Trails are a great way to get some exercise, spend time with your friends and family and enjoy North Carolina's beauty. North Carolina State Parks offer over 1,200 miles of trails to hike (or bike, paddle or ride, if you're so inclined.)
Did you know?
... In state parks, when we say, "Take a hike," it's an invitation, not an insult.
... The Fonta Flora State Trail is our newest state trail — and isn't ready for hiking quite yet. Stay tuned though. When this trail is complete, it will connect Morganton to Asheville and loop around Lake James with spectacular scenery all along the route.
... You can witness the power and beauty of six waterfalls on the Rainbow Falls Trails at the gorgeous Gorges State Park.
... On a clear day, you can see three states from the Big Gap Trail in Mount Mitchell State Park.
... You can experience Stairmaster in the great outdoors by visiting the High Shoals Trail in South Mountains State Park, which has 460 stairs.
... Our sandiest trail may just be the Tracks in the Sand Trail at Jockey's Ridge State Park.
... Wildlife also loves to use our trails — but usually after hours. Look closely and you may find evidence of their travels. This evidence includes tracks and scat (the biologists' term for poop). If you are lucky enough to see an animal on your hike, remember to stay back and just observe. All of our creatures are protected.
... You can also observe bloodthirsty plants by hiking the Flytrap Trail on Carolina Beach State Park, which is home to carnivorous plants.
... South Mountains State Park offers over 40 miles of trails — more than any other state park. If you really need to stretch your legs, there is a 300-mile section of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail open in the western part of the state.
The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail
The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (MST) is a continuous off-road trail that will link Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey's Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. A flagship of the North Carolina State Parks system, there are currently over 600 miles of the planned 1000+ mile route open for use.
Partners across North Carolina are helping to plan and build the trail to link communities together and to serve as the backbone of a growing statewide system of land and water trails. The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation developed the MST Master Plan to help move completion of the planned route forward.
When it is completed, the trail will showcase North Carolina's naturally wonderful scenery — from the mountains to the Piedmont to the Coastal Plain and the Outer Banks, to natural lands and farms, and small towns and big cities.
Listed below are the segments of the MST:
– Clingman's Dome to Stone Mountain State Park
– Pilot Mountain State Park to Hanging Rock State Park
– Greenboro Watershed Trails
– Alamance County to Shallowford Natural Area, Swepsonville and Haw River Trail
– Hillsborough to Riverwalk
– Eno River State Park to Clayton's Riverwalk on the Neuse (including Falls Lake Trail and Raleigh's Neuse River Greenway)
– Smithfield's Buffalo Creek Greenway
– Wayne County: Old Waynesborough Park to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base
– Neusiok Trail in Craven and Cartert Counties
– Cape Hatteras National Seashore to Jockey's Ridge State Park
To find specific trails designated as part of the Mountains to Sea Trail, please visit the Find a Trail page.
History of the North Carolina Trails System
The state envisioned a trail system in the 1970s that would coordinate with local trails to promote access between the state's urban areas and natural areas. Early maps depicted potential interconnections for hiking, biking, paddling and horseback riding.
Today, North Carolina has a diverse and beautiful trail system. It doesn't matter where you are in the state, because there is always a park or trail near you. Visit the Find A Trail page to start hiking and racking up those miles!
In addition, North Carolina State Parks is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. So aside from self-guided trails, you can take advantage of special events such as hikes, 5k runs and other activities at each state park. Visit the North Carolina State Parks website to see what is happening near you.