About the State Trail
The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail is North Carolina's flagship state trail. The notion of a trail extending across the width of North Carolina was proposed in 1977 by Howard Lee, who was then the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development. In 2000, the MST became a state trail and a unit of the state parks system. In 2017, the General Assembly authorized a major addition to the MST: the Coastal Crescent route that loops through southeastern North Carolina.
When completely constructed, the MST will be about 1,400 miles long. Currently, there are more than 675 miles of trail that are completed and designated.
The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation is completely committed to developing the MST as a continuous, off-road trail across the state. To that end, the Division has dedicated considerable financial and staff resources to the planning and coordination of the entire trail. One of the hallmarks of its efforts is developing partnerships with local, state, and federal land management agencies, along with nonprofit organization, land trusts and volunteers, to advance the development of the MST.
The Friends of Mountains-to-Sea Trail provides information on the trail, sponsors most of the task forces that build and maintain sections of trail and promotes thru-hiking the trail by providing interim routes that connect completed portions of the MST.
The blaze quite literally represents the name of the trail and the variety of geographical areas that the MST connects:
- Mountainous western region, beginning at Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and traversing:
- Mount Mitchell State Park
- Grandfather Mountain State Park
- Stone Mountain State Park
- Piedmont central region
- Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock state parks and Greensboro area
- Northern Triangle (Eno River State Park and Falls Lake State Recreation Area)
- Coastal Plains region
- Northern route following the Neuse River
- Coastal Crescent route towards Jones Lake and Singletary Lake state parks then out to Jacksonville
- Both routes converge again before curving up the Outer Banks, ending at Jockey's Ridge State Park
While section sponsors build, maintain, and manage their section of a state trail — deciding on location, design, surface, permitted uses and amenities — N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation staff are responsible for the overall corridor planning and coordination, as well as providing guidance and assistance to all section sponsors.
Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail's mission is to bring together communities and volunteers to build a simple footpath connecting North Carolina's natural treasures for the enjoyment and education of people. They do this through:
- Trail Building and Maintenance: Hundreds of volunteers build and maintain trail across the state.
- Helping People Enjoy the Trail: They spread the word to people who love trails and North Carolina and help them find ways to use, care for, and extend the trail. They are the primary source of information about how to hike the trail through their website and printed trail guides.
- Improving the Trail Route: They work to improve the hiking experience — identifying campsites, providing interesting routes on quiet backroads to connect sections of completed trail, and recruiting "trail angels" who can help thru-hikers on their statewide treks. They work with State Parks, local governments and nonprofit land trusts to help them acquire more land to build new sections of trail.
- Advocacy: They help elected officials at the local, state, and federal level understand the value of the trail for recreation, quality of life, the economy, and the environment. They explain how our governments can help make it happen.
- Fundraising: They encourage individuals and businesses to contribute financially to support the trail.
The best source of volunteer opportunities on the MST is the Friends of the MST. Each of the section sponsors may also have ways for you to volunteer on the trail.
About Partner Organizations
The legislation that created the Complete the Trails program requires that funds be distributed by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation to a nonprofit partner for each trail. To be the recognized partner, an organization must have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Division and an approved 3- to 5-year plan for deploying the funds to develop the state trail.
As part of the Complete the Trail Program, each state trail partner organization was required to submit a five-year plan, outlining priorities and goals until 2027 for their trail. Excerpts from the plan are outlined below.
Capacity Building Fund Projects:
The Friends of the MST plans to use capacity building funds to add a new staff person to help increase organizational visibility, help manage and expand their volunteer efforts, sustain and grow their membership, build relationships with stakeholders in key areas, and organize celebratory events when new sections of trail open and a statewide event schedule for 2023 to celebrate the Year of the Trail.
Priority CTP Projects:
- Bushy Lake State Natural Area: Land acquisition and new trail construction could add nearly 18 miles of new trail
- Dan River: Trail development from Danbury to Oak Ridge
- North River wetlands: Land acquisition and trail construction
- Holly Shelter Game Land: Land acquisition and trail construnction
- Hanging Rock to Danbury Trail: New trail to connect the state park to downtown Danbury
|Estimated cost for all MST priority projects
|Estimated cost for all MST projects
|CTP allocation for MST
Banner photo by N.C. DPR staff: Backpackers on the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail at Mount Mitchell State Park