Hiking segment 7 of the MST
Since we had a long labor day weekend, we thought we would try to conquer another section of the MST. Looking at some of the trail guide, section seven was only about 36 miles total which we figured we would be able to do in two days if we pushed ourselves a bit. This section starts just outside of Pilot Mountain state park and ends at the visitors center of Hanging rock state park. It was a good hike, but perhaps we were a little ambitious to go so far with our large packs on.
|Trail Stats (According to my watch) | Day 1| Day 2 |
|Milage | 21.83 | 15.25
|Time | ~9 hours | ~ 7 hours
| Start Parking | Yes | ___
| Finish Parking | ___ | Yes
| Elevation Gain | ~6324 | ~4314
| Elevation Loss| ~6186 | ~3740
![blogPics](/static/img/182/begining_hike.jpg "Game face!")
Things to Remember
- you cant park and camp overnight at any of the parking areas. Perhaps unless you get special permission to. We tried camping in the van at the starting point in hopes to get a good head-start in the morning but a park ranger let us know that wasn't going to fly.
- Make sure to plan your stay for camping ahead. There are no back country designated areas to camp that we could find. you need to get this sorted out ahead of time.
- Similarly, a lot of this section is covered by the Sauratown Trails which are located on private land.
- 36 miles is far. If you have a big heavy pack on, your feet are going to feel it. So pack what you need.
- Download a copy of the MST trail guide for complete step by step route
- Pack out your trash
Day 1 | 21 miles | ~12 hours
Day2 | 17 miles | ~8 hours
The hike started us out at Bean Shoals hiking up the corridor trail which was about 6.6 miles along a horse trail. The trail was pretty but fairly hilly. Looking at the trail maps, the first 11 miles we had were going to be on this and the Pilot Mountain Grindstone Trail which were both rated as "Strenuous". The trail takes you through some wooded countryside and remains quite and peaceful until you hit this state park at pilot mountain. There were a few small creek crossing on the way which made for a nice rest point near the cool waters.
![blogPics](/static/img/182/creek_crossing.jpg "First creek crossing")
Once you make it to Pilot mountain, the grindstone trail actually goes around the base of the mountain so if you plan on going to the top, set aside another couple hours to hike up there. There is also a trail = "grassy ridge" that one can take to go around the short side of the MST (its marked as MST but we didn't see anyone saying to take that as part of this section). It pretty much bypasses most of pilot mountain so if you go this way you can shave off 4.5 miles of "strenuous" rated hiking.
After leaving Pilot mountain, you start to do some road hiking. The visitor center at Pilot Mountain has been updated since the MST guide was created, so you have to really pay attention here. It was a decent change of pace from the gravelly paths we were hiking on. But again, this is just about your halfway point. We got to pass by some neat farms on the way and had great views of pilot mountain from afar. Some of those houses have amazing views! We also passed a small park aread with picnic tables that looked out on a pretty little waterfall.
Eventually, you make it back to trail. These are the Sauratown trails and they are on private land. Mostly used by equestrians it seemed. But the trails were really nice and seemed to cut through creaks and by pastures and at some points gave you a really Jungle-y feel!
After about 10 more miles you will get to the point where you need to start looking for a blue blaze cut off once you pass the town of flat rock. This will take you to the Mountain Trail Stables where we would be spending the night. We Spoke with Phil who was probably one of the nicest persons we have ever talked to. He made sure we had everything we needed, told us all sorts of tales and had us laughing and feeling comfortable. The stables had full baths with hot showers which was totally unexpected. he also had wood and fire pits and started us a fire as well. He was also very kind to let us put our camp at just about anywhere so we chose to sleep in the old stable that night instead of having to put up the tent and pack it back in the morning. We also met two other hikers who were doing the same segment of the trail ( just a bit shorter than our version - they each started in pilot mountain state park).
This was both good and bad as it did save us a lot of time. But we may have been better off bringing a hammock like one of the other hikers did as sleeping on hard ground just isn't very comfortable ( especially after staying in the van!). Before bed we got some showers and made some dinner ( all in the stable so we had a shelter) and then read some of our current book ( The Martian!). and once the sun was down we got our sleeping bags and matts ready and gazed the the full sky of stars before falling sleep (outside of the stable that is).
We got up early the next morning so we could get started around 6am. This would have us finishing hopefully around 2:30pm so we could get home and prepare for the rest of the week. We cleaned up all our gear and started eating our portable breakfast ( Larry and Lenny's complete cookies) as we made our way back to the Suaratown trails. It was a cool crisp morning and the sky was bright enough to light up on start which was nice.
The last day of hiking takes you from section 14 to section 1 and 2 of the Sauratown trails. Some of these sections may be closed and are usually marked pretty well. Since they are all privately owned, the owners can chose to close them off on their own terms. So keep an eye out and follow the detour instructions when they are there. Also, at some point, the trail guide may have landmarks that dont match up to what you were seeing. We think that's because it had been a few years since the trail guide was updated and there were just some small changes in the trail do to maintenance. You still cover the same miles but it does make you feel like you missed something at some points. We found that there were a lot of pink flags that seemed to mark the trail in these cases though we never saw anywhere that said "Hey these pink flags will navigate you around the trail where it has been under maintenance" or something of the sort.
I do think that this second part of the trip was one of the prettiest though. we walked through some pretty pasture areas and large wooded areas and crossed several creeks. But past that there is a lot of road hiking and at this point (in my opinion) the road hiking feels more on your feel than the actual hiking path.
![blogPics](/static/img/182/hanging_rock2.jpg "Found Hanging rock!")
Once we made it to hanging rock state park we were pretty excited to almost finish up, but this seemed to be another long section and went up in altitude a bit. It was about another 4.5 miles to get back to the car from here. We did run in to trouble in about the last mile though as something kept fly around and bumping in to my head. At first I thought it was my backpack. Then I realized it was a bug - but I thought it was a fly or something. Turns out it was a bee, and it was following me. So I swatted it and then started running back and forth and hollering at Kristen "There is a bee following me!". So I ran past Kristen and then she yelled "Why did you run past me, now its following me!" and before you know it i was carrying Kristen's pack and telling her to run away but then also running away at the same time. Eventually we lost the bee and luckily didn't get stung. It also shaved about 10 minutes off our remaining hike!
That about sums up our trip on this one. A ll in all we are glad we did it! I do think if we did it again we might try to split this up a bit more as it was a bit ambitious to do it all in 2 days ( 1.5 really). Once we got home we cleaned up and relaxed and watched harry potter(4) as we had recently finished reading it as well.
Alternate Route Options
- We started at bean shoals and went to the hanging rock visitor center - trail guide states about 36 miles total.
- you can start in pilot mountain and omit the corridor trail. This would take off 6.6 miles
- You can take the grassy ridge trail - this omits grindstone and would take off 4.5 miles
- you can opt for the detour marked by pink of the MST trail guide. This omits the Sauratown trails. not sure how much this would take off.