“North Carolina’s premier long-distance trail, stretching from the Tennessee border to the coast.
— Jim Grode
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
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, on Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Segment 3) to hundreds of miles of coastal beaches ( Mountains-to-Sea Trail: 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.
The MST reflects this diversity. Steep climbs challenge the lungs and legs of the fittest runner, and quiet country ambles provide opportunities for contemplation and relaxation. MST visitors will pass through isolated wilderness where they may not encounter another person for days and share urban greenways with hundreds of other people.
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a cooperative venture between the North Carolina State Parks, federal, state and local land managing agencies, as well as many private and nonprofit entities. It provides an extraordinary way to explore North Carolina—one step at a time. We hope you’ll explore it with us, and share your experiences on the trail with Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
Note that there are two alternative routes for the westernmost portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, from Clingmans Dome
to Waterrock Knob
— Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Segment 1A
and Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Segment 1B
. Although it was necessary to follow one route (Segment 1B) for this trail, Segment 1A is equally suitable for foot traffic. Segment 1A is longer and more challenging, but it is also more remote and has more miles of trail. Segment 1B, on the other hand, is shorter and easier and passes through more towns, but also has significant stretches of road running. We encourage you to learn more about both routes and choose the one that appeals to you.
In addition, Segments 11-16 of the MST offer three options while construction of the MST is underway along the Neuse River between Smithfield and the Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest: The “A” route, a paddling route on the Neuse River; the “B” pedestrian route, known as the Coastal Crescent; and the “C” route, the historic foot traffic/biking route. 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
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). Road sections of the MST are not blazed or signed for the MST.
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.