Sections 1-3:

Great Smoky Mountains to Balsam Gap

If you are hiking the MST, you have many route options in these sections at the moment! Read more to learn about options and how you can help State Parks decide which should be the final route of the MST.

If you are working to hike the entire trail, click here for maps and hiking directions for two of the route options or you can read more below to learn about additional routes.  FMST will accept any of the options as a way to complete the MST.

State Parks has hired the Southwestern Commission to develop a trail plan for Swain and Jackson counties which will address the routing of the MST in this area. More than 30 years ago, the trail was proposed to parallel the Blue Ridge Parkway after leaving the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. However, the parkway owns almost no land in this area where it crosses the Cherokee Reservation, and we were never able to locate a workable route.

Three general routes (each with several variations) have been proposed so far.  We are looking for volunteers who will help us assess each of the routes or suggest new ones if we have missed something. We will share all feedback we receive with the Southwestern Commission and State Parks as they make their decision about which route to choose.

The three general routes (each with variations) proposed so far include:

  1. Routes through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
  2. Routes that follow the Tuckaseegee River
  3. A route through the Needmore tract and Upper Alarka/Big Laurel area of the Nantahala National Forest

The ultimate goal of State Parks and FMST is to establish a route that is 100% trail. At the moment, all of these routes include road walking, but the road sections approximate where a trail would be built (e.g., along the Tuckaseegee River).

FMST’s secondary goal is to find a route to recommend to hikers right now. This route may or may not be the route that is envisioned as the ultimate route because some of the roads that approximate where the trail would be built are busy or very narrow right now.

If you would be interested in helping to assess routes, please e-mail Kate Dixon, FMST Executive Director, at, and we will send you hiking directions, maps and instructions about how to share your ideas about the routes.


Map of GSMNP Trails
GSMNP website
Swain County Chamber of Commerce
Jackson County Chamber of Commerce


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