Morrow Mountain State Park lies in the Uwharrie Mountains just over an hour east of Charlotte near Albemarle. It sports a number of trails suited for hikers of all skill levels. And, bonus: It has a large swimming pool, complete with restrooms, changing rooms, showers and a kiddie pool.
Start your adventure with a two mile hike on the Hattaway Mountain trail, a natural surface loop that starts and ends at the pool parking lot. This is a challenging trail thanks mostly to its areas of steep ascent and rocky terrain. But it's also relatively short, and manageable if you take your time and enjoy the scenery along the way (you'll find dry, rocky ridges covered in chestnut oaks and sourwoods and an impressive vista before your descent). Plus, it's motivating to know that a dip in the water awaits your return!
The day we went, the pool was closed for maintenance, but a kind park ranger saved the day with her recommendation to check out the Badin Lake public beach access, just 10 minutes away. This was a fun alternative to our original plan and something to keep in mind once the pool closes for the season (from Labor Day to Memorial Day) and if you prefer a natural swimming hole to a swimming pool.
Note: The pool is now open weekends only and on Labor Day from 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Kids three and under are free, ages 4-12/$4, and 13 and older/$5. Badin Lake beach access is free and open year-round.
Another bonus stop is a milkshake stop on the way home at The Sundae Shop in Midland, just over 20 miles outside of Charlotte.
How to get there:
Morrow Mountain State Park is located at 49104 Morrow Mountain Road, Albemarle, NC 28001. To hike the Hattaway Mountain Trail, park in the swimming pool parking lot, which is on your left just past the park office when you come through the main park entrance. The trailhead is to the left of the pool house, marked with a sign. Follow the orange square blazes to complete the loop.
To get to the Badin Lake public beach from Morrow Mountain STate Park, head west on Morrow Mountain Rd. toward Valley Dr. Turn right onto Valley Dr. Continue onto Henderson St. Turn left onto Nantahala St. Turn right onto NC-740. In just over a half mile, the public beach will be on your right.
Don't forget to take:
- Water: Stay hydrated on your hike. You can refill at the pool facilities.
- Snacks: Throw in a granola bar, trail mix or crackers. It's a strenuous hike so you'll need good energy.
- Backback or bag: Something lightweight and comfortable to carry your essentials.
- Bug spray: We saw some mosquitoes and gnats. Plus, ticks are always a threat.
- Shoes: Comfortable sneakers or hiking boots.
- Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses: Always keep them handy.
- Swim suits, towels and a change of clothes: Plan to enjoy a dip in the water after your hike.
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