Uwharrie National Forest – North Carolina
If you think you’ve missed your opportunity to leaf peep when October ends, head to Uwharrie National Forest, where the fall color extends well into mid-November and often through Thanksgiving. Enter through the Birkhead Wilderness Area and access 5,160 acres of land ripe for exploring. The Uwharrie Mountains have the distinction of being possibly the oldest mountain range in America — more than 500 million years old. Scientists believe that the area was once a chain of huge volcanic peaks reaching 20,000 feet high.
Nowadays, the tallest peaks in the chain rise barely more than a 1,000 feet. Their attraction lies instead in the forests of hardwoods and pines, small lakes, and the Uwharrie River. The forest’s largest lake, the 5,350-acre Badin Lake, lies on the northwest corner of the park and is excellent for fishing, swimming, and boating. Beyond that, hiking, horseback riding, and four-wheel driving all are popular pastimes.
You don’t expect to find a mountain range in the middle of the state, but it’s there — and surprisingly pristine as the area only allows hiking and tent camping. Camping is year-round, and all sites have graveled tent pads, fire rings, and a light hook. For primitive camping, check out West Morris Mountain, Woodrun Trailhead, and Yates Place.