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Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Intermediate/Difficult
 5.0 (6) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

North Carolina's premier long-distance trail, stretching from the Tennessee border to the coast.


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Map Key

1,237.1

Miles

1,991.0

KM

Point to Point

6,645' 2,025 m

High

-23' -7 m

Low

74,609' 22,741 m

Up

80,868' 24,649 m

Down

2%

Avg Grade (1°)

25%

Max Grade (14°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Birding · Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Much of the mountain portion of the MST is parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway, most of which closes in winter. When the parkway is closed, the trail can only be accessed at major road crossings.

The Sauratown Trail section of Segment 7 is closed for hunting season from November to early January. Hiking the trail during this closure is prohibited.

Beaches in Segment 18 may be periodically closed due to nesting birds or weather. MST hikers can bypass closed sections of beach on nearby roads.

Overview

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST), North Carolina's premier long distance trail, stretches more than 1,150 miles from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee border in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey's Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. On its way, it passes areas of astounding beauty—mountains with vistas that stretch a hundred miles, rolling Piedmont farms, picture postcard colonial towns, weathered tobacco barns, old textile villages, country churches, rushing mountain streams, coastal swamps, hardwood and pine forests, lighthouses, sand dunes and miles of seashore.

A state that encompasses everything from the highest point east of the Mississippi (Mt. Mitchell, Segment 3) to hundreds of miles of coastal beaches (Segment 18) is a place where diversity reigns. From the spruce-fir forests of the highest mountains—a forest more commonly seen in Canada than in the southeast—to the vast expanses of salt marsh on the coast, and everything in between, North Carolina offers some of the greatest topographic and biological diversity anywhere.

Hike Sections

Description

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) is the longest trail system in North Carolina. About 2/3 of the more than 1,150 miles is on trail, and the remaining 1/3 is on interim connecting roads. As new trail opens, the route is shifted to incorporate the new trail. Be sure to check back frequently for the latest updates.

Routing and Segments

The MST is divided into 18 segments, from Segment 1 in the west to Segment 18 in the east. See individual segments for more details.

Segments 11-16 of the MST offer two options while construction of the MST is underway along the Neuse River between Smithfield and the Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest: the pedestrian route, known as the Coastal Crescent, and the "A" route, a paddling route on the Neuse River. This guide follows the Coastal Crescent route, which we believe is most suitable for most visitors; for more information about the other routes, visit Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail's trail guide page.

Blazing

The official blaze of the MST is a 3" white circle. Most, but not all, of the trail portions of the MST are well-marked with this blaze, and some have a second blazing system created by the land management agency whose land the trail passes through (for instance, the state parks). Some but not all road sections of the MST have blazes and/or signs for the MST.

Trail Guides

For more information about the trail, including camping, lodging, parking, shuttles, resupply information, and trail angels, as well as detailed, turn-by-turn directions, download trail guides for each segment from the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Contacts

Shared By:

Jim Grode

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 6 votes

#678

Overall
  5.0 from 6 votes
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Photos

Rays and ridges from Waterrock Knob. Photo by Robert Stephens.
Mar 24, 2016 near Maggie…, NC
Rays and ridges from Waterrock Knob. Photo by Robert Stephens.
Mar 24, 2016 near Maggie…, NC
Plenty of mountains to view from Clingman's Dome.
Mar 31, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Tablerock Mountain (to the right) from Shortoff Mountain.
Dec 2, 2015 near Glen Al…, NC
Peaceful stream
Oct 30, 2020 near Hillsbo…, NC
Enjoy a beautiful view of where the gorge carves through the mountains by sitting on one of the cliff edges along the Shortoff Mountain Trail.
Feb 4, 2017 near Spruce…, NC

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Check-Ins

Mar 17, 2020
Joshua Rivenbark
Jun 14, 2017
Annie Porche
Apr 9, 2017
LK Speas
Greensboro Watershed Trails 14mi
Feb 28, 2017
Rick Spragg
Feb 10, 2017
Rebecca Henley
Osprey out and back pert of segment 9 MTS 4.5mi
Feb 4, 2017
E Stedman
6mi