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. Seasonal (typically closed in winter; for current status go here). $20 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 gamelands 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 / Section 8 in a larger map

Finding Your Way

Thanks to Mark Edelstein for these detailed hiking directions.

Finding Your Way (east » west) Cumulative Mileage Mileage Between Points
Trailhead: NC 98 (east of Six Forks Road, just before crossing Falls Lake; you are entering NC gamelands) 0.0 0.0

Reach a wide power-line cut. The trail goes straight

across to reenter the woods.

0.1 0.28
Cross a wide, open roadbed 0.2 0.29
Cross a short footbridge, without handrails. 0.3 0.19
Cross an older, low-lying footbridge, with a sloping handrail. 0.5 0.68
Cross a footbridge by another cove. 0.7 1.25
By the end of a cove, reach a high footbridge. Around the bend, cross a second high footbridge, with many steps. 1.5 0.3
Reach a high footbridge over a small creek. 2.3 0.04

Cross a small inlet by the end of a cove and enter a section of state parklands (No hunting).

2.4 0.19
Cross a low-lying footbridge over a small creek, by the end of a cove. 2.7 0.68
Trailhead:Reach a gravel road by Shinleaf Recreation Area (Walk-in campsites). Turn L and go by a vehicle gate to cross a paved road (A parking area and restrooms are R) and reenter woods. Soon pass by the old Norwood family cemetery plot, L. 3.0 1.25