It might rain, but then again, it might not. The morning is cloudy with high humidity and a temperature higher than usual for North Carolina in February. We grab our small day packs to hold water and an emergency kit and drive. The goal: walk the completed portion of the mountain-to-sea trail (MST) in Elkin. It’s under three miles on a flat well-maintained surface. A nice walk before meeting family in the area for lunch.

When finished, the MST will run from Clingmans Dome to the Outer Banks. In Elkin, trail signs start at the intersection of Main Street and East Market Street for a stroll through downtown, past the library, and into the Elkin Recreation Center Park. Although not part of the MST, there is a loop around the Elkin Reservoir that returns to the park. Otherwise, it’s an out and back trail.

Past the rec center, we walk under the first of two overpasses and into the woods. This portion of the trail follows the relaxing sounds of Elkin Creek. Moss and lichen on the trees provide visual points of interest even during winter and bluets pop up every so often for a splash of color. We cross the first bridge just past the shoe factory dam. The trail continues through an open field with the Highway 268 bypass overhead. As the grassland gives way to hills and gullies, the first of two gongs come into view. The gongs are a fun way to announce your accomplishment on the trail.


Crossing the second bridge over the Elkin Creek, the moss and lichen continue to impress, while the trees serve as structural art. The second gong comes into view with the creek on one side and the reservoir on the other. Due to the heavy rains of the past week, the Elkin Reservoir Loop is closed, but that doesn’t spoil our fun. We turn left on Rustic Trail, continuing to walk beside the creek for a while. Rustic Trail is hilly but not strenuous. With eye-catching scenery and the sounds of nature, it’s easy to forget the trail is in town.


We leave the creek and rejoin the MST following a wooded path that halts at a ravine where, for now, the trail ends. We return the way we came, pleased with our outing and looking forward to when the next portion of the MST opens. The clouds didn’t turn to rain, but instead made for some eerily beautiful photos.


While North Carolina is known for easy access to mountains and the ocean, mountain vistas and seascapes are not all nature has to offer. It’s time to find another local trail and enjoy nature.

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