RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina state park officials will join Carolina Mountain Club (CMC) volunteers June 4 for the grand opening of a new 20-mile section of the Mountains-to-Sea (MTS) State Trail. The new trail section begins at the Blue Ridge Parkway and travels down BIA 407 for four miles through the Eastern Cherokee Reservation and then along the Blue Ridge Parkway for 16 miles to Balsam Gap. The ceremonies will begin at 1 p.m. at the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center.
The opening of this segment of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail brings closer the completion of a 30-mile missing gap. Once this gap is filled there will be a 300-mile continuous section of the trail from Clingmans Dome to Stone Mountain State Park. The National Park Service is working on completing the final seven-mile section from the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway to BIA 407.
In 2002, CMC volunteered to assume responsibility for the building this new MST section. After much planning, the first recorded work on this section was in 2006. The June 4 ceremonies celebrate the completion of this effort. Multiple crews worked on laying out and building the trail, with nearly 250 workdays dedicated to this section and almost 25,000 volunteer hours worked by over 100 different individuals over the 10 years of construction.
Touching upon the highest elevation in North Carolina (6,684 feet on Mount Mitchell) and the lowest elevation (sea level at Cape Hatteras National Seashore), over 600 miles of the MST are open for public use and enjoyment.
Along its planned path, the MST passes through more than 30 counties, numerous small towns, three national parks, several national forests and national wildlife refuges, state parks, and larger towns and cities. The continuous route will offer outstanding recreational opportunities while also protecting riparian buffers, corridors of wildlife habitat, and access to resources of statewide significance. As interest in the trail continues to grow, it is the efforts of a multitude of partners across the state that will continue to move forward trail construction.
As part of the day's events, held to celebrate National Trails Day, the Carolina Mountain Club will be offering two hikes and a chance to help with trail maintenance of the Waterrock Knob Trail during the celebration. REI – Asheville will be providing refreshments for the grand opening ceremonies.
- Morning Maintenance – Meet at 9:15 a.m. at Waterrock Knob, located at milepost 451.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, to do rehabilitation of the trail going to the top of the knob. Contact Les Love at [email protected] for more information about that morning's improvement of the trail.
- Morning Hike – Meet at 9:30 a.m. at Waterrock Knob, located at 451.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, to hike four miles of the MST. Although this will be an easy hike, wear closed toe shoes such as sneakers or hiking boots. Contact Danny Bernstein at [email protected] for more information about this hike.
- Afternoon Hike – Immediately following the dedication, CMC will offer an easy 2-mile hike leaving from Waterrock Knob on the MST. Wear closed toe shoes such as sneakers or hiking boots. Contact Danny Bernstein at [email protected] for more information about this hike.
The CMC is the largest and oldest hiking and trail maintaining club in Western N.C. To find out more about the club and how to become a member go to carolinamountainclub.org
About the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation
The Division of Parks and Recreation manages more than 230,000 acres of iconic landscape within North Carolina's state parks, state recreation areas and state natural areas. It administers the N.C Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, including its local grants program, as well as a state trails program, North Carolina Natural and Scenic Rivers and more, all with a mission dedicated to conservation, recreation and education. The state parks system welcomes more than 17.3 million visitors annually and North Carolina State Parks will celebrate its 100-year year anniversary throughout 2016 with 45 centennial events, which will highlight, showcase and celebrate the historic occasion.