Construction of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) in western North Carolina is complete.

The 346.8-mile route over some of the highest mountains in the Eastern United States is the longest continuous section of the MST built thus far. It goes from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee-North Carolina border to Stone Mountain State Park, the MST’s gateway to the Piedmont.

The go-ahead for construction of the final six tenths of a mile in June was the culmination of decades-long negotiations about the route among multiple state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations. In addition, Carolina Mountain Club and other volunteers turned the westernmost section of the trail into reality with thousands of hours of trail workdays in some of the state’s most rugged and remote territory.

“Anyone who lent a hand throughout the mountains can be proud to be part of leaving this legacy for future generations,” said Les Love of the Carolina Mountain Club and Friends of the MST board member.

The final version of the trail depended on being able to bypass the Rattlesnake and Sherrill Cove tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway and on approval for hikers to use a short section of a dirt road on the Eastern Cherokee Reservation.  Both were achieved. The final route, now called Segment 1, saves significant mileage and road walking compared to previous alternatives, and greatly improves the hiker experience. The former routes, Segments 1A and 1B, will no longer be supported by the Friends.

“Our congratulations to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, State Parks Division, Carolina Mountain Club, Bureau of Indian Affairs, US Forest Service and so many others for making this day possible, including the late Allen de Hart, Friends’ founder, and our many volunteers,” said Kate Dixon, executive director of Friends of the MST.  “Their perseverance will inspire our MST supporters in the Piedmont and Coastal MST sections to overcome challenges and obstacles as they work to complete the trail across the rest of the state.”

The MST is 1,175 miles long from Clingmans Dome to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks. About 700 miles of the route—roughly half the planned length—are currently on natural surface or greenway trail, unpaved forest roads, or beach. A series of connectors on bicycle routes, paddle routes, and backroads knits together finished sections to span the state. It goes through four national parks, two national wildlife refuges, ten state parks and three national forests.

The trail guide for the new Segment 1 is available to download from the Trail Guides page on Friends’ website. While construction may be complete in the mountains, maintenance of the trail by volunteers will be ongoing.

In addition, the interactive Google Map depicts the new route.

(Photo: Waterrock Knob | Photo © David Pozo)