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Birkhead Mountains Wilderness – Uwharrie National Forest, NC

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
12.0 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
5 hours and 10 minutes with 40 minutes of breaks
1,062 ft
Uwharrie National Forest
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Park at the Tot Hill Farm Access at the northern terminus of the Birkhead Mountain Trail.
35.63663, -79.90457

By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins (Contact Zach)

The Birkhead Mountains Wilderness and the surrounding Uwharrie National Forest sure feels like a lonely place considering it is within 90 minutes of the 3 largest metropolitan areas in North Carolina. With only 50,645 acres of land Uwharrie is by far the smallest of the four national forests in the state, but it boasts a wealth of mixed-used trails on the east side of the Uwharrie Lakes region. The Birkhead Mountains Wilderness is on the far northern tip of this national forest, and at 5,160 acres can be easily explored in a day or a weekend. You won’t get long-distance views here, or a wealth of mountainous streams. The Uwharrie Mountains barely qualify as mountains. They are thought to be the oldest mountain range on the North American continent, and millions of years of erosion has whittled these peaks to elevations typically between 600-1,100 feet.  

Although you won’t get a true mountain experience, the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness provides an excellent system of trails perfect for day hiking and trail running. Three trails make a loop in the center of this wilderness, with four spokes providing different trail access points. This central hub allows you to choose the length of your hike, from 7.2 miles to the 12.0-mile hike described here. The relative ease of these trails makes it the perfect laboratory for testing out gear for longer trips, or for introducing friends and family to backpacking. There are many superb campsites sprinkled throughout the wilderness which provide solitude and an enjoyable night out a short distance away from the state’s largest cities.

Trail Access – The hike described here starts at the Tot Hill Farm Access at the northern terminus of the Birkhead Mountain Trail [100]. The two access areas on the west side of the wilderness are the Thornburg Connector Trail [394] and Robbins Branch Trail [393]. The southern terminus of the Birkhead Mountain Trail [100] can be reached via Strieby Church Road [SR 1114]. All trails in the wilderness are blazed white and all major intersections have signs. Paper maps are typically available at the trailheads. Some trails to campsites are blazed yellow when they are a significant distance off the main trails.

Mile  Summary and Highlights
0.0 - Birkhead Mountain Trail begins at Tot Hill Farm Access
1.2 - Coolers Knob Mountain summit (945 feet) and campsites
2.6 - T-junction with Robbins Branch Trail
4.6 - Optional side trip to Bingham Graveyard
5.1 - Begin Hannahs Creek Trail
6.0 - Campsites near confluence of Robbins Branch and Hannahs Creek
6.7 - Turn right onto Robbins Branch Trail
8.0 - T-junction with Thornburg Connector Trail
9.5 - Robbins Branch Trail ends at Birkhead Mountain Trail
Late April
Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Hike Comments
Archived Comments

By: Michael Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 23, 2019
I have been taking a BSA Scout troop to Birkhead Wilderness every year since 2016. We have hiked in from Thornburg and also from Tot Hill. Tot Hill parking lot is kind of small so be aware! From Tot Hill we have hiked to Camp 3 which is a really good place. There is an old covered spring down there. We also found several large holes with machinery and girders within-probably left over from mining days.

On this day-hike, the weather was clear and sunny all day. Just warm enough for shorts. We came in from Tot Hill farm access in a crew of 8 and we did the hike anti clockwise staying on Birkhead, Robbins, Hannah and Birkhead trails the whole day. The trails are wide enough to travel three in a row in most places. On this day, on many sections there was a lot of mud in the center of the trail due to late winter rains and storms so we mostly were stretched out single file. There was at least 6 to 8 trees down crossing over the trail which required detours most of the time. We stopped for lunch about 11:30 AM (kind of early!) and we practiced back country cooking/cleaning, leave no trace and sump hole disposal of the grey water.

We had planned to find the graveyard but time did not allow any side trips. There was lots of water available except for the ridge section of the Birkhead. Most of the trees were still without leaves so there was a feeling of space on this early spring hike. As we traveled the trails, we noticed several different ecological zones ranging from rhododendron groupings, short leaf pine and hardwoods.

To hikngupward, thanks for putting this hike on the map. Its a good one as its a great introduction to a wilderness that is really thriving.

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