RALEIGH — A bill introduced last week in the North Carolina General Assembly would officially add a coastal segment to the North Carolina State Parks’ Mountains-to-Sea hiking trail.
House Bill 361 would add the 316-mile Coastal Crescent Trail, allowing access to resources from the State Park Service, including uniform signage. Rep. Phil Shepard, R-Onslow; Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret; Rep. Donna McDowell White, R-Johnston; and Rep. Larry Strickland, R-Johnston, are the bill’s primary sponsors.
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a 1,175-mile hiking route that stretches from Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge National Park on the Outer Banks.
The Coastal Crescent Trail, designated in January 2015, runs along the Cape Fear Arch, an area higher in elevation than areas near the coast to the north and south, through Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland, Bladen, Pender and Onslow counties. The trail was opened in 2015 as an alternative route for a stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail between Selma and Havelock that required hikers to either canoe down the Neuse River or walk along busy U.S. 70.
“Most hikers don’t have canoes or something to paddle,” said Kip Godwin, a project coordinator for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, who added that many hikers don’t feel comfortable walking along busy highways.
Complaints by hikers prompted the nonprofit Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to develop the Coastal Crescent Trail. Godwin said a significant portion of the trail still uses roads, but that they tend to be low-traffic country roads.
The Friends’ organization plans to release a comprehensive plan for the Coastal Crescent Trail.