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trails illustrated map
National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for the Great Smoky Mountains: Contains detailed topo info, clearly marked and named trails, recreational points of interest, and navigational aids.

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina explores the most spectacular, historic and quirky elements of the NC landscape. Stretching 1000 miles from Clingmans Dome in the Smokies, to Jockey's Ridge State Park in the Outer Banks, the route takes in Fraser fir trees and pelicans, old grist and textile mills, working cotton and tobacco farms and Revolutionary War sites.

 The Mountain-to-Sea Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail stretches roughly 1,000 miles from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains, to Jockey's Ridge on the Outer Banks of the North Carolina coast. Although only 672 miles of the footpath are actually built right now, adventurers can still hike across the state using temporary connectors on back roads and state bike routes.

Mountains-to-Sea Trail map

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) was built to showcase North Carolina's diverse landscape. Thru-hikers will experience mountains, rugged gorges, small Piedmont farms, coastal swamps, colonial towns, and barrier islands as they make their way across the Tar Heel State. It climbs both the tallest mountain peak and the highest sand dune in the Eastern United States, passes through three national parks, two national wildlife refuges, three national forests, seven state parks and three lighthouses, including the nations tallest.

clingmans domeThe first section of trail, located in the Great Smoky Mountains, runs 26 miles from Clingmans Dome - the highest point in the Park, to the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. From Clingmans Dome the trail follows the crest of the Smokies along the Appalachian Trail before descending down the Fork Ridge and Deep Creek trails. The trail then begins climbing again, over Thomas Divide to Newton Bald, before descending once again down the Mingus Creek Trail to Newfound Gap Road.

Unfortunately the route immediately beyond the Smokies hasn't officially been laid-out as of yet. The original plan was to route the trail through the Qualla Cherokee Indian Reservation, but this hasn't been approved yet.

mst signpostThe Carolina Mountain Club has proposed by-passing the Mingus Creek Trail and the Cherokee Qualla Boundary altogether. Instead, they would prefer that the Mountains-to-Sea Trail follow the Newton Bald Trail down to the Smokemont Campground. From there the MST would follow the Bradley Fork Trail, Chasteen Creek Trail, Hughes Ridge, Enloe Creek, Hyatt Ridge, Beech Gap, Balsam Mountain, Mount Sterling Ridge, Pretty Hollow Gap, and then a short walk down the Cataloochee Road before jumping onto Rough Fork Trail heading towards Polls Gap, and then exiting the park on Heintooga Ridge Road.

Right now, hikers intending to extend their hike beyond the Smokies have been walking along the Blue Ridge Parkway, an option not really considered to be safe.

Below are some of the current routing details for the MST in the Great Smoky Mountains:

 Location Incremental Miles Cumulative Mileage Elevation
Clingmans Dome / Trailhead 0 0.0 6643
Fork Ridge Trail junction 3.5 3.5 5888
Deep Creek Trail junction / Campsite 53 5.1 8.6 3060
Campsite 54 2.5 11.1 2600
Campsite 55 0.9 12.0 2410
Pole Road Creek Trail junction 0.2 12.2 2459
Campsite 56 0.3 12.5 2405
Martins Gap Trail Jct. / Campsite 57  0.4 12.9 2400
Sunkota Ridge Trail junction 1.5 14.4 3394
Thomas Divide Trail junction 4.9 19.3 4765
Newton Bald Trail junction 0.4 19.7 4959
Campsite 52 0.1 19.8 5000
Mingus Creek Trail junction 0.5 20.3 5052
Deeplow Gap Trail junction 2.8 23.1 3593
Newfound Gap Road 2.9 26.0 2079

Additional Resources:

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires that you stay at designated campsites and shelters while camping in the backcountry. They also require a permit for all backcountry camping in the park, which are free and are available at most visitor centers, ranger stations and frontcountry campground offices. Advance reservations are required to camp at all shelters as well as at several of the backcountry campsites. For more information, please click here.

For more information on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, please click here.

National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for the Smoky Mountains

Sectional Maps: Western Smokies / Eastern Smokies

Backcountry Rules and Regulations for the Smokies

Campsite and Shelter information (GPS waypoints, maps, etc.)

Temporary road, campsite and shelter closures, and water issues

Local Climate and Weather

Bears in the Smokies

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina

Hiking Gear and Apparel