A wilderness area? Less than an hour from downtown? Well ... sorta. The Birkhead Wilderness is a 4,790-acre nub on the northern tip of the Uwharrie National Forest. Though the trail did receive wilderness designation in 1984, the trails are marked, there are stone and mortar fire pits near the camping area and at the site of the old Christopher Bingham plantation, which dates to the late 1700s, you'll find a plaque commemorating the location's historic significance. Those non-wilderness factors aside, yes it is a wilderness. It's a lovely hike as well. This 7.4-mile loop begins at the parking area and heads northeast on the Robbins Branch Trail, along which you'll find the trail's namesake creek and remnants of the rocky spine that, millions of years ago, rose some 20,000 feet higher (elevations today top out at about 750 feet). A right on the Birkhead Mountain Trail takes you south through a maturing hardwood forest notable for its minimal understory. Views are plentiful on much of this trail. At the junction with Hannahs Creek Trail you'll find signs (and the sign) of the Bingham Plantation. Hannahs Creek returns you to the trailhead along a more lushly vegetated corridor. The Birkhead Wilderness may not exactly fit the definition of wilderness, but it's a nice escape into the wild all the same. More info: Uwharrie National Forest Maps: "Birkhead Mountain Wilderness," USDA Forest Service, 1:24,000, 100-foot contour, $4.