Backpacker Magazine recently noted that with all the trail’s beauty and variation “you might think the 1,150-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail isn’t long enough”. We are lucky enough to live within 10 miles of the MST, which stretches the length of our beautiful state.
On September 9, 1977, Howard Lee, the North Carolina Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development, recommended that North Carolina build a “state trail from the mountains to the coast, a trail leading through communities as well as natural areas.”
To date, nearly 700 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail have been built. Each year new sections are added, and more and more people enjoy the trail for day hikes, backpacking trips, and cross-state thru hikes.
The MST begins in the west at Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee border where it intersects with the Appalachian Trail. At 6,643 feet high, Clingmans Dome is not only the highest point on the AT, but also the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, Mount Mitchell, about 180 miles to the east of Clingmans Dome, has the honor as the highest point east of the Mississippi and on the MST at 6,684 feet.
The MST also boasts several other impressive superlatives including the highest sand dune on the East Coast at its eastern terminus at Jockey's Ridge in the Outerbanks. In the 1,100 plus miles between Jockey’s Ridge and Clingmans Dome is a broad range of terrain and landscape.
The western third of the trail is dominated by climbs in the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, before transitioning to the Piedmont in the central area of the state. From there the trail travels south along numerous rivers and through historic towns on its way toward the Coastal Plan where it finally heads out to the Outerbanks.
Jennifer Pharr Davis speaking at 40th Anniversary Gathering
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the trail. Throughout the year the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea trail is celebrating the milestone. The celebration kicked off in March with the Gathering of Friends in Elkin, where our ambassador Jennifer Pharr Davis presented the keynote address.
This Spring we are also celebrating the anniversary with the introduction of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail collection of performance hiking socks. The collection honors several sections of the trail including Clingmans Dome, Elkin Valley, Sauratown, Hillsborough, Burgaw, and Ocracoke.
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is one of the great thru-hiking trails in United States. Check out mountainstoseatrail.org to learn more about the trail and plan your next hike.