QUICK TAKE: Uwharrie National Forest
DRIVE TIME: The Uwharrie National Forest is in southcentral North Carolina, about 45 miles (1 hour) south of Greensboro and 50 miles (1 hour) east of Charlotte.
THE WAY: From Greensboro, take US 220 south to the Biscoe exit on NC 24/27. Turn west and travel through Troy and on 10 miles to the Uwharrie /Dutchmans Creek trailhead. From Charlotte, take NC 24/27 east, cross Lake Tillery on the Pee Dee River and continue just over 2 miles to the trailhead.
TRAILS: The Uwharrie Trail is 20.5 miles long but requires backtracking or a shuttle. A super figure eight of 20 miles can be made of the Uwharrie and Dutchmans Creek trails. There are 8 miles of trail in the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness.
ELEVATION: Don’t let its midstate address fool you: there are 17 peaks between 600 and 950 feet, with stream valleys in the 300 to 400 foot range. Trail heights crest at just over 900 feet on the Birkhead Mountains Trail.
CAN’T MISS: The Uwharrie River is one of the finest Piedmont streams remaining, with clear water, high rocky bluffs, fishable populations of smallmouth bass, and the state’s most colorful gold-mining history.
CROWD CONTROL: September through December is big deer-hunting time; take the necessary precautions. The Uwharries are home to a healthy rattlesnake population, so be careful where you step when summer hiking.
PIT STOP: Want to bag a giraffe or gazelle sighting on your trip to the Uwharries? Stop by the impressive N.C. Zoological Park 5 miles south of Asheboro, where creatures alien and exotic wander through sprawling natural habitats.
WALK SOFTLY: The Tuscarora and Catawba Indians prowled these hills, and finding artifacts is common. Look, touch, marvel, and return. Federal law prohibits the collection of arrowheads and other artifacts here.
MAPS: A patchwork of 16 USGS topographic maps cover the area, so start with Gemini Maps’ Uwharrie National Forest Map ($3.50, 910-461-5216 or through the U.S. Forest Service at the address below). The Forest Service also sells a great map of the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness for $4, as well as a map of the Uwharrie National Forest, also for $4.
MORE INFORMATION: Uwharrie National Forest, 789 Hwy. 24/27 E., Troy, NC 27371-9332; (910) 576-6391.