A well-marked MST through Holly Shelter Game Land

Hiking is like craft beer: it’s all good, it’s just that sometimes you have a hankerin’ for a particular kind of trail. Maybe one that spends a lot of time along (and in!) the water. One with great views. One that’s just around the corner, for those times when you’ve just gotta hit the trail but don’t have a lot of time, especially for a long drive.

Over the years, we’ve been assembling collections of hikes in this space. Over time, though, as our site grows, it can become difficult to find some of these collections (and the one thing you have even less time for than driving to a hike is finding one in the first place). And the information remains relevant: it’s not like a great fall hike in 2012 isn’t still a great fall hike today.

Enough chat. Here are some of our favorite hikes, by category. Enjoy!

The MST at Moore’s Knob, Hanging Rock State Park

Mountains-to-Sea Trail

MST: Five Great Hikes in the Piedmont

Learn more about these hikes here.

1. MST through Hillsborough
3 miles
From just shy of Occoneechee Mountain down the Eno River, the MST runs 3 miles, through downtown and past the Historic Occoneechee Speedway, to US 70.

2. Along the Greensboro Watershed Lakes
42 miles
The trail along the southern shores of lakes Higgins, Brandt and Townsend are divided into stretches of 3 to 5 miles. A favorite: the 3.5-mile Laurel Bluff Trail.

3. MST at Falls Lake
60 miles

Divided into segments of less than a mile to nearly 7 miles, the trail discovers remote nooks in the urban Triangle. A favorite: Day-Hike Section K, as designated by the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the nearly 7 miles from NC 50 west to NC 98: as remote as an urban trail can get.

4. Hanging Rock State Park
About 4.5 miles
Starts low (Tory’s Den), goes high (Moore’s Knob), goes low (Dan River): just when you thought the MST had left the mountains … .

5. MST along the Eno River
15 miles
So much to see on this stretch, which extends from the Pleasant Green Access of Eno River State Park over bluffs of mountain laurel, by long-abandoned dams, past old homesteads, through West Point on the Eno and on to Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve.

Hiking the shoreline of the Neuse, on the Neusiok Trail

MST: Five Great Hikes at the Coast and Coastal Plain

For details on these hikes, go here.

1. Jones Lake State Park
4 miles
The MST passes through pine savannah and skirts a Carolina Bay; on a hot summer’s day, there’s a beach providing easy access to the bay — a k a Jones Lake — and its cool, refreshing waters.

2. Turnbull Creek Educational State Forest
4.5 miles
After taking the MST through Jones Lake, continue east, across the street (NC 242), to Turnbull Creek Educational State Forest, where the trail follows the forest’s namesake creek, snuggles up to an old air field and passes an ancient (how did that thing get in the air?) helicopter.

3. Holly Shelter Game Land
19 miles (shorter sections possible)
Need to do some thinking? The long, straight passages on gravel road through flat forest and field let you tap into your deepest thoughts while logging long miles.

4. Neusiok Trail / Croatan National Forest
6.8 miles
The Neusiok includes a 20-mile run of the MST, the most scenic of which is the northernmost 6.8 miles, which starts at the Pine Cliff Recreation Area and ends at NC 306. Among the unusual sights: mountain galax.

5. Stones Creek Game Land
4 miles
Sneads Ferry
The MST ferrets out this 3,537-acre collection of coastal hardwood forest and pine savannah, bogs and small ponds, pitcher plants and hobbit holes. Because of its somewhat undeveloped nature, this is a hike best done with a knowledgeable guide.

On its 300-mile run through the mountains, the MST passes through Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

MST: Five of our Favorite Mountain Hikes

For more information on these hikes, go here.

1. Rattlesnake Lodge
1 to 2.8 miles
Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 375
This hike takes you away twice: into mature woods and to a bygone era, to the old Rattlesnake Lodge on its namesake trail.

2. Folk Art Center
2.5 miles
Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 382
A good spot to try the MST, before it begins its 30-mile, 4,500-foot vertical climb to Mount Mitchell, at 6,684 feet the highest point east of South Dakota’s Black Hills.

3. Beacon Heights to the Boone fork Parking Area
7.9 miles
Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 305.2
This is one of the best hikes to experience the dizzying Blue Ridge escarpment, in part because the elevation gains and losses on the trail itself are small. Still, the rockiness makes for challenging hiking.

4. Middle Prong Wilderness to Graveyard Fields
7.6 miles
NC 215 at Blue Ridge Parkway to MP 418.8
This hike begins just outside the eastern border of Middle Prong, passes rock outcrops, penetrates a spruce forest, passes through a clearing with expansive views, tags alongside creeks, finishes in the Graveyard Fields area, where severe fires a century ago have left the terrain largely devoid of trees.

5. Linville Gorge
8 miles
Wolf Pit Road Access
The hard work is at the beginning: you’ll climb a mile or so up to Shortoff Mountain on the east rim of Linville Gorge, where you’ll enjoy the best views of the gorge and a western landscape of rock and scrub for another three miles.

Great Hikes by Region

Crowders Mountain

25 Top hikes in the Charlotte area

  1. Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area, Hiddenite

5 miles

2. Buffalo Creek Preserve, Mount Pleasant

4.2 miles

3. South Mountains State Park: High Shoals Falls Loop Trail, Morganton

2.7 miles

4. South Mountains State Park: Backpacking Loop, Morganton

11.8 miles

5. Lake Norman State Park: Lake Shore Trail, Troutman

5 miles

6. Bakers Mountain Park, Hickory

6 miles

7. Broad River Greenway, Boiling Springs

4.0 miles (one way)

8. Boone’s Cave Park, Lexington

5 miles

9. Crowders Mountain State Park: Pinnacle Trail, Kings Mountain

4 miles

10. Crowders Mountain State Park: Crowders and Rocktop Trails, Kings Mountain

5 miles

11. Ridgeline Trail, joining Crowders Mountain State Park (N.C.) and Kings Mountain State Park (S.C.)

12 miles

12. South Fork River Trail, McAdenville

4.4 miles

13. Evergreen Nature Preserve, Charlotte

2 miles

14. Latta Plantation Nature Preserve: Hill, Cove, Split Rock trails loop, Charlotte

4.2 miles

15. McDowell Nature Center, Charlotte

7 miles

16. Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center, Charlotte

10 miles

17. RibbonWalk Nature Preserve, Charlotte

3 miles

18. Rural Hill Nature Preserve, Huntersville

2.5 miles

19. Uwharrie National Forest: Joe Moffitt section of the Uwharrie Trail

4 miles

20. Morrow Mountain State Park: Sugarloaf Mountain Trail

5.4 miles

21. Morrow Mountain State Park: Fall Mountain Trail

4.1 miles

22. Uwharrie National Forest: Birkhead Mountains Wilderness

11.5 / 7.4 miles

23. Anne Springs Close Greenway, Fort Mill, S.C.

40 miles

24. Kings Mountain National Military Park: Browns Mountain Trail, Blacksburg, S.C.

5 miles

25. Kings Mountain State Park (S.C.): Ridgeline Trail

1.8 miles

Hanging Rock State Park (photo courtesy NC State Parks)

25 Top Hikes in the Triad

1. Cedarock Park: Cedar Rock Trail | 2.5 miles


2. Piedmont Environmental Center | 11 miles

High Point

3. Horizons Park | 2.5 miles

Rural Hall

4. Salem Lake | 7 miles


5. Hagan Stone Park: Louise Chatfield Trail | 4.3 miles


6. Greensboro Watershed Lakes: Piedmont Trail | 3.2 miles


7. Greensboro Watershed Lakes: Osprey Trail | 2.3 miles


8. Greensboro Watershed Lakes: Nat Greene Trail | 3.6 miles

9. Greensboro Watershed Lakes: Laurel Bluff Trail | 3.5 miles


10. Guilford Courthouse National Military Park | 2.5 miles


11. Summerville Rail-Trail (northern tip of the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway) | 1.4 miles (out and back)


12. Mayo River State Park | 2 miles


13. Uwharrie National Forest: Birkhead Mountains Wilderness | 7.4 miles


14. Morrow Mountain State Park: Sugarloaf/Morrow Mountain Trails | 5.4 miles


15. Morrow Mountain State Park: Fall Mountain Trail | 4.1 miles


16. Hanging Rock State Park: Moore’s Wall Loop Trail | 4.3 miles


17. Hanging Rock State Park: Hanging Rock Trail | 1.3 miles


19. Pilot Mountain State Park:  Ledge Spring Trail | 2 miles


20. Pilot Mountain State Park: Grindstone/Ledge Spring/Jomeokee trails | 5.8 miles


21. Pilot Mountain State Park: Corridor Trail | 6.6 miles


22. Sauratown Trail (Mountains-to-Sea Trail) | 25 miles

23. Stone Mountain State Park: Stone Mountain Loop Trail | 4.5 miles

Roaring Gap

24. Stone Mountain State Park: Wolf Rock Trail | 1.5 miles (via Stone Mountain Loop Trail)

Roaring Gap

25. Stone Mountain State Park: Widow’s Creek Trail | 4.3 miles (one way)

Roaring Gap

Great Hikes by Season

5 Summer NC Hikes and a Natural Slip ’n’ Slide

Find details on these hikes here. 

1. Sliding Rock
Pisgah National Forest

2. Wilson Creek
Pisgah National Forest

3. North Mills River
Pisgah National Forest
Mills River

4. Stone Mountain State Park
Roaring Gap
5. Panthertown Valley
Nantahala National Forest

5 Must-Do Summer Mountain Hikes in the Southern Appalachians
Find details on these hikes here.

1. Black Mountain Crest Trail
Mount Mitchell State Park

2. Shining Rock Wilderness
Pisgah National Forest west of Mount Pisgah

3. Carvers Gap: Three Balds Hike
Appalachian Trail, North Carolina/Tennessee line

4. Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Boone Fork Parking area to Trout Lake
Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock area

5. Panthertown Valley