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One of North Carolina’s many lush expanses of land, Uwharrie National Forest unfurls across 52,000 acres that straddle three counties. Time slows down in these parts as Mother Nature takes center stage, with the Uwharrie, Yadkin, and Pee Dee rivers bypassing the forest and providing ample opportunity for leisurely water activities like fishing and kayaking. Uwharrie is also one of four national forests in North Carolina, located smack in the state’s center; it’s home to the mountain range of the same name, whose peaks are thought to have been formed by ancient ocean volcanoes.
This area is full of Native American artifacts and other remnants from early residents, including the Town Creek Indian Mound, a prehistoric archeological site near Mount Gilead that has helped researchers understand how the first inhabitants used the land. It’s also home to Morrow Mountain State Park, the largest known prehistoric quarry in North Carolina, with 15 miles of hiking trails and 16 miles of bridle trails. Just outside Uwharrie National Forest, you’ll find a handful of wineries, as well as several small towns; among them, Seagrove is lauded for its multitude of pottery studios, while Asheboro, Albemarle, and Troy are where you’ll find many of the area’s vacation rentals.
The closest airport to Uwharrie National Forest is Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), which is 72 miles away and offers nonstop routes to cities around the world. Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) is 98 miles east of Uwharrie, with daily nonstop service to domestic destinations. You’ll want to rent a car from the airport to get around the national forest, as there’s no public transportation in this area, though there are local taxis and rideshares in the towns surrounding Uwharrie once you reach your destination.
Fall is a beautiful season in North Carolina and the best time to visit Uwharrie, as the dense forest in this part of the state promises a tapestry of colors; peak foliage usually hits in October. Crowds are also smaller in fall months than in summer, though summer temperatures are warmer for visiting the forest’s many swimming holes. If you’re coming to Uwharrie to hike, you’ll want to avoid the hottest time of summer, July and August, which also coincides with a spike in visitors.
Located within the national forest, Badin Lake is where locals in the know — swimmers, boaters, and anglers among them — take advantage of the substantial day-use facilities, which include a swimming beach, fishing piers, and a picnic pavilion at King's Mountain Point.
The Appalachian region of North Carolina is known for its high-quality craftspeople, many of whom display their creations at the North Carolina Pottery Center, home to one of the largest collections of working potters in the country. In addition to exhibitions and its colorful gift shop, the pottery center hosts summer camps and classes, workshops, and talks devoted to all things clay.
One of Uwharrie’s most photographed spots is this 54-foot covered bridge, built over the Little River in 1911 for a price of $40; no longer in use, it has collapsed and been rebuilt on more than one occasion, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.