Skip to main content

How Can You Hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (1,175 Miles) in One Day?

By Joe Miller | May 15, 2017 | Explore NC

Feature Blog Image

Imagine hiking the entire Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) in one day. 

Not just you, of course. Not even Diane Van Deren, who set the record for speed hiking the trail in 2012 could keep that pace (it took her 22 days, 5 hours and 3 minutes). 

Rather, imagine the entire trail — every foot — being hiked in a day, by hundreds of hikers.

Like you.

moutains-sea trailMountains-to-Sea Trail in a Day is part of the 40th anniversary celebration of North Carolina’s rapidly evolving statewide trail. Conceived in 1977, the MST intends to make it possible to hike from one end of North Carolina to the other, from Clingman’s Dome on the Tennessee border to Jockey’s Ridge on the coast. Currently, about 700 miles are complete; another 400 or so are temporary, routed primarily on country roads, until trail is built. On September 9, the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the nearly all-volunteer group building and maintaining the trail, aims to make sure the entire trail is hiked in one day.

How will that happen? And how can you take part?

For the event, the trail has been divided into 18 segments. Within each segment the trail is subdivided into legs, most of which are three to five miles long. Each segment has a Meet Up page, where you can read descriptions of each leg. Read, then sign up to hike.

The beauty of the MST is that no matter where you live in North Carolina, you needn’t drive far to hike the MST. On its 1,175-mile run, it passes through 37 of the state’s 100 counties (and connects 10 state parks). Even if you prefer paddling over hiking, you can participate: the eastern run of the MST, from Raleigh to the Croatan National Forest, includes a paddle trail option down the Neuse River. 

Don’t fancy yourself as much of a hiker? No problem: With more than 300 legs to choose from, you should be able to find a stretch that matches your novice style. The key, though, is to sign up soon.

To insure that the entire MST is hiked, each leg is limited to five hikers. (If you have a group or want to hike with your family, you can exceed the five-hiker max.) Right now, there are lots of legs to choose from; as September 9 nears, expect those options to diminish significantly. And if you aren’t much of a hiker now, you’ll have the summer to train.

mountains-sea trailTrain how? you ask.

Through our Hike NC program. We launched it last fall, with the intention of getting more people on the trail. For the most part, the hikes are beginner friendly: not too long, not too strenuous. The perfect way to introduce yourself to the trail. So …

First, go to the MST in a Day home page. Scroll down to the map, pick a segment you’d like to explore, and click. You’ll then be presented with descriptions of the legs in that segment, including location, distance, difficulty. Pick a favorite or two (you can hike more than one leg, by the way), then click “Sign Up Now.” You’ll be taken to that segment’s Meetup page, where you can sign up.

Then, begin your training regimen by visiting and signing up for one of our hikes near you.

We’ll have you MST-in-a-Day ready in no time.