North Carolina: A Leader in Trail Building

North Carolina has ramped up its efforts to support current trails and trails-in-the-making. This blog will provide information on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Haw River State Trail, and new efforts to add trails to fund trail-building in the state.

North Carolina wants to expand its trail program to promote a healthier population. Though the Appalachian Trail, which passes through NC, might seem to get all the press, the truth is the state has a variety of trails and is committed to building more.

This blog will focus on two major trail efforts, the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail and the newly minted Haw River State Trail and offer information on recent legislation that funds more trail building in the state.

Mountains-to-Sea State Trail

As most state residents know, North Carolina is a long state that is book-ended by mountains in the west and coastal plains in the east. Hence, we now have the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail that links these two areas and gives hikers the chance to traverse the entire length of the state.

The trail was first proposed in 1977, but it was not until 2000 that it became an official state trail. Though it is intended to be a fully off-road trail, it is currently a work-in-progress. About 675 miles of trail are currently built off-road, mostly in the western portion of North Carolina, with smaller but significant sections completed in the NC Piedmont and Coastal Plain. When completed, the MST will cover about 1400 miles, an achievement that requires cooperation from both the state and local landowners and organizations.

For more information on the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail, check out the NCTrails website.

The Haw River State Trail (HRST)

The Haw River State Trail (HRST) follows the Haw River corridor and gives hikers the chance to view the local beauty of the NC Piedmont. The vision for the HRST revolves around “conservation through recreation,” a belief that making memories outdoors will lead to citizens who work to preserve the natural beauty of this state for future generations.

Like the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail, the Haw River State Trail is a work-in-progress that features numerous trail sections that eventually will be connected to form a single trail that runs through the Haw River corridor. When completed, the HRST should be about 80 miles long, but there are still plenty of unique sections available to hike right now.

For trail maps of the Haw River State Trail, check this website.

North Carolina Invests in New Trails

North Carolina introduced 2023 as the Year of the Trail, which is a statewide initiative to encourage its citizens to get out and hike. The success of Year of the Trail not only spurred more people to get outside and improve their mental and physical health, but it also made possible new legislation to fund trail-building efforts in North Carolina.

According to Great Trails State Coalition, in September 2023, the NC General Assembly approved funding the Great Trails State Program, which is a “new non-recurring $25 million trail and greenway funding program.” This new budget also “adds $5 million to the Complete the Trails Fund supporting authorized North Carolina State Trails [which includes the Haw River State Trail]” and “directs nearly $25 million to specific trail and greenway projects across the state.”

As outdoor enthusiasts already know, trails provide much needed places to exercise and enjoy nature. They can also be wise community investments that boost tourism and local economies by bringing revenue and jobs to lesser-known areas.

Find a Trail Near You

Trails are for everyone, but many people are unaware of the recreational opportunities near their hometown. Your local area probably has a variety of nearby trails, from traditional nature hikes to paved multiuse trails and even paddle trails.

To get started, check this guide to find local trails in your area.

Let’s get out there and support these wonderful trails that North Carolina is funding.