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  1. #1
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    Default Info from those who have hiked this trail...

    I am planning my summer (early June) hike. This year, due to either grace or misfortune, I have a couple of kids (17-18 yo) who want to come along. They have no real backpacking experience outside of a couple of overnighters. I have looked at the MTS website and need a recommendation for a 200 mile segment. I know the BMT and the southern AT and am comfortable hiking and leading a group along those. My dilemma - I want to see new trails but don't want to put the kids into hiking the northern NH/southern Maine types of trails on their first hike. So when the MTS website says a trail is "double black diamond" strenuous, are they talking southern Maine on the AT? or just your usual southern mountains type of difficulty? Any recommendations for a challenging (but not overwhelming) 200 mile section on this trail? As always, thanks in advance for any replies. Happy New Year to all.

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    Amicalola to the Smokies.....
    Let's head for the roundhouse; they can't corner us there!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Last Call View Post
    Amicalola to the Smokies.....
    while I appreciate brevity, i also wish you that you would elaborate. Why this section over any on the MTS trail? remember, I want to kill 2 birds with one stone...I have some kids who want to go, and I want to see new trails. I have hiked the southern (Ga/Tn/NC) AT any number of times.

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    Default Info from those who have hiked this trail...

    I believe the MST gets much easier after Grandfather Mountain. Maybe this is a good starting point? You've got 90 miles to Devil's Garden Overlook, then an easy hike to Stone Mountain if the kids are done after that.
    You can walk in another person's shoes, but only with your feet

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    Finally, I'm considering a MTS thru late this winter. I've hiked many sections of it though up to 150 mile segments mostly in the mountains. However, I've no real LD personal experience with the flatter segments near the ocean Based on what you said I too advise your party avoid Asheville past Mt Mitchell through Linville Gorge through Grandfather Mt.

    200 miles is probably at least 2 wks with your party. Are they ready for that for their first real LD hike? Even if you say yes you may want to give serious consideration to how you will keep them physically, emotionally, and mentally engaged when those times fade away. This should IMO have off trail options especially if it gets rainy. One caveat of getting up hiker in June is that it will be less humid though. Might be worth considering when organizing the hike.

    TIP: never met a teen that didn't like a neat watering hole.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Finally, I'm considering a MTS thru late this winter. I've hiked many sections of it though up to 150 mile segments mostly in the mountains. However, I've no real LD personal experience with the flatter segments near the ocean Based on what you said I too advise your party avoid Asheville past Mt Mitchell through Linville Gorge through Grandfather Mt.
    Dogwood...I understand the risk and issues of taking the neophytes. However, I did a 3 day, 2 night trip with them in the fall in the GSMNP. They are "the type" (or appear to be anyway) mentally who can handle a long distance hike and I think 200 miles is a good number....long enough to get a taste of it without it becoming (or having the potential) to turn into a grind. I am figuring about 2 and 1/2 weeks. However, without at least the experience of having done a short trip with them I doubt I would be considering this.

    With all that being said, how are the first 2 or 3 western (mountainous) sections of the MST in terms of difficulty? I read their website and see that they are rated strenuous (with even the diamond-type ski slope rating system used but it is always hard to interpret that. Are these sections typical southern Appalachian mountain trails such as the AT or BMT in terms of difficulty? Or are they more akin to what you find in northern NH/southern Maine on the AT? If so I probably will skip them for this trip although I am anxious not to be "treading trodden trails" (to quote D. Matthews). again, thanks for any input.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4shot View Post
    Dogwood...I understand the risk and issues of taking the neophytes. However, I did a 3 day, 2 night trip with them in the fall in the GSMNP. They are "the type" (or appear to be anyway) mentally who can handle a long distance hike and I think 200 miles is a good number....long enough to get a taste of it without it becoming (or having the potential) to turn into a grind. I am figuring about 2 and 1/2 weeks. However, without at least the experience of having done a short trip with them I doubt I would be considering this.

    With all that being said, how are the first 2 or 3 western (mountainous) sections of the MST in terms of difficulty? I read their website and see that they are rated strenuous (with even the diamond-type ski slope rating system used but it is always hard to interpret that. Are these sections typical southern Appalachian mountain trails such as the AT or BMT in terms of difficulty? Or are they more akin to what you find in northern NH/southern Maine on the AT? If so I probably will skip them for this trip although I am anxious not to be "treading trodden trails" (to quote D. Matthews). again, thanks for any input.
    Looking at the MST Mountains trail guide I received as a Christmas gift;
    -Segment 1A (Clingman's Dome to Waterrock Knob) just over 14K elevation gain - "challenging"
    -Segment 2 (Waterrock to Pisgah Inn) and Segment 3 (Pisgah Inn to Black Mountain Campground) are both rated "strenuous" for difficult tread and lots of elevation change.
    -Segment 4 (Black Mtn Campground to Beacon Heights) is 75 miles of "Moderate to Very Strenuous" (with the Linville Gorge section noted as the most challenging)
    -Segment 5 (Beacon Heights to Devil's Garden) is 90 miles of "easy to moderate" and thus exhausts the "Mountain" section of the MST trail. I don't have the Piedmont guide.

    That said, if you look at the photos of people who have completed a thru-hike of the MST, you'll notice that many of them are older and not what would be considered "athletic" by any measure.
    Last edited by KCNC; 12-28-2017 at 09:42.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Finally, I'm considering a MTS thru late this winter. I've hiked many sections of it though up to 150 mile segments mostly in the mountains. However, I've no real LD personal experience with the flatter segments near the ocean Based on what you said I too advise your party avoid Asheville past Mt Mitchell through Linville Gorge through Grandfather Mt.

    200 miles is probably at least 2 wks with your party. Are they ready for that for their first real LD hike? Even if you say yes you may want to give serious consideration to how you will keep them physically, emotionally, and mentally engaged when those times fade away. This should IMO have off trail options especially if it gets rainy. One caveat of getting up hiker in June is that it will be less humid though. Might be worth considering when organizing the hike.

    TIP: never met a teen that didn't like a neat watering hole.
    I'm only about 20 minutes from the MST down in the Coastal Plain segment. Ping me here via PM when you start making plans.

  9. #9
    Registered User The Old Chief's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4shot View Post
    I am planning my summer (early June) hike. This year, due to either grace or misfortune, I have a couple of kids (17-18 yo) who want to come along. They have no real backpacking experience outside of a couple of overnighters. I have looked at the MTS website and need a recommendation for a 200 mile segment. I know the BMT and the southern AT and am comfortable hiking and leading a group along those. My dilemma - I want to see new trails but don't want to put the kids into hiking the northern NH/southern Maine types of trails on their first hike. So when the MTS website says a trail is "double black diamond" strenuous, are they talking southern Maine on the AT? or just your usual southern mountains type of difficulty? Any recommendations for a challenging (but not overwhelming) 200 mile section on this trail? As always, thanks in advance for any replies. Happy New Year to all.
    The closest you will get as far as NH/southern Maine type of trail, is the mileage from Beacon Heights to Black Mtn Campground and includes the Tablerock, Shortoff Mtn, Linville Gorge sections of the MST, but still not that close. Does that make sense? Hiking in June thru this area also includes a lot of water crossings including a ford of the Linville River. This 75 mile section of trail is also the most remote you will find on the MST. From Hwy 221 to Black Mtn Campground is also remote with only one road crossing (Blue Ridge Parkway). The trail up and over Woods Mtn is one of the best and most scenic sections of the MST in my opinion. From Black Mtn Campground to Asheville involves several road crossings, the Blue Ridge Parkway and NC128, and all the stuff on top of Mt. Mitchell, but still very enjoyable. About 2 miles below the summit of Mt. Mitchell, before the campground, are some really great camp sites, with plenty of water and views.

    In my opinion a good 200 mile hike would be Section 2, starting at Waterock Knob, section 3, and section 4, ending at Beacon Heights. Beacon Heights would be a good place to start with novice hikers. Strenuous in places with some moderate to easy hiking, but nothing even a novice hiker couldn't do. And Waterrock Knob is a very scenic place end a hike.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Finally, I'm considering a MTS thru late this winter. I've hiked many sections of it though up to 150 mile segments mostly in the mountains. However, I've no real LD personal experience with the flatter segments near the ocean Based on what you said I too advise your party avoid Asheville past Mt Mitchell through Linville Gorge through Grandfather Mt.

    200 miles is probably at least 2 wks with your party. Are they ready for that for their first real LD hike? Even if you say yes you may want to give serious consideration to how you will keep them physically, emotionally, and mentally engaged when those times fade away. This should IMO have off trail options especially if it gets rainy. One caveat of getting up hiker in June is that it will be less humid though. Might be worth considering when organizing the hike.

    TIP: never met a teen that didn't like a neat watering hole.
    Starting a MST thru-hike in late winter on the coast is a good idea in my opinion. There will be stretches the first few days where you will be the only person on the beaches The ferries don't run as often but no big deal. Getting thru all the swampy areas before hot weather is a big plus. The flatter walking is not bad once you get used to it. Rural road walking is interesting and the number of people who will want to talk to you about what you're doing is surprising. And just about every one of them will offer some type of help or encouragement. Use the MST guidebooks and website and you'll be okay. Be sure to refer to the updates section on the website as small changes in trail directions are always likely.

  11. #11

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    Thanks KCNC for the Sections list. I know the Beacon Heights going south section to Linville Gorge well as it's part of my old backpacking stomping grounds and explored on a couple recent long trips.

    As mentioned, this section has many creek crossings including Linville River---Buck Creek, a couple Steels Creek crossings, Gingercake Creek, Upper Creek, several Harper Creek crossings, a half dozen North Harper Creek fords, Lost Cove Creek crossings etc . . But it's a beautiful section and heck I like it so much I'd just stay in this section and pull blue blazes and repeat the whole thing until you hit your 200 mile goal.

    Taba Ward's MST guide book is probably the best---
    TRIP 174 223-XL.jpg
    Here's a page from his guidebook.

    TRIP 157 173.jpg
    This is Heather Housekeeper who is pulling her second MST thruhike when I met her on Gragg Prong north of Huntfish Falls.

    TRIP 174 412-XL.jpg

    TRIP 174 427-XL.jpg
    This is another woman MST thruhiker who I met on the Raider Camp section and her name is Late Start.

    TRIP 157 556-XL.jpg

    TRIP 174 213-XL.jpg
    These maps show you Trail 440 which is the MST and also shows the potential to do ranging blue blaze hikes away from the MST on peripheral trails---thereby augmenting your mountain section in some great wilderness areas. You could bounce between Linville Gorge and Gragg Prong on the MST for a couple weeks and detour off the MST and pull every awesome trail on the map---using the MST as your main connecting trail etc.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Old Chief View Post
    Starting a MST thru-hike in late winter on the coast is a good idea in my opinion. There will be stretches the first few days where you will be the only person on the beaches The ferries don't run as often but no big deal. Getting thru all the swampy areas before hot weather is a big plus. The flatter walking is not bad once you get used to it. Rural road walking is interesting and the number of people who will want to talk to you about what you're doing is surprising. And just about every one of them will offer some type of help or encouragement. Use the MST guidebooks and website and you'll be okay. Be sure to refer to the updates section on the website as small changes in trail directions are always likely.
    ^^ This is what I would do if I ever did the MST again. I got more bug bites (that itched and left welts for a long time) near the coast than I've ever encountered on another trail. I enjoyed the flat coast, but certainly would have enjoyed it more in the cooler weather of winter.

    To the OP...I really don't remember anything resembling the AT in Maine. I thought it was all just a nice trail.
    The only gear I would add if I did it again would be long pants because there were some places with overgrown nettles.
    Stumpknocker
    Trail is 27.0% complete.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4shot View Post
    Dogwood...I understand the risk and issues of taking the neophytes. However, I did a 3 day, 2 night trip with them in the fall in the GSMNP. They are "the type" (or appear to be anyway) mentally who can handle a long distance hike and I think 200 miles is a good number....long enough to get a taste of it without it becoming (or having the potential) to turn into a grind. I am figuring about 2 and 1/2 weeks. However, without at least the experience of having done a short trip with them I doubt I would be considering this.

    With all that being said, how are the first 2 or 3 western (mountainous) sections of the MST in terms of difficulty? I read their website and see that they are rated strenuous (with even the diamond-type ski slope rating system used but it is always hard to interpret that. Are these sections typical southern Appalachian mountain trails such as the AT or BMT in terms of difficulty? Or are they more akin to what you find in northern NH/southern Maine on the AT? If so I probably will skip them for this trip although I am anxious not to be "treading trodden trails" (to quote D. Matthews). again, thanks for any input.
    2, 3, and 4 are strenuous overall.

    Pros:
    Spell checker got me before but you're at higher elev so it will be cooler. Could be a factor for June.

    Physically, mentally, and scenically engaging segments between Asheville and Grandfather Mt with all the ups and downs, rocks, scrambles, dicey overlooks, high pts, etc made more so if you veer off the MST a bit and also take in the ladders, caves, rock houses, overlooks, scrambles, creeks, waterfalls, and cables up to and including the Mile High Bridge, Mt Mitchell summit area with a frolic over to Craig Mt(second highest Mt in the east and not nearly as packed as Mt Mitchell likely will be in June with good weather). I'd camp near/at Calloway if you veer off at Grandfather. All this is interspersed with rather easier mundane days along the BRP like on the Tanawha Tr.

    Plenty of CS's. Some which are first come first served.


    Tipi has a good pt in considering not strictly adhering to the MST. These segments take in other worthy scenic trails and experiences. Could do some non MST hiking in Linville Gorge to overlooks and getting down to the river/Linville Caverns, around G Mt which you don't actually summit on the MST, and take in added waterfalls in Pisgah Nat Forest with many to choose from in the Harper Crk Wilderness Study Area. I've found it better while leading athletic and already 2-3 day trips under their belt experienced teens to cut down not only on the daily miles but the overall trip distance if it keeps them in the moment, present, safe, and engaged. Seems reasonable especially on more strenuous technically slower terrain. All of us can benefit from a good dose of slower is sometimes better. You know your party - your teenaged adults - better than anyone here.

    Cons:

    Strenuous, to the pt of possibly being dangerous(which they will likely say is fun) on the non MST route described.

    These segments ramp up to busy going into June. The closer you get to the main areas like Mt Mitchell, Linville Gorge, A Ville, Grandfather, etc the busier. I typically do these segments in late winter and late fall(from Bowlens Crk/Black Mountains Crest Trail(this is not the MST) to Grandfather in a wk long romp or all of the Black Mts to Cane Crk Gap for a weekender.

    Permits?(Linville for example?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Old Chief View Post
    Starting a MST thru-hike in late winter on the coast is a good idea in my opinion. There will be stretches the first few days where you will be the only person on the beaches The ferries don't run as often but no big deal. Getting thru all the swampy areas before hot weather is a big plus. The flatter walking is not bad once you get used to it. Rural road walking is interesting and the number of people who will want to talk to you about what you're doing is surprising. And just about every one of them will offer some type of help or encouragement. Use the MST guidebooks and website and you'll be okay. Be sure to refer to the updates section on the website as small changes in trail directions are always likely.
    Quote Originally Posted by stumpknocker View Post
    ^^ This is what I would do if I ever did the MST again. I got more bug bites (that itched and left welts for a long time) near the coast than I've ever encountered on another trail. I enjoyed the flat coast, but certainly would have enjoyed it more in the cooler weather of winter.

    To the OP...I really don't remember anything resembling the AT in Maine. I thought it was all just a nice trail.
    The only gear I would add if I did it again would be long pants because there were some places with overgrown nettles.

    THX for the advise. I was thinking along the same lines.

  15. #15
    Registered User The Old Chief's Avatar
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    Regarding guidebooks, Taba's guidebook has not been updated since 2012 and is practically useless in the piedmont and coastal regions that the MST now travels. It remains somewhat accurate in the mountains but there again, enough reroutes have happened since 2012 that it can't be considered dependable for the entire route. He put out a good guidebook and I wish he would do it again and bring it up to date.
    As far as the original question goes, I still think Sections 2,3, & 4 in the mountains would make a great 200 mile hike. Teenagers shouldn't have any problems. I've hike these areas in the past 2 years, not in particularly good shape, and managed quite well.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Old Chief View Post
    Regarding guidebooks, Taba's guidebook has not been updated since 2012 and is practically useless in the piedmont and coastal regions that the MST now travels. It remains somewhat accurate in the mountains but there again, enough reroutes have happened since 2012 that it can't be considered dependable for the entire route. He put out a good guidebook and I wish he would do it again and bring it up to date.
    As far as the original question goes, I still think Sections 2,3, & 4 in the mountains would make a great 200 mile hike. Teenagers shouldn't have any problems. I've hike these areas in the past 2 years, not in particularly good shape, and managed quite well.
    You would post this the day after I buy that guidebook... oh well, at least I know it’s not 100% accurate in the mountains.

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    Thanks to everyone for the good advice. Sections 2,3 and 4 are intriguing. I may get the guidebook anyways but what maps should i get for these sections? I am one of those old school guys who insist on carrying maps. even when I'm on the AT. Happy New Year's everyone and hope to see y'all on the trail this year.

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    Just one map: Western N. Carolina Trail Guide - Grandfather Ranger District... and parts of Appalachian Ranger District - Pisgah Nat Forest. Outfitters like ahem REI usually carry then when the store locations are within the vicinity. All the REI's around A ville should carry them and maybe some of the TN REI's.

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    Ping us back to let us know how the hike with the kids went.

  20. #20
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    Really good maps are also available from the National Geographic Map Store. The ones to look for are North Carolina maps 779 & 780. They are waterproof and cost $11.95 each. The Mountains to Sea Trail is highlighted prominently on these maps. They should also be available at REI. Instead of buying a trail guide that's out of date just go to the MST website and print out copies of the specific trail guide (area) you want. It's free and accurate.

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