Uwharrie Trail Audio Tour

Have you ever had the pleasure of hiking a trail with a expert who could show you unique points of interest and tell you stories about them? The extra information adds a wonderful new layer to your hiking experience.

Life Scout Chris Moncrief recently completed a project that offers the next best thing. There are now 24 “audio tour” markers along the historic Uwharrie Trail route. You can download the audio clips as podcasts before you hike , or you can use a smart phone with a QR code reader to download the clips when you reach each marker. The Uwharrie Trail Audio Tour project lets you carry that “local expert” in your pocket!

Life Scout Chris Moncrief at one of the audio tour markers.

Life Scout Chris Moncrief at one of the audio tour markers.

The Uwharrie Trail Audio Tour is the result of efforts by Chris, Land Trust for Central North Carolina intern Rebecca Schoonover, trail founder Joe Moffitt, and many other Uwharrie Trail and LandTrust partners and friends. The main goal of the project was to document some of the stories and folklore of the Uwharries. The Uwharrie Trail was used as a common thread to weave the stories together. The stories celebrate a shared natural and cultural heritage special to many people in the region, and provide a sense of place to visitors.

Most of the audio clips are short, ranging from 1.5 to 3 minutes long. Stopping to listen to the clips may break your stride, but the wealth of information and entertainment they add to your hike is well worth the time.

Hear stories about an escape from Bootleg Hollow, the search for Sasquatch, the legend of the Guardian Ghost Winds of Jumpin’ Off Rock, and the lost town of Lawrenceville. The clips also include stories about unique glade communities, old fire towers, ghosts of settlers past, and a wide array of other interesting tales that make this landscape and community so special.

Uwharrie-Trail-Audio-Tour-Map-final1-smLearn more about this project at the LandTrust page about this project. Download a zip file of the clips, a PDF of the text, marker coordinates, and more here. You can also listen to the clips here.

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Exploring the Trips

Among the unique features in the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide are the “Trips”. Individual trails are covered in detail, as one would expect in a guidebook. But I found that single trails rarely lead you from a trail head to all the points you want to visit, and then back to the trail head. This is especially true in areas with many interconnecting trails. A typical route will most likely follow parts of several trails. Flipping back and forth between different pages in a guidebook to piece together mileage and directions for a multi-trail route gets frustrating very quickly.

The Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide solves this challenge by providing you with “Trip” details as well as Trail details. Each trail area has a chapter just for these Trips. The most logical trip routes in that area are included, with varying lengths to suite a variety of different users. A convenient chart listing the key Trip details is found on the first page of each Trip chapter.

Sample Trip chart

Sample Trip chart

Each Trip has its own map and elevation profile, conveniently paired on opposing pages.

Sample Trip pages

Sample Trip pages

These Trip pages give the turn-by-turn directions you need to follow the route. The elevation profile helps you visualize the hills and anticipate the turns. You can focus on the fun and not spend too much time trying to figure out where you are the map!

Take a closer look at the sample pages above in this PDF file.

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Exploring the New Maps

The elevation profiles in the Second Edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide aren’t the only new features. Each trail and trip in the guide has its own brand new detailed map to help you visualize the route and identify important locations along the way.

newmapKeyauweeAll of the maps were redrawn for the second edition. Each trail was GPS’d in order to provide a more accurate presentation. The maps in the first edition were good, but the trails were painstakingly hand-traced on contour maps before being digitized. The method used for the new maps eliminated the manual tracing step.

The trails and roads on the new maps are proportionally accurate. No stretching or squishing was used to make things fit. Verification against aerial photographs was performed where possible. A scale is included on each map to give you an idea of the zoom level of each map. Each map is custom-zoomed to provide the best balance of detail and surrounding landmarks for that map.

Other trails and roads that intersect the featured route are shown on the maps. You will find matching text entries for these intersections on the corresponding elevation profiles. All of this information is provided to help you visualize the route from both a bird’s eye view and a sideways elevation perspective.

A compass rose is included on each map, to show you which direction is North. Trail heads and parking locations are marked, as well as the Start and End locations, which match the direction on the elevation profile. Above each map are symbols indicating appropriate use for the highlighted route, such as biking and hiking for the example above.

Using the information in this guidebook can save you from spending too much time trying to figure out where you are or where to go, so that you can focus more on enjoying your trip and having fun!

If you don’t have a copy of the new edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, order one today!

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Friday Freebie!

Let’s have a little Friday Freebie fun! On Friday, September 19th, 2014, the price of the Kindle version of Star Trails Navajo on Amazon.com will be $0.00!

FridayFreebieFall is approaching, with cooler temperatures and less humidity. The moon is approaching its New phase and will be below the horizon for the first part of the night (for those of us on the East coast). All of these factors should make for better star viewing conditions this weekend.

If you have a a Kindle device, or a smartphone or tablet with the free Kindle app, claim a free copy of Star Trails Navajo this Friday and use it to discover a new way to see the stars – through Navajo star stories!

Spreading the stars on Father Sky.

Spreading the stars on Father Sky.

Chart showing location of the Revolving Male star figure.

Chart showing location of the Revolving Male star figure.

If you find Star Trails Navajo the least bit interesting, leaving a comment or two on the book’s Amazon page and on the product page on this website would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for your support!

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Exploring the New Elevation Profiles

Hot off the press, the Second Edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide features a new format for the elevation profiles. Each trail and trip in the guide has its own detailed graph to help you visualize the elevation changes and important locations along the length of the route.

new_profile_formatThe previous edition of the guide contained elevation profiles that were a simple plot of elevation vs distance. A mileage table with text descriptions for key spots along the route was shown above the profiles.

The new elevation profiles are a mash-up of the plots and the mileage tables. Each profile starts as a simple plot of elevation vs distance, and then the text descriptions are laid on top of them. The text descriptions are placed on the plot at the appropriate mileage point.

One advantage of this new design is that the profile graph can now be enlarged to fill the entire page, making it larger and easier to see. The descriptions are accurately placed along the route, so you can easily see if your next turn is close by or much further down the trail.

Each profile graph for trails or trips in the same area shares the same elevation scale so you can easily see relative elevation differences between trails. For example, all of the profiles for Morrow Mountain State Park have an elevation range of 200 feet to 1,100 feet. The Three Rivers Trail appears low on its graph, which is logical since it starts near the boat ramp on Lake Tillery. The Morrow Mountain Loop Trail appears high on its graph, since it circles the summit of Morrow Mountain.

The text descriptions for key spots include the mileage along the trail and the actual elevation in feet. Simple codes in the description indicate if the spot is an intersection, a stream crossing, a water source, and/or a campsite. The names of intersecting trails are also given. A legend for these codes is on the side of each profile, along with GPS coordinates (both Lat/Long and UTM) for the “start” of the trail (in case you need help getting back!)

Each profile page contains a wealth of information for the trail visitor. The profiles might seem a little confusing at first glance, but once you learn how to read them, you will appreciate how much helpful information one page can give you! If you don’t have a copy of the new Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide, order one today!

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What’s in the new Uwharrie Trail Guide?

What’s in the new Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide? With over 200 more pages than the first edition, the second edition includes more trail areas as well as a number of new trails. Key features such as trail history notes, detailed maps, elevation profile and mileage charts, and maps/profiles for popular trips using multiple trails can still be found inside.

ulrtg2014secondeditioncoversmThe largest set of “new” trails are the equestrian trails in the Badin Lake Area. Many of these trails existed in a “renegade” fashion at the time the first edition was published, but they are now signed and better maintained.

Significant progress has been made in protecting access to the full historic length of the Uwharrie Trail and making it available to hikers again. If you thought the Uwharrie Trail was just 20 miles long, this guide can enlighten you. Details are included for the full route that is nearly twice that long!

Several other areas with enough trail for a nice half-day of hiking are now included, such as Albemarle City Lake Park, Boone’s Cave Park, and the NC Zoological Park.

A PDF of the table of contents pages is available, and the chapters are listed below.


Introduction 11

Finding the Uwharrie Lakes Region 14

How To Use This Guidebook 18

Responsible Use Guidelines 24

Safety and Security Concerns 30

Albemarle City Lake Park 33

  • Albemarle City Lake Park Trails 36

Badin Lake Recreation Area 46

  • Badin Lake Hiking Trails 55
  • Badin Lake Equestrian Trails 61
  • Badin Lake Equestrian Trips 134
  • Badin Lake OHV Trails 148
  • Badin Lake OHV Trips 180
  • Badin Lake Bike Trips 192

Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Area 203

  • Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Trails 208
  • Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Area Trips 230

Boone’s Cave Park 246

  • Boone’s Cave Park Trails 250
  • Boone’s Cave Park Trips 274

Denson’s Creek Area 282

  • Denson’s Creek Area Trails 285
  • Denson’s Creek Area Trips 296

Morris Mountain Area 304

  • Morris Mountain Area Trails 309
  • Morris Mountain Area Trips 323

Morrow Mountain State Park 330

  • Morrow Mountain State Park Trails 337
  • Morrow Mountain State Park Trips 370

NC Zoological Park 384

  • NC Zoo Park Trails 388

Uwharrie Trail 400

  • Uwharrie Trail Sections 408

Wood Run Area 448

  • Wood Run Area Trails 454
  • Wood Run Area Trips 482

Volunteer Opportunities 504

Regional Information 510

Quick Reference Tables 513

Index 518

A PDF of the table of contents pages is also available.

If you don’t have a copy of the new edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide yet, you can order your copy now!

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Second Edition Copies Are Here!

Copies of the Second Edition of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide have finally arrived!

The first edition took about five years to complete from start to having copies in hand. The second edition took closer to seven years, so you can imagine how happy I am to finally see a stack of these books sitting in front of me!

Now it’s your turn to see this updated and expanded version! Order your own signed copy through my website [ordering details].


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Oak City Bike Overnight

A friend recently alerted me to an overnight bike trip being organized by a local independent bike shop. We’ve both been interested in expanding our camping skills to include travel by bicycle. He was unable to go, but I seized the opportunity to end my procrastination and get an S24O under my belt.

My gear for backpack camping has finally evolved down to a load of under 30 pounds. Key items include a Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tent, an REI Radiant 40 degree down bag, an REI Flash insulated air mattress, a Jetboil stove, a Cascade Designs chair kit with short Ridgerest pad, a couple of small dry bags of clothes, mug/bowl/utensils, and a bag of food. A few other small items like a headlamp, toilet kit, sunscreen, etc round out my kit.

The gear easily fit into a full set of Ortlieb Front and Rear Roller panniers on the Novara Safari touring bike I bought last year. I rode two supported tours of 400+ miles on this bike, but I had only ridden it fully loaded in my daydreams. It was time to change that!


Oak City Cycling Project takes it’s name from the city of Raleigh, commonly known as the “City of Oaks”. They are a fairly new bike shop catering to “regular people” interested in cycling. They organized a few S24O trips in the past year, with a dozen or so riders participating each time. The upcoming trip was scheduled to start on a Saturday evening in late June. They promised a route of 25 miles to the campground, returning the next morning.

In keeping with the spirit of travel by bike, I decided to ride from home to the bike shop. Riding to Raleigh from the adjacent town of Cary would add about 13 miles to my route and give me a little time to get used to riding with a load before riding with the group.

Piecing together a series of marked bike lanes, signed bike route sections, and some low-traffic-volume side streets, I was able to to get from my neighborhood to one of Raleigh’s paved greenways without having to deal with too much heavy traffic. Raleigh’s Capital Area Greenway System contains over 100 miles of trails. In the last few years, the system has completed key connections that allow fairly long stretches of travel on greenways.

I joined the Walnut Creek Trail at the east end of the Lake Johnson Nature Preserve. Happy to be away from vehicle traffic and the hot afternoon sun, I followed this greenway eastward along a small, shady creek and into the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University.


Walnut Creek Trail continues another eleven miles to connect with the Neuse River Greenway on the east side of Raleigh. But I was heading to downtown Raleigh, so I left the greenway and cut through the Dorothea Dix campus. The Dix campus is a state-owned property that has long served as a mental health facility. Its grounds have large open green spaces and may soon be managed as a regional destination park. The view of the city skyline above rolling green lawns and a thick oak tree canopy was amazing, considering how close I was to the downtown area.

View of downtown skyline from Dix campus

View of downtown skyline from Dix campus

After just a few city blocks I found myself in front of Crank Arm Brewing. Their slogan of “Beer love. Bike love.” should leave no doubt why I chose to make a stop here on my S24O route! A pint of Rickshaw Rye IPA went down perfectly on the outside patio, as I sat next to my loaded bike.

Patio at Crank Arm Brewing

Patio at Crank Arm Brewing

In keeping with the day’s cycling theme, the local Trolley Pub rolled by while I was there, with all 14 riders pedaling away merrily. Many of them also seemed to be loaded, but in a different way.

Leaving Crank Arm, I rode north for several blocks before turning east on Jones Street. Riding through the downtown area wasn’t so bad late on a Saturday afternoon. The trip through the heart of downtown was quick, despite riding past the southern end of South America (see picture of four-story globe on the side of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences).

Passing by South America

Passing by South America

I also rode past the General Assembly building, the Governor’s mansion, and the Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop. The Hot and Fresh sign was not lit so I did not stop. –

Krispy Kreme! But the sign is not lit. :(

Krispy Kreme! But the sign is not lit. :(

Oak City Cycling is tucked into the basement of a small building on the north edge of the downtown business district. Their relatively small space is packed with bicycles and gear. David, one of the owners, greeted me when I rolled down the ramp to the garage door that serves as their entrance. Several other riders came in one by one. After a few introductions our group of eight headed out through nearby neighborhood streets.

Neighborhood cruising

Neighborhood cruising

In less than two miles we turned onto the Crabtree Creek Trail where it crosses Raleigh Boulevard. Transitioning to the greenway marked our departure from an urban street environment to one even more green and relaxing. We passed under or over several major roads as we followed Crabtree Creek to the northwest, but it felt like we were in a separate world.

Our route turned to follow the Mine Creek Trail greenway northward, going past Shelley Lake. We eventually rode beyond the current reaches of the greenway system. The ride leaders knew a route that kept to neighborhood roads and led us further north and away from the city.

Quick break

Quick break

Eventually we even rode beyond the suburban sprawl and found ourselves on rural roads.

A final few miles on New Light Road, also followed by US Bicycle Route #1, led us to the entrance of Shinleaf Recreation Area. This campground is part of the Falls Lake State Recreation Area.

We arrived at the Two Oaks group camping site and met two riders who had ridden over from Durham. About half of the group hung hammocks and the rest pitched tents.

Two Oaks group campsite

Two Oaks group campsite

Despite having just spent over two hours with most of the group, there was still much getting to know one another to do. Snacking and conversation were soon accompanied by the sunset coloring a few wispy clouds above the trees.

The Two Oaks site is located on a peninsula that sits above a neat little sand beach in a cove along Falls Lake. We walked down to the beach and enjoyed a swim beneath the stars. Dinner cooking and a campfire followed, as well as more conversation. Some even went so far as to shower off at the bath house. There may have been a very late bike ride through the campground, although I didn’t see it from my horizontal position in the tent. Being the oldest in the group, I had claimed the right to hit the sack first.

Going to bed first may explain why I had time to sleep late (for me), rise, cook breakfast, walk around, take pictures, and pack up my gear before anyone else stirred.

Two Oaks cove in the morning light

Two Oaks cove in the morning light

I did wait until most were up so I could thank them for organizing the trip and sharing the experience with me. I bid them adios just before 9am and rolled on.

Instead of following yesterday’s route back to the bike shop, I chose to take a more direct route to my home in Cary. Several of the roads I followed were probably at their most bike-friendly on this beautiful Sunday morning. The overnight temperatures had dipped about 10 degrees lower than they had the preceding several weeks and the morning felt great.

Bike routes!

Bike routes!

By Crabtree Creek in Umstead State Park

By Crabtree Creek in Umstead State Park

I eventually reached Umstead State Park. The wide, graveled bridle paths in the park are quite popular with cyclists and connect to both Raleigh’s Capital Area Greenway System and the Town of Cary’s greenway system.

I could have followed greenways for most of the last ten miles of my ride, but with the light Sunday morning traffic I decided to just follow a couple of Cary’s signed commuter bike routes through town. Routes #7 and #5 offer a straight shot through the historic district and to within a few blocks of home.

Veteran's Memorial on N. Harrison Avenue

Veteran’s Memorial on N. Harrison Avenue

More bike routes!

More bike routes!

A "sharrow".

A “sharrow”.

My mileage for Saturday was just over 38 miles. Sunday’s mileage was about 26 miles, giving me a trip total of 64 miles. Not only had I ridden a respectable number of miles, I enjoyed a number of local sights and met some new friends. I walked back in the door 21 hours after I left, successfully completing my first S24O. It will not be my last!

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Birkhead Hike Trip #215

Just a few miles southwest of Asheboro, NC, in rural Randolph County, lies the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness. This is a relatively small unit in the USFS-managed system, and one of just a handful of designated Wildernesses in North Carolina. Unlike many other Wilderness areas, the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness contains numerous historic remnants that are signs of past human residents. In fact, the name “Birkhead Mountains” came from the Birkhead family that once owned over 3,000 acres that included the most prominent mountain-like ridges in this area. There are a few standing rock chimneys still remaining from the old tenant farms, and several more collapsed chimneys. Old roadbeds still traverse the ridges and follow the valleys. The remains of old rock dams can still be found across many of the creek bottoms. But the forest is steadily reclaiming this area that was once home to a number of families and farms.

Hike Trip #215 is a loop that starts at the Thornburg Farm Trailhead and loops clockwise around the central triangle formed by the main trails of the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness. I started out my latest hike of this route early on a late January morning. It was sunny, but a bit frosty, and there was a definite nip in the air. There were two frosted cars in the parking when I arrived. I’m guessing they belonged to backpackers already camped out on the trail somewhere.

The USFS is restoring the Thornburg Farm as a period exhibit of an 1820’s working farm. The Thornburg Trail passes through the yard of the old farmhouse and between several of the outbuildings. The original farm road passes to the right side of the house, but a walking path goes through the yard on the left side. There are informational signs on posts beside each of the buildings, describing the purpose and age of each.


I hiked along the farm road past a frosty, fallow field sparkling in the morning sun and then over Betty McGees Creek. Farm tractors just ford through the creek, but hikers have a small footbridge to keep our feet dry. I was momentarily confused by two trail options on the far end of the bridge, but soon realized that the trail proper swings out into an old field along the creek, while the other trail was made by hikers who seemed determined to get back to the farm road as soon as possible. Those hikers have tromped out a muddy path back down the creek bank and onto the farm road. The trail through the field rejoins the farm road about 100 feet further along, once the road is up out of the flood zone.

The farm road climbed quickly and soon brought me to a nice overlook of the creek from a little rock outcrop. Higher up I passed a recently sown field that appeared to have inch-high wheat or grass coming up. It is probably one of the fields being managed as a wildlife food plot. This field caught my attention because it seemed to be so much more open to the sky than the lower fields. I noted to myself that it would probably be a nice place to star gaze from, being so far from street lights. From there, the trail follows the farm road up towards the ridges that form Birkhead Mountain.

The trail soon came close to a larger rock outcropping. Relatively isolated groups of rocks poking up out of the ground like this are fairly common throughout the Uwharrie Mountains. Most of them appear to be disc-shaped, looking like a set of fat stone pancakes buried halfway in the ground, on edge. A foot trail branched off to the right here and headed toward this set of rocks. I saw a recently used rock fire-ring there, and could see how that would be a neat place to camp. The foot trail then reconnects back to the old farm road and the main trail.

Someone had erected a fairly new wooden sign with routed lettering at the intersection with the side trail. I found it a little confusing because it had arrows pointing left and right, with the name “Robbins Branch Trail”. That’s the name of the trail that the Thornburg Trail eventually tees into, a mile or so further on. I first thought maybe there had been a major reroute since the last time I had visited.

Below that sign was another that said “To Birkhead Mtn Trail”, with arrows pointing to the left. From here, you have to follow the Thornburg Trail almost a mile to it’s end, take a left on Robbins Branch Trail, and hike over a mile and half to the end of that before you finally tee into the Birkhead Mtn Trail. The signs’ information could be considered technically correct, but they seemed out of place to me. Of course, I would recommend that you trust your guidebook first, and well-intentioned signs second. These were not official USFS signs.


After thinking about this sign a little more, I’d be willing to bet that the sign installer, having already toted the heavy sign post and posthole diggers up the trail to this location, saw this “intersection” and was more than happy to set his load down and erect the sign. The sign would make much more sense if it was placed at the Thornburg/Robbins Branch Trail intersection, which is the next and only “real” trail intersection you come on the Thornburg Trail.

Trail signage and the trail itself were both easier to follow after that. The Thornburg Trail is blazed with white paint. There is an official USFS-made sign where the Thornburg Trail tees into Robbins Branch Trail. Less confusion resulted when I read that sign. Following the Hike #215 route, I turned left/north here and followed the trail as it dropped off the ridge down to Robbins Branch and then cross-crossed the branch numerous times, leading me upstream. The trail eventually climbs up onto the main ridge of Birkhead Mountain itself, where it tees into the Birkhead Mountain Trail.

The trip route turns right and follows this section of the Birkhead Mountain Trail along another old road on the top of this long ridgeline. It eventually drops down the southern end of the mountain and intersects with the Hannahs Creek Trail. Turning right on Hannahs Creek Trail, I soon passed by a beautiful example of an old stone fireplace and chimney. It is actually a double fireplace, with two separate hearths on opposite sides of the chimney. Not far from here, I met a small group of hikers, some of which were members of the original Uwharrie Trail Club. I had met several of them many years ago. They were still out enjoying the trails and were glad to hear I was working on a revision of the guidebook.

As I hiked along Hannah’s Creek Trail, I noticed a couple of unsigned trails that I did not remember from previous visits. They had obviously been used a fair amount since last fall’s leaves fell, so they must go somewhere interesting. I didn’t have time today to explore them, so I’ll save them for another day’s adventure.

Hannahs Creek Trail parallels it’s namesake, although not too closely, crossing a few small side streams along the way. It does stray far enough from Hannahs Creek to take you by another impressive set of boulders.


Hannahs Creek Trail ends where it meets the Robbins Branch Trail. The #215 route turns right at this intersection and follows Robbins Branch Trail back northward to the intersection with the Thornburg Trail. From there I retraced my steps back out to the trail head.

The #215 loop hike is just over 10 miles long. A detailed map, mileage chart, and elevation profile can be found on pages 214 and 215 of the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide.

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