Guidelines - MST



Carolina Mountain Club (CMC)

Trail Maintenance Guidelines for the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST)


Thank you for volunteering to maintain a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail. This trail was conceived in the early 1970’s; and when it is completed, it will extend over 900 miles from Clingman’s Dome to Jockey’s Ridge on the coast. Currently almost 400 miles are completed. The Carolina Mountain Club has maintenance responsibility for 130 miles of the MST from Heintooga Road to Black Mountain Campground.

CMC was one of the first clubs to adopt the section maintainer system, doing so in 1964. The volunteer maintainers are assigned sections by the MST Supervisor who is appointed by the club president. As a trail section maintainer, one of your most important duties is to be the "eyes" and "ears" of your section. The Trail Crews and Section Leaders are responsible for the "heavy duty" work on the trail such as relocating the trail, clearing downed trees and constructing water bars. They should be contacted to perform trail work you do not feel comfortable doing by opening an issue report on the CMC web site. Your hours worked on the trail along with anyone that helped you should be reported at the end of each event (work) trip. Your timely communication is very important to demonstrate the contributions made by all of the volunteers.

As a trail maintainer, you are the MST’s most important advocate and protector. In this role, you should become familiar with the techniques presented here so that you understand the big picture as you perform the simple, recurring maintenance and repairs necessary to keep the trail and its campsites, overlooks and signs in good repair. In that respect, trail maintenance is the most important task on the Mountains to Sea trail. Without vigilant attention, the trail would soon disappear.

Section Leaders

Larry Sobil 828-926-3616             Heintooga Road to Old Bald

Pete (R) Petersen  828-697-1967   Old Bald to the Pisgah Inn

Les Love 828-658-1489                    Pisgah Inn to the Folk Art Center

John Whitehouse 828-682-3217    Folk Art Center to Black Mountain Campground


Trail Maintenance Standards

Preserving the quality of the hiking experience, while providing a minimal level of soil and vegetation disturbance should be the goals of trail workers. The following priorities should be considered in this order whenever trail maintenance is performed:

Hiker Safety

Natural resource protection

Hiker convenience

Basic trail maintenance includes the following:

Cleaning out leaves and debris in drainage channels, water bars, dips and ditches Keeping the trail clear of uncomplicated blow downs, brush and annual vegetation Evaluating paint blazes Blocking in unofficial trails and campsites with brush and piling brush along trails that are too wide

Making an assessment of the condition of the trail and listing problems that need attention

Reporting signs that are missing, inaccurate or damaged


Seasonal Maintenance Activities

I. Spring Walk-Through

The maintenance tasks for the spring walk-through are cleaning out drainage channels and clearing blow downs. Spring walk-through is best done at the end of winter before the spring rainy season and before the thru hiker season starts. This work should be completed before the middle of April at the latest. Trail drainage problems are often at their worst during the spring rain season. Resolving these problems immediately or planning follow-up drainage work takes less guesswork in the spring. Assessment of other trail work needs is an important function of the spring walk-through. It is good to have a notebook and pencil or tape recorder along to record problems that need attention.

II. Summer Walk-Through

In addition to completing the tasks identified on the spring walk-through, the summer hiking season is a good time to clear the trail of woody brush and annual vegetation. The trail is most obscured when leaves are fully out as overhead branches sag and leaves hide blazes.

The MST is blazed with a 4 inch white circle. Summer is also the best time to touch up trail blazes. Clearly visible blazing is most often needed in the autumn when the trail can be obscured by fallen leaves. In general, a properly blazed stretch of trail needs repainting every three to five years.

Early summer is also the best time to clear the trail through open areas, before plants such as grasses and briars reach peak growth.

III. Fall Walk-Through

One of the best times of the year to clear out drainage structures is after the leaves have dropped from the trees. This puts the trail in a good condition during the winter and is good preparation for heavy spring runoff. The cool weather makes fall an excellent time to rebuild water bars and other drainage channels.

Weed Eating

Weed Eating is an annual required occurrence on most trails. The annual growth may require two cuttings. If your section requires 2 cuttings late May or early June and again in late July may be needed.  If you can get by with one cutting this should be performed as late as possible in June or early July.   Poison ivy may exist on any section of the trail.  Maintainers are not required to cut poison ivy.  

There are CMC weed eaters available for checkout by section maintainers at two locations:

1. North Asheville at Bob Lawrence Power and Equipment Co, 265 Broadway Street, Asheville, NC, 252-3561

2. South Asheville at 4x4 Country & Cub Cadet, 1039 Brevard Road, Asheville, NC, 667-4617.



All reporting and report viewing are now on our new website's Maintenance pages.  Click on the Member Login button at the top right of this page.  (If you have not used the new system yet you will have to click on the Request Password link to request a password.  Your user ID is your current email address).

Hours worked on the trail and travel time should be reported immediately after the work is performed to the CMC Central Timekeeping pages.

"Trail Issues" or conditions that you think need to be performed by the CMC work crews please report immediately.

Your hours worked and open issues may be viewed.



Safety is the most important consideration while working on the trail. There is always the potential for accidents while using trail maintenance tools in the woods. Maintainers need to be constantly aware of these dangers. Trail maintainers have found over the years that the best way to work safely is simple: use common sense. The following is a good common sense checklist:

Let someone know where you are and NEVER go out alone

Carry a small first aid kit

Wear a good pair of work gloves to protect your hands

Wear long pants, even in summer, when working in brush

Be certain that all tool heads and handles are tight with no cracks

Wear sturdy leather boots when digging or using cutting tools

Carry tools on the trail safely

Wear blaze orange colors when working during hunting season

Sawyers must maintain current certifications; Forest Service or National Park Sawyer Certification, First Aid and CPR and be listed on official CMC Sawyer Listing.


Rev 3/14

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