Sugarloaf and Morrow Mountain trails

It may sound funny to speak of a hike in the Piedmont that “bags” two peaks. But your legs won’t be laughing by the time you’ve finished this 5.4-mile hike that does indeed bag a pair of bonafide peaks.

Your summit day begins from the trailhead just over a mile into the park. The Sugarloaf Mountain Trail gives you a minute to warm up before a long, steady climb up the mountain’s southern ridge. The peak — at 843 feet nearly 350 feet higher than the trailhead — is a dome, but in winter especially there are good views to the north. The descent is as dramatic as the climb prolonged, through a lush understory dominated by mountain laurel.

Sugarloaf hands off to Morrow Mountain Trail in a deceptively mellow stretch of flat hardwoods. The deception continues a while longer until the trail quits pussyfooting and makes a headlong ascent up the rocky, debris-covered slope. Morrow Mountain, btw, is an extinct (400 years and counting) volcano with the requisite conical shape and relentless rise.

Topping out atop 906-foot Morrow Mountain is a bit anticlimactic: A popular paved road winds its way to the top and ends in a sizable paved parking lot. Still, there’s a satisfaction to the summit that will elude your motoring brethren: the light breeze that caresses the summit on even the hottest summer day will seem that much cooler, the autumn colors painting the countryside below will seem that much sharper.

Morrow Mountain/Sugarloaf Mountain: A Piedmont two-bagger you can feel good about.

More info: Morrow Mountain State Park

Maps: Downloadable here, also available at the park.

Getting there from downtown Charlotte
Difficulty: strenuous
Distance: 1 hour and 10 minutes from downtown Charlotte
Time to complete: 2-3 hours.
Address: 49104 Morrow Mountain Road
City: Albemarle
State: N.C.
Zip: 28001
Latitude: 35.3737
Longitude: 80.0733