The Mountains-to-Sea Trail, an effort to link Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey's Ridge State Park on the outer banks, is the flagship project of the North Carolina State Trails Program. Today, over 450 miles of the 1,000 mile route are open for use. Partners across North Carolina are helping to plan and build the trail to link communities together and to serve as the backbone of a growing system of land and water trails.
When completed, the route will pass through 37 counties containing about 40 percent of the state's population. The trail is used by people out for an afternoon stroll as well as those planning to hike the trail from one end of the state to the other.
The trail concept was first proposed in 1977 by Howard Lee, then secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural Resources and Community Development. Recently Lee reflected in a series of stories in the Raleigh News & Observer on the promise and progress of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
“I think what makes this dream so compelling is that it represents more than just a hiking trail. This trail embodies a vision, which, little by little, comes more into focus each year. There is, also, a sense of pride—held by citizens and our leaders—of what is best about North Carolina. When it is completed, the trail will showcase North Carolina's natural and cultural beauty, off the beaten path in the mountains, the Piedmont, the Coastal Plain and the Outer Banks; natural lands and farms; small towns and big cities.”