If you are #CharlotteSmart (and you are, CharlotteFive reader), you know this is the best place in the world to live. We have beaches nearby, mountains within driving distance, the pride of both Carolinas, our Panthers, enough local brewery options to get an elephant tipsy, and good ol’ Southern hospitality. But if you need a little fresh air and open space, it is not hard to find just outside of our city limits.
A short drive to Albemarle lands you at Morrow Mountain State Park in the Uwharrie Mountains. Here you can find camping, hiking trails, horseback riding, a pool, and fishing and boating on Lake Tillery and the Yadkin-Pee Dee River to help you connect with your inner nature-lover. Equipped with the local-preferred source of caffeine (Bojangles’ sweet tea) and a craving for a little adventure, we hit the road and headed east.
I got the scoop from Albemarle local, Lauren Skidmore, for post-hike dining. Admittedly, pickins are slim. Downtown Albemarle has Second Street Sundries and Off the Square to choose from, Badin Treehouse in Badin is close as well.
Part of the fun in hiking for me is the picnic, though, so I suggest a BYOS (bringing your own snacks) approach. I believe that, in the same way that hot dogs taste the best in a ballpark, a normally boring sandwich becomes extraordinary when you unpack your reward surrounded by beautiful scenery.
If you are looking for an overnight experience, there are both primitive and group campgrounds available as well as the nearby Norwood Camping Resort. Not about that outdoor life but want to test the waters? Uwharrie Cabin Rentals gets you close to the action, with no tent required.
The park boasts a variety of both hiking and bridle trails that wind around the mountain. We opted to begin a five-(ish)mile hike combining the Morrow Mountain and Sugarloaf trails at the top of Morrow Mountain where there is ample parking, as well as restrooms, and picnic areas.
Since many of the park’s trails intersect, you are able to mix and match to design your own hike based on what distance and difficulty you are hoping to achieve. Being able to build your own route was a huge plus for this particular hike. There are routes ranging from the 0.6-mile Quarry Trail to the four-mile Fall Mountain Trail from which to choose.
Although the Morrow Mountain Trail is billed as moderate, the last stretch to the summit is steep. What the Uwharries lack in height, they make up for with intense grades and this runner was huffing and puffing along this supposedly “moderate” trail. The Sugarloaf Trail scored a “strenuous” rating and, in most parts, it was with narrow trails, thick woods and more steep grades.
Regardless of what you’re looking for, Morrow Mountain State Park offers something for everyone, from the seasoned outdoorsman to curious newbies. Spring is just around the corner, time to start planning your outdoor adventures!
Photos Nicole Brantley, Alex Berghorst