|5 hours and 10 minutes with 40 minutes of breaks
Uwharrie National Forest
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By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins ()
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 . The two access areas on the west side of the wilderness are the Thornburg Connector Trail  and Robbins Branch Trail . The southern terminus of the Birkhead Mountain Trail  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.