Route: Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Segment 1 (NC)

Submitted by PB Runner Mad Man on Mon, 06/28/2021 - 09:20am
North Carolina, US
46.8 mi
Vertical Gain
8,870 ft

Peak to Peak from Clingman's Dome to Waterrock Knob via the MST. 

The 46.8-mile-long Segment 1 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) begins in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), straddling Tennessee and North Carolina. Heading eastbound, the trail starts at the observation tower on top of Clingmans Dome at the state boundary. After paralleling the road to Clingmans Dome for a few miles, it heads deep into the woods on the longest roadless stretch of the MST—22.8 miles with no road access. Emerging to US 441 at Mingus Mill, the segment continues past the GSMNP's Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum and along the Oconaluftee River, popular for tubing.

From here, the trail continues along the shoulder of the BRP for several miles, with two short trail sections to avoid tunnels (in which walking is prohibited). The BRP is famous for the views from its overlooks, and this segment features several. Turning to gravel roads, the route continues through the Qualla Boundary, home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, before returning to hiker-only trail for the last 6.4 miles to Waterrock Knob.

(Or you can run the other direction.)

GPS Track


July 23rd had my wife drop me at clingmans dome with plan to meet me at water rock at 9pm. I just bought a SPOT GEN4 and was tracking with this and my Garmin watch. Unfortunately the SPOT performed poorly and only gave me 2 locations the whole 13.5 hours. My garmin worked great but I failed to bring the chord and to my surprise it hit low battery at 9 hours and shortly cut off. I will put a link to the Garmin page below. I dont have the complete the tracking all the way to water rock so cannot submit an official FKT. I started at 9:05 and finished 10:24PM. I think 12 hours should be attainable for the course. I struggled a great deal with the elevation and finished with a sick stomach. I threw up shortly after finishing. It was a good day weather was great. I think my nutrition was off. I only packed a couple gells, a cliff block, 3 stinger waffles and 3 bobo bars. I think more nutrition and some protein will need to be in my pack on the next segment. I am planning to take the whole MTS trail in segments. I wore my solomon vest with 2 chest bottles and 2 handheld filtered katadyn bottles. I filled up first at deep Creek and then next at ocunaluftee visitor center. After the visitor center was when thinks got bad. I hit a low spot and was struggled just to hike. I made it past the mile high camprground (note this looks like a great campground to come back to glad that i discovered it) After mile high I drew again from a stream and then finally one more time a couple miles from the finish. You definitely need to plan on filtered water there is nothing after ocunaluftee. I probably will not go do it again even though I would love to get the official FKT. I am moving on the MTS segement 2 and will plan to submit segment 2 as a new route when I complete it.

Tim Sill