The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a 1200-mile long-distance trail route that runs from one end of North Carolina to the other. Specifically, it begins at Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and ends at Jockey's Ridge State Park in the Outer Banks. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail was designed to connect as many scenic locations and trail systems as possible, and work continues to link all of these sections into one seamless trail.
One of the most popular and well-used sections of the trail that your pup is going to love is the Falls Lake South Shore Trail outside of Raleigh-Durham. This 26-mile segment winds through forest and riparian environments around Falls Lake and its surrounding rivers, including the Eno and Neuse Rivers. Expect to cross many creeks on this trail, usually via picturesque wooden bridges. Among the water-loving birds you might spot here are kingfishers, bald eagles, ospreys, and herons. The forests are favored by wrens, warblers, nuthatches, and goldfinches. Mammals that live in these woods include white-tailed deer, raccoons, and red foxes. Under stands of Loblolly pine and oak, wildflowers including wild sunflowers and asters grow. Keep your curious pup on leash so as not to disturb the wildlife.
The trail is broken up into several two-to-four-mile-long sections, making it easy to plan shorter hikes focused on key points. Some of these points of interest include the Falls Lake Dam, Raven Ridge, Blue Jay Point, and Barton Creek. Falls Lake Dam Recreation Area is the location of the eastern trailhead of the South Shore Trail and Blue Jay Point is near its midpoint. The trail continues through Shinleaf Recreation Area and slightly beyond. Falls Lake Dam Recreation Area, Blue Jay Point County Park, and Shinleaf Recreation Area all offer parking, bathrooms, and other amenities, making them great choices for starting points along this beautiful trail. These are great places to fill up water bottles for you and your doggo. Note that while the trail itself doesn't close, all of these parks close at sunset.
Whether you just want to come for a short hike and a picnic, or spend all day on the trail, you'll cherish the time you spend here with your favorite furry hiking companion.