August 24, 2017

MST in a Day Encourages Islanders to Take a Break, and Take a Hike


During such a busy season on Hatteras Island, it can leave little time to stop and enjoy the surrounding majesty of nature. There is so much beauty to take in, yet our schedules often do not allow us to pause and enjoy it. On September 9, 2017, however, the Hatteras Island community will have the opportunity to participate in a statewide event encouraging the slow intake of all the wondrous views that North Carolina has to offer. The Mountain to Sea Trail in a Day event is intended to “engage hundreds of hikers and paddlers in a fun event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the MST,” according to Jerry Barker, mastermind behind the event.

On September 9, 1977, Howard Lee, then the NC Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development, inspired his audience of NC citizens to construct a trail running the length of the state. On that day, he dreamed that the trail would stretch from the mountains of North Carolina to the coast “leading through communities as well as natural areas.”

Now forty years later, his dream is being honored by the Mountain to Sea Trail in a Day event hosted by the Friends of the Mountain to Sea Trail. The MST officially became a part of the NC State Parks in 2000, and is unique in its 1,175 mile long path through 36 different counties. The trail begins at Clingsman Dome in the Smokey Mountains and ends at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in the Outer Banks, making its way through rural countryside, lush forests, and coastal swamps along the way.

In order to commemorate Lee’s speech, the Friends of the MST are asking the public to complete each of the 301 legs of the trail on the day of the event. Each leg is approximately 3-5 miles long and varies in difficulty from easy to very strenuous. Participation in the event is simple: hikers must sign up at, hike their designated leg on the day of the event, take pictures of their hike, and let their segment leader know when they have completed their leg. Lee himself, now 83 years old, is even signed up to hike a leg of the trail.

Segment 18 of the MST, which begins at the Cedar Island Ferry in Atlantic, NC and ends at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, NC is made up of 20 legs altogether. All of the legs of the trail on Hatteras Island are classified as easy, with the longest being 6.6 miles and the shortest 1.9 miles. Two legs include ferry rides and many others involve walking on the beach.

This section of trail which runs through Hatteras Island is particularly unique because, according to Barker, it includes the “most extensive and remote beach walking” as well as three lighthouses, various shorebird species, and the east coast’s tallest dunes.

There are lots of opportunities to get involved in the MST in a Day event on Hatteras Island. 17 legs of segment 18 are covered so far within, with legs 4 (from the ferry docks to the bath houses), 5 (from the bath houses to Frisco Campground), and 8 (from Canadian Hole to Avon Pier) still without any committed hikers. There is also only one hiker signed up on 6 segments of the trail whereas the Friends of the MST would like to have at least 2 hikers committed to each leg.

Participation in the event is free, but donations are certainly encouraged. Donations go to maintaining the trail as well as adding more sections to the existing 700 miles of trail. Donating just $35 warrants a 1-year membership in Friends of the MST with benefits such as invitations to special events and a 10% discount on MST merchandise.

There are currently about 700 people signed up statewide to hike the MST on the day of the event, with 75% of the trail covered and a month to go. The Friends of the MST encourage hikers to sign up for more than one leg if possible. Hikers can complete their leg at any convenient time on the day of the event, although the morning is recommended in order to avoid the heat. Hikers should also be cautious on sections of trail which follow the road.

There will be a post-hike celebration at Jockey’s Ridge at 2 p.m. on the day of the event complete with cake, treats, and participant medals. Addresses from Dave Hallac, NPS superintendent, and a representative from the event are to follow.

If you are interested in participating in the event or have any questions you can visit the or Go to “Planning your Hike” for trail information, or to sign for a leg of the trail.

Segment 18: The Outer Banks Highlights Include:

  • Ocracoke Village, a quaint and quiet town at the western end of the segment
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore, encompassing the beaches for nearly the entire segment
  • The Ocracoke pony pens, which hold the descendants of a horse herd that once roamed on the island
  • The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, which tells the story of the over 2,000 shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina
  • The Open Ponds Trail, a sandy track through maritime forest near Buxton Woods
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, at 208 feet the tallest brick lighthouse in North America, and the most recognized symbol of the Outer Banks. It is open for climbing in the summer.
  • The historic Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station, the original site of the forerunners to the U.S. Coast Guard, which is now a museum
  • Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a renowned haven for waterfowl, especially in the winter
  • The historic Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station
  • Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, a 1,000-foot fishing pier originally built in 1939 and reconstructed several times, most recently in 2011, which is now part of the North Carolina Aquarium
  • Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the largest and highest dune complex in the eastern United States

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