Discover North Carolina’s State Trails

How do you follow an event like Year of the Trail?

You don’t. But you do build on it.

The just-passed Year of the Trail was intended to promote North Carolina’s vast trail system. Hiking trails, sure, but paddling, biking and equestrian as well. Year of the Trail events were held in 94 of the state’s 100 counties, those events ranging from hour-long guided walks on local greenways to three-day festivals celebrating trails across the state. The ultimate sign of Year of the Trail’s success? When the concept was conceived by the state’s General Assembly in 2021, it included $29.15 million for trail development; in the budget passed this past fall, legislators allotted nearly twice that much for trail development in the next two years.

Covered bridge on the Fonta Flora State Trail

Much of that money is targeted to the North Carolina’s State Trails, of which there are 14. State trails? you may wonder. These are longer trails — some hiking, some paddling, some both, one equestrian — that date back to the 1970s. You’ve likely heard of one, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, you likely haven’t heard of the others. Each trail has a non-profit partner that is in charge of the trail’s development. Here’s a quick synopsis of the trails, including it’s partner:

  • Dan River State Trail, 90-mile paddle trail in Surry, Stokes and Rockingham counties. Partner: Dan River Basin Association
  • Deep River State Trail, 125-mile paddle and hiking trail that follows its namesake river from Jamestown in the Triad to Moncure. Partner: Piedmont Land Conservancy
  • East Coast Greenway State Trail, the North Carolina portion of the East Coast Greenway, which will run 3,000 miles, from Maine to Florida. North Carolina’s stretch is two, actually, one in the Piedmont and one along the coast. The converge in Wilmington. Partner: East Coast Greenway Alliance 
  • Equestrian State Trail, a horse trail still in the conceptual phase that will be located south of the Triangle.
  • Fonta Flora State Trail, probably the fastest developing of the State Trails, this hiking/biking trail will link Asheville to Morganton (with a loop around Lake James). About 38 miles of the trail, mostly in Burke County, are done. Partner: Friends of the Fonta Flora State Trail
  • French Broad River State Trail, a paddle trail running 115 miles along the French Broad, from Rosman to the Tennessee Line. Partner: Mountain True
  • Haw River State Trail, a paddle and hiking trail running from the Haw’s headwaters north of Greensboro to its conclusion in Jordan Lake. Partner: Alamance Parks
  • Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail, hiking and biking trail linking the Hickory Nut Gorge area near Lake Lure with South Mountains State Park. Partner: Conserving Carolina
  • Mountains-to-Sea Trail, 1,175-mile hiking trail spanning the state, from Clingman’s Dome on the Tennessee line to Jockey’s Ridge at the coast. Partner: Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail
  • Northern Peaks State Trail, 40-mile hiking trail that will link Boone on the south to Mount Jefferson State Natural Area to the north. Partner: Blue Ridge Conservancy
  • Overmountain Victory State Trail, the 225-mile stretch of the OVT in North Carolina; the trail runs through three other states.
  • Roanoke River State Trail, paddle trail originating at Roanoke Rapids and ending at Albemarle Sound. Known for the camping platforms developed by its partner, Roanoke River Partners
  • Wilderness Gateway Trail, a mostly hiking trail that will link at South Mountains State Park with the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail (see above) with the towns of Valdese and Hickory. Partner: Foothills Conservancy
  • Yadkin River State Trail, 163-mile paddle trail running from W. Scott Kerr Reservoir to Morrow Mountain State Park. Partner: Yadkin River Keeper

For more information on the North Carolina’s State Trails system, go here. For the latest on each trail, click the provided partner link.

We’ll be exploring and writing about North Carolina’s State Trails throughout 2024. Return to this space for the latest information.

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