On December 18th, six friends and myself decided to meet around 8:30am and hike a loop starting at the West Morris Mountain access point. This is at the West Morris Mountain hunt camp, and you go past the turn to the campsites and follow the sign that says “Uwharrie Trail” to a small trailhead parking area.
You start out hiking a yellow blazed side trail that goes to the Uwharrie Trail. You’ll hike on this side trail for about 0.8 miles before you turn left onto the Uwharrie Trail. The Uwharrie Trail is not extremely obvious here, so you must be paying attention. From here the trail ascends Morris Mountain to a height of about 800 feet in elevation. There are a few false peaks, so you’ll think you are to the top several times before you actually get there, but once you’re there you follow the ridgeline for a ways before coming to the next turn. There are some great views this time of year from the ridgeline of Morris Mountain, so we stopped here and took a short break.
At approximately 2.11 miles in from the start, you’ll come to Barnes Creek Overlook Road. You’ll turn right onto this road. This looks like a typical woods road, and you’ll follow it and shortly come to an intersection. There’s a USFS gate here, which you’ll approach from the backside, and recent rains had turned this intersection into a muddy mess when we were here. From here you’ll turn right onto Panther Branch Road. Neither of these roads has any signage indicating the name though.
You follow Panther Branch Road for a ways, paralleling the Uwharrie Trail route that you took on the way in. The road comes to a place where you can go left or right to stay on a path, and to complete this loop you’ll stay to the right. Not far after you make this turn you’ll cross back by the Uwharrie Trail where you turned on to it early on in the hike, and then you simply follow the yellow blazed side trail (Camp Road) back to the trailhead.
Altogether, this hike was about 5 miles exactly and took us right at 2 hours to accomplish. We didn’t see or hear any wildlife on this hike, but I’m sure in spring and summer months you’d spot a variety of neotropical migratory birds and squirrels and snakes and other critters in this nice hardwood forest. We also did not come to any creek crossings, which is unusual for a hike of this length in the Uwharries. But that makes this loop a good one to choose when creeks are running high.
If you have the Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide by Don Childrey, the book doesn’t exactly show this particular trip, but you can sort of see how to go about doing this loop by looking at page 328, which is labeled Morris Mountain Trip C. You could choose to go on up to where Panther Branch Road intersects the Uwharrie Trail directly and make it a longer loop, or make a day of it and do the whole trip Don outlines and it’s a 12.33 mile hike. You can purchase Don’s guide at www.donchildrey.com.
This was a great hike, though it did include a lot of uphill at the start, but it’s one I’m sure I will do again soon. I’m always looking for loop options in the 4-6 mile range, which is a good 2-3 hour trip. If you have a loop of that length you like to hike, I’d love to hear about it – and you can email me at email@example.com or contact me by phone at 704-647-0302. I’m always up for a new adventure, and this new Morris Mountain loop did not disappoint.