Day Hike H: N.C. 98 to Shinleaf Recreation Area


Distance: 3.0 miles

  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Camping: Yes. Walk-in camping at the western trailhead, at the Shinleaf Recreation Area. Water, bathhouse. $23 per site per night.
  • Land managers: N.C. Division of Parks & Recreation, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Note: Some or all of this trail is on game lands and hunting is allowed. Learn about local hunting seasons here.
  • Volunteer Task Force Leader: Jeff Brewer,
  • Piggyback trail: Falls Lake Trail, a/k/a South Shore Trail.
  • Connecting trails: Occasional connectors upslope to neighborhoods, downslope to lake.
  • Falls Lake MST Section No.: 8.
  • Trailhead/Access: NC 98 and Shinleaf Recreation Area (gate hours are 8 a.m. to sunset). Click on map below for specifics.

Group hike on the MST.

This is a particularly good stretch if you seek an escapist ramble, a hike with just enough up and down to keep things from getting boring, but not enough to force you to stop and catch your breath and massage a leg cramp. A hike with consistently pleasant scenery, but nothing jaw dropping that will stop you dead in your tracks. A hike long enough to realign your brain cells but not long enough to scramble them.

This section ducks in and out of so many coves it’s easy to lose track of where you are — another advantage if you’re looking for escape. And while it’s generally close to N.C. 98 and backyards abutting the trail aren’t infrequent, it manages to maintain a remote feel. The majority of the trail is on Wildlife Resource Commission land, so don your finest orange during hunting season. Hiking east to west, a verdant carpet of running cedar greets you as you approach the western terminus at Shinleaf.

Geology Highlights: On this hike, between Highway 98 and Shinleaf Recreation Area, there are very nice outcrops of light gray metamorphic rock (schist) containing pods of dark-colored rock (amphibolite).  The relationship between these two rock types is characteristic of the geologic Falls Lake terrane.

Day Hike H Map

Click on the link below the Google map to open it up in a larger version which includes definition of the map symbols, hiking notes, and an interactive option for driving to the trailheads.

View MST / Falls Lake / Day Hike H in a larger map

Finding Your Way

Thanks to Mark Edelstein for these detailed hiking directions.

Finding Your Way (east » west) Mileage
Trailhead: Enter the woods by a gravel pull-off to the west of the causeway on NC 98. The trail crosses a wide power-line cut to go back into woods. 0.0
Cross a wide, open roadbed. Cross a short footbridge, without handrails. 0.2
Cross an older footbridge, with a sloping handrail. Cross a narrow roadbed. 0.5
By a cove, cross a footbridge. 0.7
Reach lake views, right. These views will continue for some time. 1.0
Near the end of a cove, cross a high footbridge. Around the bend, cross a footbridge with a series of steps. 1.5
Cross a high footbridge over a small creek and soon rock-hop a small inlet by the end of a cove, entering a section of state-park lands. 2.3
Cross a low-lying footbridge over a small creek by the end of a cove. 2.7
Trailhead: Reach a gravel road at Shinleaf Recreation Area. The trail turns left and passes a vehicle gate to reach a paved road; the hiker parking lot is about 100 yards to the left. 3.0