Hike Thornburg Trail and Camp Three Trail at Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Area
Primary Route: Start on the Thornburg Trail, hike to Robbins Branch Trail, continue onto Birkhead Mountain Trail, complete the Camp Three Trail loop and return to the Thornburg Trailhead.
Hiking Distance: 10 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 965 feet
Trailhead: Thornburg Trailhead on Lassiter Mill Road (SR 1163) (Approximate GPS location: 35.618600, -79.948538)
Thornburg Trail: Begin at the US Forest Service gate at Thornburg Trailhead on SR 1163 (beginning elevation 480′). At mile 0.06, you will pass by a farmhouse and barns following the road. At 0.29 miles, cross the footbridge going over Betty McGees Creek. Continue hiking until at 0.55 miles you leave the fields and enter the woods. At mile 0.75, you will leave the road to go by a rock outcropping on the right. At mile 1.29, at 610′ of elevation, you reach a high spot on the trail. Continue to 1.39 miles when you will cross a small stream. The Thornburg Trail ends at 1.81 miles and 670′ when it reaches a junction with Robbins Branch Trail. Continue onto Robbins Branch to complete this hike.
Robbins Branch Trail: From Thornburg Trail, turn left on Robbins Branch Trail. At mile 2.76, you will pass a campsite on the far side of Robbins Branch. At 3.36 miles, there is a junction with Birkhead Mountain Trail.
Birkhead Mountain Trail: From Robbins Branch Trail, turn right onto Birkhead Mountain Trail. Continue south until you reach the junction with Camp Three Trail at the Camp 5 site at 3.89 miles.
Camp Three Trail: Turn left onto Camp Three Trail. At 4.19 miles, pass by Stegosaurus/Twin Rocks. At 4.22 miles, pass by Bootleg Hollow, a water feature. Continue on to cross North Prong Creek and Fern Valley at 4.38 miles. Cross another small creek at 4.54 miles. Pass by Lost Branch and mine pits at 4.75 miles, and the Rush homeplace at 4.85 miles. Quickly after the Rush homeplace you’ll find the Camp 3 site and spring that provides drinking water. Continue to find the Rush gold mine at mile 4.97. At the next junction, turn left onto the old roadbed. At the following junction at mile 2.11, take the left fork in the road. The Camp Three Trail ends at mile 6.14, where you turn left onto Birkhead Mountain Trail at the Camp 1B site (elevation - 910′).
Continue south on Birkhead Mountain Trail until mile 6.64, when you turn right on Robbins Branch Trail. Follow Robbins Branch until you reach the junction with Thornburg Trail - turn right. Follow Thornburg Trail to return to Thornburg Trailhead for a total of 10 miles.
Additional Information: Dogs are allowed as long as they are on a leash and kept under control. Camp Three Trail has multiple historic sites along the trail, noted above in the hiking directions. It was originally made and marked by Boy Scouts in the early 1970’s. The trail is only lightly used by hikers, so the trail may be difficult to follow. It is blazed sporadically with varying colors of paint, so pay close attention to the trail at all times. If you find forks in the roadbed of the Camp Three Trail, it is advised to always take the left fork (leaning west) to follow Camp Three Trail as it curves back around to meet Birkhead Mountain Trail. Don Childrey (see below) recommends Joseph Moffitt’s book An Afternoon Hike Into the Past for more information about the historical sites found on the Camp Three Trail as well as other sites in the Birkhead Mountains.
Thanks to Don Childrey’s book Uwharrie Lakes Region Trail Guide for detailed information.