Your weekend: GetHiking! on the MST and Morrow Mountain, explore the Swannanoa Rim

On a weekend that may be wet in spots but will also be cool (and who knows how much longer this will last?), we’re advocating exploring by foot. At the coast, you can truly get away from it all (on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail’s Coastal Crescent route). In the Piedmont, it may be your last chance for a cool-weather hike. And in the mountains, you have a chance to sample a 54-mile route you probably don’t know exists.


The MST is well-marked through Holly Shelter.
The MST is well-marked through Holly Shelter

Escape is what we seek when we take a hike. Sometimes, that escape means being with friends and, using the trail as a couch of sorts, having discussions that don’t seem to happen elsewhere. Other times that escape means getting away from everything, or at least everything that resembles our daily lives.

Saturday, our GetHiking! group is taking a hike that does about as good a job of escaping the distractions and disturbances of daily life as any we know. In honor of Mountains-to-Sea Trail Month, GetHiking! will explore one of the most remote stretches of the MST on its isolated journey from Smithfield east to Jacksonville, a stretch known as the Coastal Crescent route.

The MST spends 19 miles exploring on gravel roads the pine savannah and pocosin of the Holly Shelter Game Land; GetHiking! will hike about 3 miles of the MST plus adjoining trail for a total hike of about 10 miles. With temperatures expected in the low 70s, there’s no better time to do this hike. Learn more about exploring Holly Shelter on the MST, here.

Logistics: GetHiking! on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail’s Coastal Crescent Route: Holly Shelter Game Land, Saturday, May 21, 10 a.m. Go here for more information and to sign up.

Saturday forecast: High of 74, chance of thunderstorms.

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Looking ahead: Kayaking the Creeks, Bald Head Island, June 11, Bald Head Island Conservancy. More info here.


The view from atop Morrow Mountain
The view from atop Morrow Mountain.

Not to push our own events, but … .

With summer almost here, time is running out to hike the Piedmont. It won’t be long before hot, sticky air descends and cobwebs shroud your favorite trails. This could be the last weekend until fall for a pleasant Piedmont perambulation. And so, we humbly suggest you join our GetHiking! group for a day of hiking Sunday at Morrow Mountain State Park.

The plan is to scale the park’s highest summits: 936-foot Morrow Mountain and 858-foot Sugarloaf Mountain. A little more than 8 miles of total hiking, and there will be stop for lunch. A pretty swell way to spend a mostly sunny, 73-degree day and draw to a close your spring Piedmont hiking season.

Logistics: Sugarloaf Mountain and Morrow Mountain trails, Morrow Mountain State Park, Saturday, May 21, 10 a.m. More info and sign up, here.

Saturday forecast: High of 73, mostly sunny skies.

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Looking ahead: GetHiking! Southeast’s Classic Hikes hiking weekend at Standing Indian Mountain in the Nantahala National Forest, July 9-10, Franklin area. More info here.


The Asheville Watershed and Swannanoa Valley below
The Asheville Watershed and Swannanoa Valley below

To many, the Swannanoa Valley is perhaps better known as the Asheville Watershed, thanks to the signs along the Blue Ridge Parkway for about 10 miles below Mount Mitchell that point out the lush forest valley to the south and east. Defining the valley: the Swannanoa Rim, which runs 31 miles in a roughly horseshoe arc from south of the town of Black Mountain north through the Montreat Wilderness, over Graybeard Mountain, then wrapping back toward Black Mountain along the Parkway. It’s rugged terrain rich with views of of the Black and Craggy mountains.

The rim is also the focus of the Swannanoa Valley Museum’s trademarked Swannanoa Rim hike series, monthly outings of 3 to 8 miles that explore the rim. Saturday, for Hike No. 5 in the series, the Museum will explore an 8-mile stretch referred to as the “Pinnacle of the Blue Ridge.” Exploring the highest reaches of the rim, the hike is described as “difficult,” including “two strenuous ascents, two steep descents, some rock scrambling on three rocky summits and some moderate off-trail hiking.”

Hikers will carpool from Black Mountain.

Logistics: Pinnacle of the Blue Ridge, 8-mile hike, Saturday, May 21, 7 a.m., Black Mountain. $50, $30 for members of the Swannanoa Valley Museum. For more information, go here.

Saturday forecast: High of 68, chance of rain.

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Looking ahead: Lung Buster Time Trial Series: Five-part competitive time trial racing series starts June 2 in Etowah with a 20K, mostly flat with gentle curves. More information, here.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below.

Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

Coastal Guide
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of coastal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.

Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.

North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).

This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).


Asheville Citizen-Times
From the main page, click on “Outdoors,” then WNC Outdoors calendar.

Blue Ridge Outdoors
Searchable calendar lets you extend your reach to events throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast (or you can just limit it to North Carolina). Also lets you search a boatload of categories, ranging from Hiking, Mountain Biking and Climbing to Trail Running, Triathlon and Road Walking.

The Mountain Times
From the main page, click on “Calendars,” then Main Events.

Todd’s Calendar



Charlotte Observer events calendar
Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including Nature, Recreation, Recreation & Wellness, Running

Charlotte Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Comprehensive calendar includes a Sports & Recreation category.

Piedmont Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including: Birding, Boating, Cycling, Nature, Rec & Wellness, Recreation, Running, Swimming, Tennis, Yoga.

Carolina Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.


Great Outdoor Provision Co.
Calendar includes three weekly events for each of its seven markets: Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem. Search by market.

Office of Environmental Education
One calendar for the numerous Environmental Education Centers statewide.

North Carolina State Parks
Lets you search for programs at the state’s parks, recreation areas and natural areas by location, by month, by topic. To reach the calendar from the home page, click on “Education,” then “Fun & Free Programs at Parks.”

National Forests in North Carolina
From the home page, click on Carolina Connections for news updates on the state’s four national forests as well as hints on recreational opportunities and a detailed rundown of recreation areas and the amenities at each.

U.S. National Wildlife Refuges
Rundown, by month, of regular activities at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuges in North Carolina.

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