Here you are, driving along, minding your own business when – boom! – you see them: mountains where they shouldn’t be, in the heart of the Carolina Piedmont. Still, here they are. They’re called the Uwharrie Mountains. The range’s highest elevation, 1,188 feet, is High Rock Mountain in southern Davidson County. The Uwharries run mostly north-south near the geographic center of the state, covering about half of Montgomery County and small areas in Randolph, Davidson, Rowan and Stanly counties.
The Uwharrie National Forest ( www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc) protects 51,000 acres in the Uwharrie range, and it’s there that many diverse recreational opportunities are found. The Uwharrie National Recreation Trail starts off N.C. 24/27, roughly halfway between Albemarle and Troy. The footpath runs northeast for more than 50 miles, but most hikers break this trail into shorter walks comfortably traveled in a morning or afternoon. A feature added to the trail this year enables hikers with smart phones to scan QR codes at more than two dozen stops to hear brief stories about those particular locales. Visit http://bit.ly/1nK4Xq7 to hear sample stories about the lost town of Lawrenceville, Bootleg Hollow, Dutchman’s Creek and other places.
Three of the best areas in the Uwharries for autumn colors are around the Lawrenceville area at the southern end of the Uwharrie Trail; along the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Trail southwest of Asheboro (specifically the Thornburg Trail); and at King’s Mountain Point at Badin Lake Recreation Area. These areas have some of the highest elevations in the Uwharries and large numbers of oak trees that display vibrant colors. An advantage of The Birkhead Wilderness Trail is its proximity to Randolph County’s famous Pisgah Covered Bridge, :built in 1911 for $40! The picturesque setting features several picnic tables.
Morrow Mountain State Park ( www.ncparks.gov), just east of Albemarle, fits the bill for those who want to enjoy the Uwharries but don’t have a lot of time. The park has a 3-mile nature trail to the summit that takes most people an hour or more to climb; a paved road to the top takes three minutes to drive. Views from the summit are especially nice during fall foliage. A boat ramp provides access to the water, near where the Yadkin, Uwharrie and Pee Dee rivers meet. Gary McCullough