Saturday, 30 hikers with our GetHiking! Triangle hiking group set off on an ambitious, but certainly not arduous, task: To hike all 60 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail along Falls Lake. In Greensboro, our GetHiking! Triad group likewise launched a month of exploring the MST with a 5.7-mile hike on a section it piggybacks on the Sauratown Trail between Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain. And this Saturday, GetHiking! Charlotte will commence its month-long exploration of the MST with a hike from the Basin Cove Overlook to the Devil’s Garden Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Why the infatuation with the MST?
It’s great hiking, for one. And May is Mountains-to-Sea Trail Month.
The MST, if you’re new to these parts, is a statewide trail begun in the mid-1970s. The goal was to create a 1,000-mile hiking trail linking Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies, on the Tennessee line, with the dunes of Jockey’s Ridge on the Atlantic. The project advanced slowly at first, but in the mid-1990s, Allen de Hart, North Carolina’s Mr. Hiking, revived the effort, which has been advancing at breakneck speed since.
A few things to know about this effort.
One, while the MST is technically a state park, it is an almost entirely volunteer-run operation. It has two paid positions: Executive Director Kate Dixon and JoEllen Mason, Outreach & Membership Coordinator. Other than that, the MST is made possible by hundreds of volunteers statewide who put in thousands of hours to make the trail what it is today, which is, with more than 500 miles finished, more than half complete.
Most of the finished trail is in the mountains. There’s also a goodly amount finished in and north of the Triad, and through the Triangle, where more than 100 miles of MST runs from near Hillsborough down the Eno River, along Falls Lake, then south along the Neuse River into Clayton.
The purpose of Mountains-to-Sea Trail Month is to raise awareness of the trail as well as money to help make the rest of the trail — especially the stretch between the Triangle and the coast — happen. I’ll write more about this later.
The purpose of today’s post is to encourage you to get out and see the MST during one of the best statewide hiking months of the year. Here’s what our GetHiking! programs have on tap:
Saturday, May 10: 10.4 miles, Basin Cove Overlook to Devil’s Garden Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Sunday, May 18: 8 miles, Jumpinoff Rocks to Sheets Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Saturday, May 24: 5-7 miles, Harper Creek Wilderness, Wilson Creek area
Saturday, May 31: 7.9 miles, Tanawha Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway along the east flank of Grandfather Mountain
Saturday, May 10: 7.75 miles, mostly within Pilot Mountain State Park.
Sunday, May 18: 6.5 miles, Greensboro watershed lakes (Nat Greene and Laurel Bluffs trails)
Saturday, May 24: 7.3 miles, Greensboro watershed lakes (Peninsula, Osprey and Townsend Trails)
Saturday, May 31: 10 a.m., Doughton Park to Devil’s Garden Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Tuesday, May 6 (tonight): 4.1 miles, MST along Falls Lake (Possum Track Road to Bayleaf Church Road)
Saturday, May 10: 8.3 miles, MST along Falls Lake (Six Forks Road to Shinleaf Recreation Area)
Tuesday, May 13: 3.7 miles, MST along Falls Lake (Shinleaf Recreation Area to NC 50)
Sunday, May 18: 14.9 miles, MST along Falls Lake (NC 50 to Rollingview State Recreation Area)
Tuesday, May 20: 4.7 miles, MST along Falls Lake (Lick Creek Bridge to Cheek Road)
Saturday, May 24: 11 miles, MST along Falls Lake (Cheek Road to Red Mill Road)
Wednesday, May 28: 3.8 miles, MST along Falls Lake (Red Mill Road to Penny’s Bend)
For more information on these hikes, click the link to the respective Meetup group.
And you don’t have to hike the MST with an organized group. The trail is agreeable to individual inspection as well. Learn more about how to explore the MST at the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail website.