Why You Need to Hike North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail
If you’ve got ambition running through your blood and you happen to be an avid outdoorsman, then it’s time you take a walk down North Carolina’s Mountains to Sea Trail.
The trail system, designated as one single land unit by the state’s assembly in 2000, will one day run for a breathtaking 1,175 miles. Though still under construction, the trail already offers visitors more than 700 miles to explore.
As Hike North Carolina noted, the trail begins at Clingmans Dome, which marks the highest point in Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and continues west from there.
Even though it’s in the works, there’s plenty to see and do in between. Here are five must-see stops along North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
As The National Parks Service described, Clingmans Dome sits at 6,643 feet high, making it the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. And, with all that height comes incredible sights. At the summit, there is an observation tower that offers visitors stellar 360-degree views. All you need to do is “climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top.”
Hanging Rock State Park
Created in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps project, Hanging Rock State Park is not only a great place to stop for a photo, but is also an excellent place to spend the night on your journey through the trail. According to NC State Parks, Hanging Rock comes with a 73-site campground, picnic grounds, and a stocked lake for swimming, fishing, and canoeing. There are also “more than 20 miles of hiking trails that climb onto spectacular views and weave alongside clear streams and waterfalls.”
Glencoe Mill Village
If you’re walking the entire trail you must stop in at the Glencoe Mill Village. The village, Our State wrote, is “one of the best-preserved mill villages in North Carolina.” After the mill itself closed in 1954 the village was abandoned. Fortunately, the state rescued the area, restored it to its former glory, and now invites visitors from all the over the world to come check out what life was like during the town’s glory days.
Holly Shelter Game Land
Holly Shelter Game Land, Visit North Carolina explained, consists of a staggering 48,795 acres of land. For half the year the land is reserved for hiking and the other half for hiking the other half. Hunting season, Visit North Carolina explained, starts September 8th through January 1. For your purposes as a hiker you’ll want to schedule your time over the spring and summer. It’s also ideal timing for when the flowers are blooming and the scenery is lush and full of life.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park
There is perhaps no better place to end your trail journey then at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. There, you’ll be met with sand dunes as far as the eye can see. In fact, at the park you’ll be able to see the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic coast. The dune, NC Parks wrote, is the “premier location for kites, sightseeing and sunsets, with a view arcing from the ocean to Roanoke Sound.” So, take your hundreds of miles-long walk, and end here with one glorious sunset. Then, make sure to thank a park ranger for making this all happen for you.