Four hikes close to home on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail — to some, the name may give the false impression that you must travel to either the mountains or the sea to hike it. Hardly the case, we’re pleased to report. While a goodly chunk (around 672 miles) of the 1,150-mile trail-in-progress is complete in the mountains, and more is quickly coming on line at the coast, folks in the Triangle and Triad have ample opportunity to hike the MST virtually in their own backyards.
As we enter Mountains-to-Sea Trail Month, we offer five day-hike stretches of the MST that are close to where a sizable number of North Carolinians call home.
1. MST along Falls Lake
Sixty miles!? you astutely observe. That’s some day hike! While this is 60 miles of continuous trail along the southern shore of Falls Lake in Durham and Wake counties, relax. The Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail have divvied up the trail into 14 day-hikable stretches, ranging in length from about a mile to just under 7. Go to the Friends web site and you’ll find detailed descriptions of where you can pick the trail up and what to expect between trailheads. A favorite stretch: the 2.2-mile (4.4 out-and-back) Day-Hike section G, from the Upper Barton Creek Boat ramp to NC 98.
More info here
2. MST along the Eno River
Again, you don’t have to hike 12 miles at one (though you can and it makes for a swell day on the trail). This stretch runs from West Point on the Eno city park in Durham upstream to the Pleasant Green Access of Eno River State Park. Along the way, it passes two natural swimming holes (Bobbits’s Hole and Sennett’s Hole) and the Eno Quarry, climbs mountain laurel-covered bluffs, and spends considerable time along the rocky, scenic Eno. Once again, the Friends of the MST accommodate shorter hike preferences by dividing the trail into four day-hike sections, all in the 2- to 3-mile range.
More info here
3. MST in Hillsborough
About 3 miles
If you like the notion of hiking a trail that crosses the state, but aren’t a fan of … rustic conditions, take heart. Where the MST encounters civilization, it tends to gussy up a bit. Such is the case with the 1.8-mile Riverwalk section of the MST through Hillsborough. Wide, paved path meanders along the Eno from Gold Park west of town east through downtown and, eventually, to Occoneechee Speedway. There, you can hike the oval of one of NASCAR’s early tracks (it was active in the 1960s), then cross the river and hike a mountainlike half-mile stretch. Lots of variety on this hike.
More info here
4. MST at Hanging Rock
About 8 miles
The MST takes in two highlights on its 8-mile run through the park. Starting from the Visitor Center, head east on the MST and you’ll encounter both Hidden Falls and Window Falls in less than a mile (continue on the MST/Indian Creek Trail for another 2.5 miles down to the Dan River for a nice 7-mile out-and-back). Or, from the Visitor Center head west on the MST up to Moore’s Knob and 360-degree views: to Pilot Mountain and the Blue Ridge to the west, Virginia’s mountains to the north, the Piedmont to the east and, on a clear day, downtown Winston-Salem to the south. Stick with the Moore’s Wall Loop Trail for a return to the Visitor Center, a 4.2-mile trek.
More info at the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail website here (look for Trail Guides, Segments 7 and 8).