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The NC Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Orange County 

 

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) is a 1,000-mile trail that will traverse the state from the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks.   Partners across the state are helping to plan and build the trail that will link communities and serve as the backbone of a growing system of land and water trails in North Carolina. 

About 530 miles of dedicated trail — roughly half the planned length— has been completed to date and is open for hiking.  A series of interim roadway connectors (bicycle routes and back roads) have been identified by the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail organization that knit together the completed sections of the MST across the state.

Map showing the current status of the NC Mountains-to-Sea Trail across the state.

The MST Planning Corridor through Orange County (from west to east) begins at the Haw River in the far southwest corner of the county, then parallels Cane Creek to the northeast through OWASA’s Cane Creek Reservoir lands, then further northeast through the Seven Mile Creek Preserve and Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area.  From Occoneechee Mountain the trail will follow the Eno River along Hillsborough’s Riverwalk and through land owned by Classical American Homes Preservation Trust and Eno River State Park into Durham County.

A map of the MST planning corridor across Orange County

The Orange County Board of Commissioners endorsed the MST Planning Corridor in April 2010 following the review and approval of its advisory boards (Intergovernmental Parks Work Group, Parks and Recreation Council, Commission for the Environment) and the town boards of Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro. 

County staff are working in collaboration with the State Trails Program (a section of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation), Eno River State Park, the Town of Hillsborough, the Friends of Mountains-to-Sea Trail (FMST), and others to develop specific plans for the MST in Orange County—thereby transitioning the trail planning corridor to an actual “trail alignment.” 

The initial focus has been on determining the trail alignment through the County’s Seven Mile Creek Preserve and linking the Preserve with Occoneechee Mountain and the Hillsborough Riverwalk.   A secondary focus is working with the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) to identify a potential trail alignment through OWASA’s Cane Creek Reservoir lands in the southwestern part of the county, and then linking the Reservoir lands with the Alamance County section of the MST along the Haw River.

There are sections of the MST in Orange County that are already completed and open for public use.  They are within River Park and Gold Park—both in Hillsborough.  East of Hillsborough, there are designated sections of the MST open in Eno River State Park.  Finally, a section of the MST was also recently completed (although not yet dedicated) east of the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail on lands owned by Classical American Homes Preservation Trust.  Other sections of the trail are expected to be completed in the next few years, but the entire length of trail through Orange County will not be completed for several years.  As is the case for many sections of the state, the Mountains-to Sea Trail is a “work in progress,” but the ultimate goal is a 1000-mile trail from Clingmans Dome to Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

Answers to “frequently asked questions” about the MST through Orange County.

How can you get involved?

•  An online survey is being developed and will be available on this webpage in late August 2012 

•  You can volunteer to build trail by contacting the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail   or contact Rich Shaw, Land Conservation Manager with Orange County DEAPR.

•  You can sign up for the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (FMST) e-mail newsletter to keep informed of progress and opportunities to get involved.  You can also become a member of the FMST—a non-profit organization that promotes the trail, coordinates trail building activities and serves as a clearinghouse for information. 

Links:

NC Division of Parks and Recreation site about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail