Did you know that there is a trail (or series of trails, really) that you can hike that will actually take you from the mountains in Tennessee all the way to the ocean in North Carolina? It’s true!
The Mountain-to-Sea Trail is a nearly 1,200 mile foot path that starts at Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and ends at Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
The trail was first proposed in 1977. It was officially added to the North Carolina state park system in 2000. Since the trail begins in the mountains near the Tennessee/North Carolina border, most of the trails run through the state of North Carolina.
If you want to do this trail, you better be ready to work! It requires well over 2 million steps, and takes you from the highest peaks to sea level. It involves walking many connected trails, crossing multiple rivers, including two via ferry rides, and, of course, crossing over mountains. It takes you into coastal swamps and through historic colonial towns. The trail passes through 37 counties, 10 state parks, 4 national parks and 3 national forests.
Completing the entire trail is a BIG task. If you are in great health, have the time, and love the outdoors, then go for it! Fortunately, the trail offers “section hikes” that allow you to just hike part of the trail. For most beginners or those whose body might have difficulty hiking hundreds of miles, this is a great way to experience the Mountain-to-Sea trail in a less difficult manner.
It is estimated to take 3 – 4 months to complete the entire trail, allowing for some days of complete rest with no hiking. It’s not something you just do on a whim. It is a long adventure that requires a lot of work and preparation.
So how does a trail like this come into existence? It doesn’t happen by accident! There are hundreds of volunteers who have donated many thousands of hours to creating and maintaining the trail. That effort is organized via an organization called Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which has a website at www.mountainstoseatrail.org.
Trail maintenance is a completely voluntary activity. The Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail group organizes trail workdays in which volunteers work to clear and maintain trails, performing tasks such as raking, clearing brush and removing roots. The organization also accepts monetary donations to help pay for the work
The website listed above contains all of the information you need to plan your journey. It contains trail guides and lists of resources required to make the trip. It also includes list of shuttle services that may be necessary to complete portions of the trip. There are also people known as “Trail Angels” who will facilitate transportation through portions of the trail at little or no cost.
One of the interesting aspects of the Mountain-to-Sea Trail is the community of people dedicated to maintaining the trail, telling others about it, providing information about how to do it, and just enjoying being fellow lovers of nature.
If you’re ready to tackle this adventure, first spend the necessary time to research and prepare what you will need for the journey, get organized and well-packed, and then drive or get a ride to Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains, where it all starts.