Day Hike J: Shinleaf Recreation Area to NC 50

The March to Headquarters

Distance: 4.0 miles

  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Camping: Yes. Walk-in camping at the eastern 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, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 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 Nos.: 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 2.7-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 / Day Hike J in a larger map


Finding Your Way

Thanks to Mark Edelstein for these detailed hiking directions.

Finding Your Way (east » west) Mileage
Trailhead: From the Shinleaf Recreation Area parking lot, enter the woods to the right. Pass the old Norwood family cemetery plot before starting a descent. 0.0
Cross a small footbridge. 0.2
After crossing through a large depression, reach New Light Rd. The MST heads right to walk along the road’s shoulder. 0.6
Turn left to cross the road and enter woods. After a slight descent, cross a small footbridge. 0.7
Cross another footbridge. 1.0
Cross Ghoston Rd. and re-enter woods. 1.2
After some minor ups and downs, cross the outlet of a small pond on a footbridge. Reach views of Falls Lake. 1.7
Cross a short plank walkway and ascend to reach a ridge. 2.0
After walking along a creek, turn right to cross the creek on a footbridge. 2.3
On a slight ascent along a narrow roadbed, pass some old stone markers. 2.5
The MST stays straight at a junction of several wide roadbeds. Head right off the roadbed to go around an old farm site, passing the remains of a tin shed. 2.7
Cross a wide roadbed. Cross a creek bed on a footbridge. 2.9
Reach the roadbed again and turn left to follow it. Head left at a junction of roadbeds. In about 20-30 yards, turn left again, leaving the roadbed and passing a marker designating state-park lands. 3.1
Cross a gravel service road. 3.5
After crossing a paved service road, go over another paved road (a right turn goes to Falls Lake Information Center). 3.8
Trailhead: Reach a signboard and gravel parking area on NC 50. 4.0