Thursday, January 30, 2014

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

What it is:  Even though it is the middle of winter, and this winter we certainly have seen temperatures to prove it, there have been some days with decent weather.  On one of those decent weather days our little family had to get out of the house and explore a little.  This time, we wanted to check out the highest point in Orange County at 867 ft.-Occoneechee Mountain.  This "mountain" is located in Hillsborough so it's not even a half an hour from most parts of Durham.

Occoneechee Mountain has some great short hikes that have some views, a few hills, some big boulders, and even some stretches next to the Eno River.  My boys are getting a little bigger, so we decided to try the two-mile loop all the way around, but there were definitely some shorter hikes than that there.  The parking area was easy to find and free, but I have to say, on the Saturday we stopped by, it was pretty crowded.  There were restrooms at the parking lot as well as stands where you could take a map of the park.  We were also able to bring our dog if we kept him on a six foot leash.

We started off and immediately started hiking through some trees, but the trees were thin enough that we could see for quite a ways.  We did hike up some hills, but they weren't so steep that the kids struggled.  At several points we passed some large boulders that were fun for the kids to jump around and clamber around on.  Keep in mind, that there are some larger rock formations located in the park, especially at the quarry area (which we didn't visit), and at that location and anywhere in the park, actual rock climbing is prohibited.  However, our kids didn't need to climb any rocks, they had enough fun jumping from one rock to another.

After the rocks, at about the halfway point the trail took a turn and headed down toward the river.  I don't know if we went at a particularly wet time, but it got fairly muddy at points. I really wish I had put my kids in their grubby shoes.  So, if you go, be prepared for the kiddos to get messy at that point.  There is no swimming in this portion of the Eno which is OK because we really didn't see any good spots where we could even let our dog jump in without a fairly steep drop.  After the river portion, the trail climbed again and we had some nice views.  (My little one was still fussing about his muddy shoes at that point and wanting to be carried, but the views were nice!)

Finally, we moved back into the area where there was the spacious forest.  Just before we got back to the parking lot there was a great little area with a pond, picnic tables, and a field-a great pre- or post- hike stop.  It was a pretty little hiking area, and I definitely want to go back when the trees are green and the flowers are in bloom!

What we liked:  It is a great location for Durhamites wanting to do a little hiking.  Plus, there are several short hike options for short little legs.

What we would change:  As we said, there was a muddy patch down by the river.  I would also keep a close eye on the signage.  While the signs were pretty easy to follow, there were several spots where the trails diverged and we had to make sure to stay on the right path.  Also, do not try to bring a stroller because it's not a stroller friendly hike.

Website and other important information:


Address: 625 Virginia Cates Rd, Hillsborough, NC

Hours: November-February: 8am-6pm, March, April, October, and September:  8am-8pm, May-August: 8am-9pm


(view up the mountain)

(our little family on the hike-oh, and my photobombing poodle)

(spot on the Eno River)

(One of the views from the top)

(boulders to jump on)

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