Day Hike J: Shinleaf Recreation Area to NC 50

The March to Headquarters

Distance: 3.6 miles

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Camping: Yes. Walk-in camping at the eastern 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, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 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 Nos.: 8, 9, 10
  • Trailhead/Access:  Shinleaf Recreation Area (gate hours are 8 a.m. to sunset) and NC 50. Click on map below for specifics.

A view of the lake, in drought times.A rather eventful section that has two road crossings within the first mile or so. From there, it’s an up-and-down stretch of solitude through some of the steeper terrain found along Falls Lake: nothing prolonged, but some quick climbs and drops. Around the 2.5-mile mark the trail utilizes old roadbed, which requires you to keep your eye out for the white blazes. You part from the lake for the last mile or so.

The park office is located near the western trailhead, good for water and a restroom in a pinch.

Geology Highlights: This hike crosses from one metamorphic terrane into another:  the eastern part lies in the Falls Lake terrane, and the western in the Carolina terrane.  Near their faulted boundary, a rocky ridge just above the trail is a very hard and unusual quartz-kyanite rock, which may have been formed from an ancient volcanic rock precursor.

Day Hike J 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 9 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: Shinleaf Recreation Area 0.0 0.0
After a slight descent, cross a small footbridge. 0.1 0.53
Cross through a small depression. 0.3 0.37

Reach New Light Road. Turn R to walk along the grassy shoulder.

0.4 0.19
Turn L to cross the road into woods (No hunting in this section). 0.5 0.86
Cross a small footbridge. 0.6 0.25
Cross another footbridge. 0.8 0.54

Reach Ghoston Road and cross to enter the next section (gamelands).

1.0 0.19
After some minor ups and downs, cross the outlet of a small pond, L, on a footbridge. 1.5 0.15
Cross a short plank walkway and ascend to reach a ridge offering views of the lake, R. 1.8 0.14
After walking along a creek, turn R to cross it on a footbridge. 2.1 0.0
Walking along a narrow roadbed, pass some old stone markers, L. 2.3 0.53
Stay straight at a junction of several wide roadbeds. 2.5 0.37
Turn R off the roadbed to go around an old farm site, soon passing the remains of a tin shed, L. 2.6 0.19
Cross a wide roadbed to stay on the trail. 2.7 0.86
On a footbridge cross a creek bed. 2.8 0.25
Reach the roadbed again and turn L to follow it. 2.9 0.54
Turn L at a junction and soon R, by some state park markers on carsonite posts. 3.0 0.19
Cross a gravel service road. 3.1 0.0
Cross a paved service road. 3.3 0.53
Cross a paved road (R to Falls Lake Information Center) 3.4 0.37
Trailhead: N.C. 50 (roadside parking) 3.6 0.27