The North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail is known for hiking, however travelers can use bikes, canoes, horses and even wheelchairs on certain sections, all of which can be found in Elkin.
Elkin is unique as, “the only place where three sanctioned trails meet [in North Carolina],” according to Bob Hillyer of the Elkin Valley Trails Association, as well as one of the few places where everyone can take the trail regardless of ability. The combination of trails that gather in Elkin may be part of what makes it possible for strollers and wheelchairs to traverse much of the hiking trails in town.
This also has led to the ability to have a golf cart available for those who have difficulty with mobility but still want to get out in nature. “We have several older enthusiasts who cannot walk that far,” said EVTA member Joe Hicks, who explained the special training required to drive the donated golf cart. “Anyone interested can call the Rec Center and they will give us a call and we’ll see what we can work out to go down there and meet them and go for a ride.”
Those interested should call 336-794-6478 where the office personnel will take a name, phone number and the date and time for the prospective trip down the trail. A driver will be contacted to coordinate the approximately 45-minute excursions. “We like to have at least 24 hours notice,” suggested Kay Garris, office manager for the Elkin Recreation Center.
Although the Elkin paths and bridges are suitable for golf carts, only those under the direction of the EVTA are permitted on the trail. No ATVs are ever allowed on the trail because of the destruction left behind. “In very short order they destroy the trails,” explained Richard Moore of the EVTA.
According to Moore, this has been a problem for the Elkin Creek Mountain Bike Trail recently. Moore also noted that hikers are, “invited to walk it, but the bikes have the right-of-way,” pointing out that the mountain bike trails are a more technical hike meaning it is rougher with more inclines than other trails.
Bikes can often be found on the hiking trails as well. Road bikes such as those used for the Mountains-to-Coast ride coming through Elkin the first week in October require more even terrain than mountain bikes and are more complementary to traditional trails.
Though some methods of travel may work well together, others do not. The bridle paths that lead from above Carter Falls to Stone Mountain are off limits to bikes of any kind. “We try to keep horses and bikes apart,” explained Hillyer, who is in charge of local trail development. The 25-mile trail between Stone Mountain and Elkin has been in development thanks to the combined efforts of the EVTA and local horse enthusiasts with another significant project in the works. A horse trailer park is under development for this section of trail.
Segment 6 also offers an uncommon water feature. “When hiking the 300 miles [on the MST] from Great Smoky Mountains to Stone Mountain, you can in Elkin you have an option,” observed Hillyer. “You can take a kayak from Elkin to Pilot Mountain instead of walking.” Several outfitters in the area have canoes and kayaks available including drop-offs and pick-ups.
Each segment of the MST has been carefully mapped and routed to best accommodate the needs of its travelers and communities leading to the many different types of trails with varying difficulties. Guides are available through the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that detail the route and the method of transportation accessible through that section. These guides also offer information about cultural, historical and natural features within a given section. The guide for the Elkin Valley can be found at mountainstoseatrail.org/segment/6.
The MST is still a work in progress with many sections under development. Weather and other factors also can create problems that can lead to areas that are closed for repairs. By referring to the appropriate segment section at mountainstoseatrail.org/the-trail, travelers can best alleviate unexpected changes and best plan how to traverse the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.