An Overview of North Carolina’s 1,150 Mile Mountains to Sea Trail

While everyone else is getting psyched up to start their thru-hike, we are just sitting on cruise control…. we have about 175 days until departure. It feels like a lifetime away. So for your reading pleasure, I will tell you about a trail in the state I currently reside, North Carolina. The Mountains to Sea trail is wonderful! I have found myself on various sections of the trail while living in NC and plan to hike many sections while we wait for July to come.

Fun Facts


The Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) stretches across the state of North Carolina, totaling approximately 1150 miles. About 672 miles are completed trail, the rest of the mileage is on bicycle routes or back roads.

Clingmans Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains is the Western Terminus of the  MST. Friends of the Mountain to Sea trail recommend starting here in the spring if you plan to thru-hike.

The Eastern Terminus of the MST is at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Here you will need to take 3 ferry rides to island hop to reach the end of the trail.

Thirty-seven counties are connected with this trail.

Three national parks,two national wildlife refuges, three national forests and seven state parks are traveled over the length of the trail.

In 1977 the trail was proposed and in 2000 the MST was added to the state park system.

The Friends of the Mountain to Sea Trail (FMST) is the organization who builds and maintains the trails and rely on volunteers to www.ncmst.orghelp. There are multiple crew leaders across the state that can be contacted if interested in volunteering for a trail work day. They also have a great calendar online you can check for events or trail days.

Hiking the MST


The MST does not have any shelter like some of the other long-distance trails. To plan your long distance hike on the MST check out the FMST Trail Guides. These guides point out camping options and points of interest along the trail.


There are multiple post offices along the route you can send resupply boxes. Alternately, there are gas stations and local stores you can resupply at. The FMST site advises these are smaller stores and may have higher prices due to their size and inability to order in bulk, so be prepared and budget for that.

From the mountains to the sea bears do exist in North Carolina. It is recommended that you hang your food every night.

Water, Sun and Bugs

Be prepared! The summers can get really hot and humid in North Carolina. As you should everywhere, treat your water! and bring enough to keep hydrated! Bring sunscreen, there are many miles in the open on trail and along the back roads. Also, make sure to bring bug spray. North Carolina is full of insects, especially near the coast.

Get Involved


Trails don’t build themselves… Volunteers are always need and appreciated to help with building of new sections and reroutes, also helping with general maintenance such as clearing trees, trimming back growth and clearing drains.

Great Outdoor Provisions Trail Work Day

If trail work isn’t something you are in to, you could volunteer to help out at a festival. The FMST sets up booths at events including festivals around the state throughout the year. You could volunteer to hang out for the day and talk about how awesome the MST is and recruit volunteers! Other ways to volunteer can include helping out at the office in Raleigh and at the annual meeting at Elon University.

Click here for more info on volunteer opportunities with the Friends of the Mountain to Sea Trail.


The FMST is a non-profit and could benefit from financial gifts. There are multiple ways to give financially:

  • Stocks
  • Matching gifts (from your employer)
  • Corporate Sponsorship
  • Specialty License plate
  • and more!

Join the Mailing List

Click here!

All data is from the Friends of the Mountain to Sea website at:


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Comments 6

  • Gina De Naples : Jan 26th

    I’m from North Carolina and I only recently learned about the MST! I’ve been missing out these past 20 years. I’m probably going to do some sections this month as part of my shakedowns. Thanks for sharing!

    • Stephanie Bush : Jan 26th

      I didn’t realize the scope of this trail until I did the research! My favorite place to hike in NC is in the Wilson Creek area. I had seen the blazes for the MST and always had wondered how far it went. Imagine my surprise when I found out it goes all the way to the coast and up the Outer Banks! Good luck on your shake down hikes!!!

  • Katina : Jan 27th

    Another interesting post about another trail. (Too funny–first you write about the Ice Age Trail, now this!) I also hike a very short part of it in January while visiting my daughter who used to live in the Raleigh/Durham area a few years ago. So many trails, so little time…

  • Kate Dixon : Jan 28th

    Thanks for sharing all this great information about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail – how to hike it and how to get involved! Kate Dixon, Executive Director, Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

  • Angie Young : Jan 28th

    I live in Raleigh. My husband and I have been hiking the MST trails for shake downs getting ready for our section hike of the AT in March. We have hiked the Falls Lake area, Eno and this weekend we will be heading to Hanging Rock. If you get the chance, go and hike up the rock then hike the 7.4 mile MST thru the park.
    As you mentioned, there are no shelters in some areas so you get primative camping!
    Thanks for sharing the MST. It’s great that you gave an insight to our state!


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