North Carolina State Parks officials joined Carolina Mountain Club volunteers on National Trails Day Saturday to formally open a new 20-mile segment of the Mountains-to-Sea (MST) State Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway and extending into the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Cherokee Reservation.
After much planning, work on the segment began in 2006, and more than 250 club members in multiple crews contributed almost 25,000 volunteer hours during some 250 workdays. The new trail section begins on the Blue Ridge Parkway, travels down BIA 407 for four miles and then back along the parkway for 16 miles to Balsam Gap.
The opening of the MST segment brings closer the completion of a 30-mile 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.
Touching upon North Carolina’s highest elevation at Mount Mitchell State Park and sea level at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, more than 600 miles of the MST are open as off-road trail. 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.