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Wednesday, 24 December 2014 00:00

News for hikers

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N.C. Parks hold New Year’s hikes

A North Carolina tradition continues on New Year’s Day with a schedule of First Day Hikes at every state park and recreation area in the state. 

The three-year-old tradition has so far had hikers joining rangers and volunteers to hike more than 10,000 miles of state park trails on Jan. 1. Statewide, more than 40 hikes, ranging from short leg-stretchers to 6-mile treks, will be offered. 

Those in the western counties include:

• Chimney Rock State Park: A naturalist-led hike on the Hickory Nut Falls Trail will start at 1 p.m. at Chimney Rock, and a ranger-led, 1-mile roundtrip hike to Rumbling Bald will leave at 3 p.m. from the Rumbling Bald Climbing Access Area. 828.625.1823.

• Gorges State Park: A short, easy hike to the Bearwallow Valley Overlook platform will leave at 9:30 a.m. from the park’s visitor center. A short, moderate hike to the Bearwallow Falls Overlook platform will start at 2:30 p.m. from the Bearwallow Picnic Shelter. Park Superintendent Steve Pagano will lead both hikes. 828.966.9099.

• Grandfather Mountain State Park: A 2.5-hour, ranger-led hike will take in the first mile of the Profile Trail, starting at 11:30 a.m. from the Profile Trail Parking Lot. No pets, and children under 16 must be with an adult. 828.963.9522.

• Lake James State Park: A 2-mile ranger-led hike in search of winter edibles will leave from the Paddy’s Creek Area boathouse breezeway at 10 a.m. 828.584.7728.

• Mount Mitchell State Park: A 0.75-mile hike along the Balsam Nature Trail will leave from the Summit Parking Lot at 11 a.m. 828.675.4611.

• South Mountains State Park:  A 2.75-mile hike to the 80-foot High Shoals waterfall will leave at 10 a.m. from the Jacob Fork Parking Area. Space is limited, so pre-register for this hike at 828.433.4772.

Hikes are listed at


Master plan in the works for Mountains-to-Sea Trail

As the Mountains-to-Sea Trail nears completion, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is looking to finish a master plan for the trail’s management by late 2015. 

The plan will chart a path toward official designation of remaining portions by setting priorities for completing trail subsections. It will also unify regional planning efforts, identify potential new partners and funding strategies and establish guidelines for signs and publicity.

Planning Communities will prepare the plan for a contract price of $125,000, supported through the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. 

Public input will be a major component of the plan, so the Division of Parks and Recreation is looking for people to get involved. 

“It’s important to have a guiding document that will focus our efforts for a project that has captured the public’s imagination since it was proposed in the 1970s,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director.  

The 1,000-mile trail corridor will ultimately link Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast. Nearly two thirds of the cross-state route — including nearly all of the distance from the Tennessee line to Stone Mountain State Park north of Boone — has been completed as a continuous, off-road trail experience.

To get involved, visit

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