Leadership from state and national parks, volunteers, local officials, and trail enthusiasts gathered at Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Oct. 3 to celebrate the completion of a 300-mile connection on the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (MST).
State trails staff, members of the Carolina Mountain Club and other volunteers and supporters recently completed construction on a linchpin 8-mile section near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Swain County. That segment completes a continuous footpath from Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Stone Mountain State Park.
Development and construction of this trail section included negotiating difficult terrain east of the Great Smoky Mountains, working around the tunneled sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and through the Qualla Boundary lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee. In 2016, the Eastern Band agreed to host a section of the trail through reservation lands, enabling the connector trail’s completion. In June of this year, the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, the National Park Service’s Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Carolina Mountain Club collaborated to complete the final section of this connection.
In 2000, the MST became a state trail and a unit of the state parks system and is the state’s flagship trail. The Division of Parks and Recreation is committed to developing the MST as a continuous, off-road trail across the state. The division develops partnerships with local, state and federal land management agencies, nonprofit organizations, land trusts, and volunteers to advance the development of the MST. The Friends of the MST is a private non-profit organization that provides information on the trail, sponsors task forces to build and maintain sections of trail, and promotes thru-hiking the trail by providing interim routes to connect completed portions of the MST.