Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area
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John W
Durham, NC38 contributions
Jan 2020
We met up with some other friends to hike the loop trail at Occoneechee the morning of January 1, 2020. We had age ranges from 9 to 70. It was my first time hiking this trail.
This area is a popular hiking spot and parking was tight on New Year's Day. We arrived about 10 and there was some parking still available. By 10:30, the parking lot was full and cars were having to park further out on the road in.
We hiked the Mountain Loop trail which is a little over 2 miles. There are a couple of ascents that can get you breathing heavy, but nothing too bad or difficult. Everyone in our group managed fine. We went counterclockwise around the loop, which is the direction I would recommend. On the far side of the loop from where you start, you come to the Eno River, which is a nice place to stop and take some pictures. A little further along, you come to the bottom of the old quarry and there is a little side trail where you can get a better look up the quarry walls. The main trail then goes up the mountain. At the top, I suggest taking the .01 mile Overlook Trail. The overlook area is very scenic and provides a good view over the landscape and Hillsborough. You then backtrack along the Overlook Trail back to the main trail and follow it back to the parking lot.
Overall, this is a relatively short hike that provides some ups and downs as well as some scenic views along the Eno River and from the overlook at the top of the mountain. Without traveling further west, probably about as close to a mountain hike as you can get in the RDU area.
There is a restroom facility and some picnic tables in the parking lot area. It also only about a 5 minute drive from downtown Hillsborough, so it is convenient to grab lunch at one of the restaurants there either before or after your hike.
I look forward to returning to this trail in the spring/summer when there is more foliage as I am sure it would be even more picturesque.
Written January 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

madurobob
Hillsborough, NC22 contributions
Feb 2017 • Solo
This NC State Park is relatively small as far as State Parks go, but it packs a lot in. The park is basically the footprint of Occoneechee Mountain, the tallest hill in the area. It is bordered by I-85 on the South, the Eno River on the West, Eno Mountain Rd on the North and Orange Grove rd on the East. The access is via a short gravel rd where Orange Grove goes under I-85. That gravel road passes by two small ponds on the right that are popular with local fishermen... and dogs, and dragonflies...

The West side of the mountain was heavily quarried many decades ago and there are dramatic and somewhat dangerous cliffs where the top of the mountain meets the quarry, and excellent rock scrambling in the quarry debris down towards the river. The main trail runs around the perimeter of the park and is about 3 miles long. Its relatively gently sloped but for a couple of short and steep sections on the North side near the quarry. The trail is rocky and technical if you're running; fairly easy if you're walking. Its well maintained and has stairs where the few steep sections are.

The shortcut to the cliffs and the quarry is to simply walk up the gravel rd, past the Ranger's house and up the hill. Near the top of the hill, before the cell phone tower, turn right onto the trail to the cliffs.

I prefer to go clockwise around the perimeter trail. Park in the one parking area, then look to the woods just beyond the bathrooms and you'll see the trail entrance. The trail gently slopes up along the contour of the mountain, cutting through classic Piedmont hardwood forest. You'll pass by a few big rock outcroppings that will help you understand why they quarried here. Pass by a new trail to the right that is a short cut up to the top of the mountain (stay left to continue on the perimeter trail).

The perimeter trail begins to slope down to the river where you'll encounter Piedmont wetlands/lowlands. Lots of Spring wildflowers in March and April. Where the trail meets the river, just a few feet upstream is a swimming hole popular with local kids and a giant rock to climb up on and watch the river go by.

The perimeter trail then runs between the river and the quarry. If rock scrambling is you thing, turn right and head up into the quarry - loads to explore up there. But, keep in mind the park rangers frown on any climbing on the cliffs themselves, and also keep in mind the cliff walls are a bit unstable and there may be falling rocks.

Continuing on, the perimeter trail follows the power line right-of-way up the hill. A long wooden staircase makes this easy. Then the trail turns to the right and climbs a steep but short section towards the top of the quarry and the cliffs (nice vistas, especially in late afternoon). The perimeter trail turns left about 2/3 of the way up to the cliffs and continues along the North side of the mountain where there is a bit of a micro-climate that supports a forest of laurel and rhododendron like you'd encounter up in the Appalachian mountains. Continue on the perimeter trail, staying left at trail forks, and you come out at the two ponds you saw as you drove in on the gravel road.
Written February 14, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Bull City Eats
Durham, NC43 contributions
Jul 2018 • Family
I’ve been here a few times with my sons and we always have a great time. It’s nice to have someplace close to Durham you can go that seems a world away. We aren’t hikers by any stretch but we enjoy getting some exercise on the trails. Since I don’t have a lot to compare it to I’d say even if you’re not in shape at all you’ll find these trails easy enough to do but still rewarding enough to make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. We’ve done the Chestnut Oak trail (.9 mi) and the Mountain Look trail (2.2 mi). The latter was very scenic including detours to a quarry and Eno river area. The terrain is somewhat steep so that’s some to think about but it will definitely get the blood pumping. We went on a Saturday afternoon and loved that it wasn’t massively crowded. All in all if you’re in the Triangle area and don’t want to travel too far and want a more challenging workout than you’d get with a regular walk I’d recommend this park.
Written July 22, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

D2958ZXgarym
King, United States848 contributions
Oct 2017 • Friends
Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area covers 190 acres between the town of Hillsborough and busy Interstate 85. Although the site maintains a natural setting, the sounds of the highway often impose on the tranquility. Limited activities at the park include fishing – from two small ponds or from the banks of the Eno River – and hiking. Various trails, easy to moderately-easy, lead around and through old forests that provide an important habitat for wildlife. The Chestnut Oak Ridge Trail leads to the mountain’s summit; at 867 feet, it is the highest point in Orange County. A short spur off this trail leads to the bluffs and an overlook of the Eno River below. The park is known for its population of brown elfin butterflies, a species not found anywhere else in the region. Park hours vary seasonally. Admission is free.
Written January 27, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

LikeItActive
Durham, NC216 contributions
Feb 2016 • Couples
What a fantastic place for a hike. The trails are well maintained. There is enough climbing that you will need to put forth some effort, but not steep enough that you can't bring children (there is no technical climbing, as these are finished trails). The views are worth the effort, and this was a total surprise. I probably wouldn't do this after a recent hard rain, but an otherwise beautiful day makes this a great option for a hike. Finish this off with a short drive into Hillsborough for a local pub meal, and you have a nice weekend morning.
Written May 1, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Elle S
Durham, NC21 contributions
Aug 2014 • Friends
Nice area to walk dogs or with friends. You can walk up the mountain or just around the pond like my family did.
Written June 3, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

maxona
Fort Walton Beach, FL562 contributions
May 2015 • Solo
This park is not far off of I-85 in the town of HIllsborough. If you go North from there, you will see the signs the point in the Direction of the park. It is pretty well marked. There are maps of the trails near the bathroom off the parking lot. Outside of the parking lot are picnic tables.
If you do a lot of mountain climbing, this may seem a fairly tame hike. If you don't, I think this will pose some challenges. You will make a gradual incline to the top of the mountain. The trail will go up and down in various places until you get to the end. You will come across a lot of roots, rocks and even some beams placed to use for stairs. There will be a few areas that are steep, with no 'stairs'. So if mobility are issues, or you lack stamina for climbing, this may be too much for you. **Also note to parents wanting to bring fairly young children, this hike may be too long, even at 2.2 miles. I have seen a few parents occasionally with really small kids and have passed a them while they are trying to help the small kids up the stairs. One day I was getting to the final ascent to the lookout and a young boy asked his parents, 'Can we go home now?'. They still had quite a distance to go to get back to the parking lot. So either wait until they are a little older, or be prepared to give piggy back rides for a mile at least.
The walk itself is very pretty. The landscape changes a little, depending on where you are on the walk. On the back side, you will walk beside the Eno River and then see the Quarry or Mountain. You can pass ferns galore on one section, and the trees much closer together, making the trail seem 'tight', on another.
There are a few benches along the way, but they are few and far in between. There is no water available, so bring your own. As most have mentioned, the walk is about 2 hours or less, depending on how fast you are or if you stopped along the way. The trail is almost all shaded, so even in hot weather, it is a little cooler.
If you like to hike, I think you would find this a great place to go.
Written May 23, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Bennie M
Raleigh, NC51 contributions
Having grown up in the mountains of western North Carolina I'm a little spoiled about hiking but after spending an entire day at this park we enjoyed it.
it is relatively easy to find off the main road from Hillsboro. it's a small park that does have an indoor toilet, The trails are relatively well marked. it is situated around the only thing close to a mountain in the area so there are some Inclines.. The day we were there, there were two Rangers helping people park, which was a nice touch. If you're close And looking for a good day hike it's worth the trip, when you finish come out and go into downtown Hillsboro for a good meal
Written May 23, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Kaat Keeps Going
Singapore, Singapore619 contributions
Oct 2014 • Couples
Our visit to Hillsborough started in the morning at Occoneechee. You can get a free map near the parking spot/restrooms. We walked the Occoneechee Mt. Loop trail. On the map there is a marker 'rock formation'. The northern rock formation is seriously amazing. It is not indicated on the map but you have to walk a little off track (it is indicated when you walk there). Someone told us they used to mine there. Must see! From the Occoneechee trail up north we went to the overlook trail. Beautiful view over the valley! Via Brown Elfin Knob Trail we walked right onto the Occoneechee trail again and finished the loop. Near the fishing ponds there is a beautiful place to rest or have lunch. We walked for maybe 2-2.5 hours including lunch. When you go there early in the morning it is not crowded at all.
Written October 20, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

jmpncsu
Raleigh, NC4,435 contributions
Aug 2012 • Solo
Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area is small park in Hillsborough that operates as a satellite of Eno River State Park. Although hardly a mountain, at 867 feet above sea level, Occoneechee is the highest point in the Triangle. And hiking the short trails around the park, you may forget that you're in the Piedmont. The Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail makes a full loop around the park in less than 2.5 miles. But there's plenty to see in that short distance. From the parking lot, the trail runs around the mountain and follows the Eno River for a ways before coming to an old quarry, dating from the 19th century. The cliffs above the quarry have an overlook just a bit further up the trail. From the quarry continue on a bit further and follow the Overlook Trail to the overlook. From here you have surprisingly nice views to the north and west. The town of Hillsborough can be seen to the north and the Eno River winding its way through Orange County to the northwest. The views are particularly nice during fall foliage. The Overlook Trail terminates at the Summit Trail. Turning right goes up to the summit. It's not on park property and there's nothing exciting here - no views, just a radio antenna and old fire tower. Turning left, the Summit Trail leads back to the parking area.
Written August 12, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area (Hillsborough) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

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