Monday, October 1, 2018

Uwharrie National Forest: Badin Lake Trail (Blog Hike #721)

Trail: Badin Lake Trail
Hike Location: Uwharrie National Forest, Kings Mountain Point Day Use Area
Geographic Location: northwest of Troy, NC (35.45452, -80.07932)
Length: 5.4 miles
Difficulty: 5/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: September 2018
Overview: A rolling loop hike offering good Badin Lake views.

Directions to the trailhead: From the town of Troy, take SR 109 northwest 10.7 miles to Mullinix Road and the signed turn-off for Badin Lake Recreation Area.  Turn left on Mullinix Rd.  At the next intersection, turn right.  3.3 miles from SR 109, the asphalt ends at a T-intersection.  Turn right onto the good gravel road, then in 0.2 miles turn left to head for Kings Mountain Point.  You reach the Kings Mountain Point Day Use Area where this hike begins 1.2 miles later.

The hike: Standing in a 50 mile north-south line across central North Carolina, the Uwharrie Mountains are thought to be some of the oldest mountains on earth.  Geologists think that the mountains formed by accretion along the ancient Gondwanan tectonic plate, and they think that the Uwharries once reached more than 20,000 feet in elevation.  Yet many millennia of erosion have reduced them to their present rather unimpressive size.  On point, the Uwharrie’s high point, High Rock Mountain, stands at a mere 1188 feet above sea level.
            The Uwharrie Mountains’ namesake national forest was created by a declaration from President Kennedy in 1961, thus making Uwharrie National Forest the newest of North Carolina’s four national forests.  Consisting of only 51,218 acres, Uwharrie National Forest is also the smallest of North Carolina’s four national forests.  When the national forest was created, the land had been completely cleared for farming and timber harvesting, but today the forests have returned.  Thus, the national forest is a nice destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
            Uwharrie National Forest’s most famous trail is the 20 mile one-way Uwharrie National Recreation Trail, which is an excellent route for backpackers but too long for good dayhiking.  Thus, the forest’s best dayhiking loop is the Badin Lake Trail described here.  Built by the Youth Conservation Corps in 1979 and 1980, the Badin Lake Trail spends more than half of its distance along the shore of its namesake lake, so aquatic vistas abound as you hike around this mildly popular flat to rolling loop.
Exiting day use area, heading south
            The Badin Lake Trail, Uwharrie National Forest Trail #94, forms a true loop, so it leaves both the north and south ends of the parking area near where the road enters the parking area.  This description goes around the loop counterclockwise by heading southbound with the lake on your right.  Two brown carsonite posts and a wooden post mark where the trail enters the woods.
            The trail stays right beside the lake as it passes around the first of several inlets.  The forest here features large numbers of beech and oak trees with a few old pine trees, and large amounts of holly in the understory scraped against my legs as I hiked.  The terrain along the lake shore is very flat, but the many roots and quartz rocks in the trail may make your progress slower than you would expect.  The trail is marked with a copious number of white rectangular paint blazes, so it is hard to lose the trail.
Follow the white blazes
            At 0.6 miles, the trail curves left to briefly head away from the lake and bypass the Badin Lake Campground.  In addition to two official campgrounds, you will pass numerous established primitive campsites with fire rings along the lake shore.  After crossing the gravel Badin Lake Campground access road, the trail heads back to the lake shore.  Badin Lake views abound on this section of trail, and the forested opposite lake shore gives the area a secluded feel.  On the muggy Sunday afternoon I hiked this trail I saw several aquatic fowl on the lake including a heron and two egrets.  A large black snake also slithered across the trail in front of me toward the water.
Badin Lake vista
            As I passed around the next two inlets, I had to negotiate several fallen trees that blocked the trail.  Also, I found some horse manure on this section of trail even though this trail is designated by the national forest as hiker-only.  Overall, the trail maintenance is quite good for a national forest trail.  A woodpecker announced its presence in this area by pecking on a tree to my left.
Wooden waterbars exiting Cove Boat Ramp area
            Next the trail heads up a long narrow inlet, and at 1.8 miles you reach the blacktop parking area for the national forest’s Cove Boat Ramp.  Curve left to start heading uphill through the parking area, and look for the wooden waterbars and white paint blaze that mark where the trail reenters the woods.  After a brief steep climb that gains about 50 feet of elevation, you intersect a blacktop trail that circles the national forest’s Arrowhead Campground.  Angle right on the blacktop trail to begin hiking counterclockwise on the campground nature trail.
            Stay with the paved trail as it crosses the campground access road and curves left.  At 2.1 miles, you need to turn right to leave the pavement and continue the Badin Lake Trail.  There are trail markers in this area, but you need to look for them or risk missing this turn.  Now back on a single track dirt trail, the trail continues climbing on a moderate grade to reach the highest point on this hike: a small unnamed knob that stands about 140 feet above the lake.
Crossing a horse trail
            Continuing a northward ridgetop course, in quick succession you cross a horse trail twice.  Horses straying from this trail are the likely source of the horse manure I saw earlier in the hike.  After skirting another knob, the trail descends slightly to cross the gravel entrance road you drove in on at 2.9 miles.
Hiking along Badin Lake
            Still heading north, the trail descends somewhat steeply to enter a ravine that will eventually take you back to Badin Lake.  Pass a private recreation area signed “no trespassing” across the creek to the right and then pass under a power line.  Soon you reach the lake shore at a long narrow inlet that features some private residences on the opposite bank.  Some interesting rock outcrops are passed in this area, as are additional primitive campsites.
Badin Lake view from atop rock outcrop
            At 4.6 miles, you round the tip of the peninsula and begin heading south with Badin Lake proper on your right.  Just when you think you might have a flat easy lakeshore jaunt back to the trailhead, the trail curves left and heads directly up the slope around what appears to be a landslide area.  A gradual descent brings you to the top of a rock outcrop that gives your last nice Badin Lake view, this one from 50 feet above the lake.  More gradual descending takes you around a final lake inlet and returns you to the Kings Mountain Point Day Use Area to complete the hike.


  1. Unwarrie Mountains(National Forest), some of the oldest mounts of earth, impressed to read your trail story.

    1. Thanks for the comment. This is a nice hike, somewhat front country by national forest standards but still fairly isolated. It was very hot and muggy when I hiked here last month, so I think I would wait until the winter to do it again.

  2. I would love to go here after reading your post. Thanks for some great tips on where to go

  3. Beautiful!!!!.....Thanks for sharing