the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) is as unique as the landscape it traverses. From its western-most point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the eastern terminus on the Outer Banks, the MST crosses four national parks, three national forests, and two wilderness areas. Driven by a large network of volunteers, the trail has been a work in progress since 1977. As of 2016, nearly 700 miles of footpath are complete. The rest of the trail is temporarily made up of backroads and community bike paths and greenways.
If you call North Carolina home, the MST isn’t far from where you live. Here are some highlights and favorite hikes across the state.
1. Clingman’s Dome
The MST’s western terminus stands at 6,643 feet and is the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
2. Mt. Mitchell
A short spur trail off the MST takes hikers to the summit of 6,684 ft. Mt. Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Rockies.
3. Linville Gorge
Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East”, Linville Gorge is a rugged wilderness area known for spectacular rock climbing and hiking.
4. Stone Mountain
Hike to the top of a massive 600 foot granite rock face and enjoy views of a 200 foot waterfall.
5. Hanging Rock
Known for its sheer cliffs and rocky summits, Hanging Rock State Park is a favorite for local climbers.
6. Watershed Lakes
The MST connects six different footpaths around three lakes near Greensboro: Lake Higgins, Lake Brandt, and Lake Townsend.
7. Falls Lake
More than 50 miles of the MST winds around farmlands, through hardwood forests, and along the shores of Falls Lake just outside of Raleigh.
8. The Neusiok Trail
The MST follows the Neusiok Trail for more than 20 miles through Croatan National Forest, which is known for Loblolly Pines and swamplands.
9. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
This section of the MST is almost completely a beach walk that covers 113 miles across Cape Hatteras National Seashore. As an added bonus, hikers can climb to the top of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse between April and October.
10. Jockey’s Ridge
This 140 foot sand dune (tallest in the Eastern US) is the eastern terminus of the MST.
To plan your own adventure on the Mountains to Sea Trail, check out an interactive map of the entire trail here.
Liz Snyder, Assistant Camp Director