This weekend, go long

This weekend, Triangle residents get to celebrate the region’s two longest trails.

Saturday, the Falls Lake portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail gets another 11 miles dedicated, extending the number of miles finished MST along the lake’s south shore to 46. Then, on Sunday the East Coast Greenway is sponsoring a walk/ride on the newest section of the 22-mile American Tobacco Trail to be nearly almost completely open.

Nearly almost completely open?

The 4.6-mile stretch through Chatham County is “open” if you don’t count  little elements of construction that are still hanging. But it is passable enough that Steve Bevington, the ECGA’s regional coordinator, is ready to lead a four-mile hike and an 18-mile bike ride on the new trail. Steve describes the hike as being on crushed gravel surface while the ride will be on a mix of crushed gravel, blacktop and “short road sections.” Both are out-and-back events, so you needn’t worry about a car shuttle.

The American Tobacco Trail, if you’re not familiar with it, is a 22-mile rails-to-trails project that follows an old rail bed (so it’s relatively flat) from downtown Durham to New Hill in western Wake County. With the completion of the long-awaited Chatham County section, all but two miles of the trail are open. Those remaining two miles involve navigating Durham’s Streets at Southpoint mall and a pedestrian bridge spanning I-40. (Last I heard, that bridge could begin construction as early as summer.) The ATT is part of the East Coast Greenway, a work-in-progress that will one day span the East Coast, running nearly 3,000 miles from Key West, Fla., to Calais, Maine, on the Canadian border.

Sunday’s walk/bike starts and finishes from C.M. Herndon Park at 511 Scott King Road (from I-40 take Fayetteville Road south for about three miles, then turn left on Scott King; the park is a short distance, on your left.) It’s free, and refreshments are planned.

14 / 2 houses w/beach acces
MST volunteer Chris Underhill savors a rare vista along the new stretch of MST along Falls Lake.

Likewise, the 11 new miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along Falls Lake section have been open and hikeable for a while now. They just haven’t been open and hikeable as an officially designated portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. That blessing will occur Saturday afternoon at 4:30 when various dignitaries gather at 4:30 in Shelter 13 at the Rolling View Recreation Area to dedicate the 11 miles running uplake from N.C. 50 to the so-called “burned out bridge at Lick Creek.” (Anyone else suddenly got some Ennio Morricone rattling around in their head?)  I’ve hiked this stretch several times (including a couple times at night) and it’s got the best hiking along Falls Lake. It’s more remote, with the trail getting farther from the development that’s pervasive east of of N.C. 50. As a result, it has more of a backwoods feel. You can find maps of this stretch on the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Web site.

The dedication comes as part of Mountains-to-Sea Trail Month, which is being celebrated statewide. If you’re not in the Triangle area, chances are there’s some sort of MST observation going on on a portion of the trail near you. Here’s what else is going on Saturday; you can find more details here.

  • Trail Workday, Soco Gap west of Asheville, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Piet Bodenhorst at 828-298-8371 or
  • Overnight Backpack to Bald Knob, 11 a.m. Saturday to Sunday afternoon. (Preregistration has closed.)
  • Hike the new MST route through New Bern, 8:30 a.m. to arrange shuttles, John Jaskolka at; 252-637-6737.
  • Hike from Buckeye Gap to NC 215, 8 a.m., Paul Dickens, 828-279-3941,
  • Hike Moore’s Wall Loop Trail at Hanging Rock State Park, 10 a.m., 336-593-8480,
  • Hike the Newton Bald Trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, 9 a.m.,  Alan Householder, 865-908-9867.
  • Hike the MST in Doughton Park, 8 a.m., B Townes,, 336-984-1048.
  • Leave No Trace Activities and Nature Hike at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, 2 p.m. Candace Rose, Park Ranger, 919-778-6234,

As for me, despite these two great opportunities in my backyard, I’ll be going long and short this weekend. Saturday, I return from a two-day backpack trip on the Sauratown Trail linking Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain state parks, Sunday it’s my graduation ceremony from the Fit-tastic running program — the Monster Dash 5K in Cameron Village. My goal: to recapture a smidgen of my running youth by finishing the 3.1-mile run in 22 minutes, 30 seconds or less.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

3 thoughts on “This weekend, go long”

  1. Here comes the sun!
    As the rain and wind have not knocked off all all the leaves I think we may still have a Sunday near peak beauty for the hike/bike.
    Perfect for a walk or a bike on the ATT.

    I hope to see you this Sunday at 2:30 at Herndon City Park, 511 Scott King Road, Durham for a fall walk or bike ride.

  2. Joe-

    Thanks for promoting the maps I did. Trail is open all the way to “burned out bridge” off Santee Road on the east side of Lick Creek but – trivial distinction – I think the designation of trail only goes as far as Rolling View Marina.

    Trail is also open on the west side of Lick Creek from the junction of Jimmy Rogers Rd and Little Jimmy Rogers Rd all the way to the end of E. Geer Street near the small airport.

    New trail construction has started in the Eno River State Park along the south bank of the river from the Cabe Lands Section to the Pump Station section.

    Hope I run into you out on the trail.


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