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 (plus $3 registration fee).
  • 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.

For detailed hiking directions and parking information, download the Segment 10 guide from our Trail Guides page, using the “Primary Trailheads” section to pinpoint the location. You can also visualize the route on our interactive map.