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

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail stretches roughly 1,150 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.

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 visits three lighthouses, including the nations tallest.

The first section of trail, located in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, runs for more than 58 miles: from Clingmans Dome - the highest point in the Park, to Black Camp Gap near the Blue Ridge Parkway. From Clingmans Dome the MST 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, taking hikers over Thomas Divide to Newton Bald, before descending once again down to the Smokemont Campground.

From Smokemont the trail travels up the Bradley Fork and Chasteen Creek trails, over to Beech Gap and Pin Oak Gap, before traveling south along the Balsam Mountain Road to reach Black Camp Gap on Heintooga Ridge Road.

Hikers should note that the route through the Smokies has changed a couple of times over the last couple of years, and could change again in the future. However, below are some of the current routing details, as of January 2015, for the MST in the Great Smoky Mountains:

LocationIncremental MileageCumulative MileageElevation
Clingmans Dome / MST Trailhead0.00.06643
Fork Ridge Trail junction445888
Deep Creek Trail junction / Campsite 535.19.13060
Campsite 542.611.702600
Campsite 550.812.52410
Pole Road Creek Trail junction0.112.62459
Campsite 560.212.82405
Martins Gap Trail Jct. / Campsite 570.513.32400
Sunkota Ridge Trail junction1.514.83394
Thomas Divide Trail junction4.919.74765
Newton Bald Trail junction0.520.24959
Campsite 520.120.35000
Newfound Gap Road5.225.52184
Bradley Fork Trailhead0.125.62180
Chasteen Creek Trail junction1.627.22300
Campsite 500.127.32360
Campsite 482.229.53320
Hughes Ridge Trail junction1.731.24700
Enloe Creek Trail junction0.531.74800
Campsite 47132.73620
Hyatt Ridge Trail junction2.635.34400
Beech Gap Trail II trailhead1.7374900
Straight Fork Road2.839.83100
Beech Gap Trail I trailhead0.139.93100
Balsam Mountain Trail junction2.442.35069
Balsam Mountain at Pin Oak Gap2.344.64424
pass Palmer Creek Trailhead0.745.34508
pass Spruce Mountain Trailhead1.847.14802
Balsam Mountain Campground6.553.65330
pass Polls Gap2.4565127
Black Camp Gap Parking Area2.458.44490

Additional Resources:

Additional Resources:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires all backpackers to stay in designated campsites and shelters while camping in the backcountry. The park now requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping as well. As of 2013 the national park began charging a fee to camp in the backcountry. For additional information on reserving a campsite or shelter, please click here. For more general information on camping in the Smokies, 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 (more details): Western SmokiesEastern 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

Appalachian Trail Shuttle Services

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina

Hiking Gear and Apparel