ASHEVILLE, N.C. — There is one hiking trail in North Carolina that extends from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. It’s called the Mountains-To-Sea Trail, also known as MST.
What You Need To Know
The MST stretches 1,175 miles across North Carolina
The highest elevation along the trail is Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet
Two ferries connect to the trail to the Outer Banks
It is the longest marked footpath in North Carolina
Jennifer Pharr Davis is known for her stamina. In 2011, she hiked the trail of the East Coast, known as the Appalachian Trail. Not only did she trek 2,190 miles, but set the fastest unofficial record on the trail. According to her self-reported time and mileage, she averaged about 47 miles a day.
“I loved being outdoors and carrying just the things I had on my back,” Davis said.
While that trek was quite the feat, only part of the trail felt like home. Davis grew up in Hendersonville, N.C. It’s about a 30-minute drive south of Asheville. She knows the trails, the land and plants.
“I think it’s interesting how many uses they [plants] had historically, like for medicine and how Native Americans used them in their diets and rituals,” Davis said.
Western North Carolina is also the area where she started a family. She now lives in Asheville with her husband and two kids. Friends of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail asked her to hike the path for their 40th anniversary in 2017, and she was all for it.
“The Mountains-To-Sea trail is cool because of the diversity,” Davis said.
Friends of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail say hikers can experience mountains, coastal swamps, colonial towns, small piedmont farms, changing textile villages and barrier islands. It’s one of a few trails where hikers can enjoy mountain views and beach sunrises.
“Hiking in sand is so hard,” Davis said with a laugh. “The wind is coming against you, and the sand is blowing in your face and your feet are just slipping out.”
During her nearly 1,200-mile hike, Davis’ husband, Brew, drove along the route so their children could be there too. Davis was nursing her son Gus at the time. Brew said the journey was extremely tough at times because he was dealing with some health issues, but he doesn’t regret anything.
“In our opinion, there is no better way to see the state, because you are seeing it on foot and seeing all the different parts of it,” Brew said.
Davis said her favorite part about the trail is that it can be explored as a serious long hike or simply a day trip. There are multiple locations across the state where hikers can hop on. It’s how Davis’ children and husband joined her for part of her journey.
“If you have young kids, that is how I recommend experiencing the trail,” Davis said.
The trail stretches from the mountains to Greensboro, down through Raleigh and then to the Outer Banks. David said it’s one of the most unique attractions that anyone in North Carolina can enjoy for free.
“It is just a really great way to connect with other communities and people in the state and get outdoors and be healthy,” Davis said.
To learn more about the trail visit this website.