Uwharrie National Forest - Trail Running

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Summary

A super long stretch of single-track in a large national forest that makes getting away from it all very easy. Sometimes rugged, sometimes smooth, the trails at Uwharrie provide plenty of opportunity to miles of varied training.

Written by

Rob Glover

Distance

12.0 miles

There are options to cut the distance down

Destination Distance From Downtown

44.9 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

There isn't much verticle at Uwharrie, but the trails can be tight, twisty, and technical.

Time To Complete

3 hours

Assuming a moderate pace of 4 mph

Seasonality

All Seasons

The trails at Uwharrie don't close during the year

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Topographical Map

Uwharrie Trail Map

Review

Intro

Two long distance hiking trails pass over the ancient, if somewhat stunted, Uwharrie Mountains. The huge, protected forest harbors dozens of miles of trails - each one seemingly more remote than the last. For the trail runner, Uwharrie is about logging some serious distance on some rugged and remote trails. 

What Makes It Great

Charlotte has some amazing single track trail systems, and they are rewarded with plenty of action. Sometimes, however, you want the solemnity of a trail to yourself – with the crunch of leaves under your feet as the only break in the quiet that comes from a place deep in the woods.

Welcome to the Uwharrie National Forest, a land whose mountain range once rivaled the Himalayas and whose dense stands of hardwoods offer a seclusion that at times seems absolute. Even on days when several cars fill the trailhead the long stretches of trail can seem almost abandoned. That is, of course, if the Boy Scouts aren’t working on their backpack training nearby.

There are two long distance, hiking only trails in the southern section of the Forest. The Uwharrie trail is over 20 miles of somewhat technical trail with tight turns, quick elevation changes, and plenty of rock and tree hopping to keep you honest.

The Dutchmans Creek Trail is somewhat smoother with longer stretches of truly runnable dirt path but definitely not a greenway! Both trails will require some stream crossings – a blessing or a curse depending on the weather.

The roughly first half of the Uwharrie Trail and the entire Dutchman’s Creek Trail are somewhat mirror images of the letter “S”. This means that they intersect about halfway through and then again at the end of Dutchmen’s Creek. This is a very convenient way to create a distance right for you. Making a loop of the first intersection nets about 12 miles will continuing to the second brings the total mileage to around 18.

There are biking trails that weave their way through this forest and, at times, cross paths with the hiking trails. Intersections can be confusing. It’s helpful to simply remember to stay on the white blaze trails for Uwharrie and yellow blazed trails for Dutchman’s Creek.

Who is Going to Love It

Although the Uwharrie Mountains have been worn to mere nubs compared to their former selves, the technical nature of sections of these trails make them popular for more experienced runners. In the fall,  Uwharrie is an especially challenging beauty with leaves both providing decoration on the trees and covering ankle twisting rocks, roots, and holes on the ground.

All warnings aside, any runner looking for a next level challenge of footwork and total distance, Uwharrie is tough to beat.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The starting spot for both trails, referred to as the Wood Run Trail Head, is located 10 miles east of Albemarle on Highway 24/27. There are no facilities at the site save a map kiosk so bring plenty of water. There is a gas station a few miles east for any other needs. Remember proper trail etiquette- watch out for faster movers - as the trials to cross biking paths. 

Location

Uwharrie National Forest - Hiking

4404 N Carolina 27
Mt. Gilead, NC, 27306
35.31018, -80.043592

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