Take a Hike in Hillsborough
July 9, 2019
Hillsborough is a terrific place to take a walk! Whether you stroll along the Eno River, hike a historic property, or meander up a mountain, Hillsborough offers a ton of great walks/hikes for anyone looking to get outside with their family, pets, and friends. Here are five of our favorite spots to stretch the legs.
Riverwalk is a paved, accessible, urban greenway that stretches about 1.8 miles along the Eno River between Gold Park in West Hillsborough and trails east of town. It is a popular trail for walking, jogging, and cycling, and provides pedestrian connections between several neighborhoods. The trail is easy, mostly flat, and hosts beautiful views from the banks of the Eno River. The greenway’s downtown portion is the primary route of N.C. Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and the first section of the statewide trail system to be constructed in Orange County. Riverwalk also is one of the few sections of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail located in an urban environment, giving users easy access to restrooms, restaurants and shopping.
Occoneechee Mountain State Nature Area
Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area offers a quick escape into nature with its three miles of trail exploring riverside forests, bluffs reaching to the highest point in the area and mountain laurel and rhododendron thickets. Visitors can fish in a pair of quiet ponds for bass and panfish or in the Eno River, either from the bank or by wading its shallows. Picnic grounds supply a grassy lawn and large, shading oaks. Rangers lead regular interpretive programs about the state natural area and its piedmont monadnock that supports species that are rare and significant in the region.
Historic Occoneechee Speedway and James M. Johnston Nature Preserve
The Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail (HOST) and the James M. Johnston Nature Preserve are under the care of Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, which also owns the Ayr Mount Historic Site. The trails are located beside the Eno River (opposite from the location of the Ayr Mount historic house). HOST is a walking trail through natural and cultural history. The original track was a half-mile horse track built by Julian S. Carr for Occoneechee Farms. It was later expanded and used by NASCAR. This 44-acre site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 2002. Four miles of trail take you along the banks of the Eno River where you’ll walk around the only surviving dirt speedway from NASCAR’s inaugural 1949 season. The 1-mile oval Occoneechee/Orange Speedway was active from 1948-68, attracting the best stock car drivers and thousands of spectators. Today this unique outdoor site allows for a diverse range of activities and is enjoyed by individual hikers, joggers, and other sports enthusiasts.
Confluence Natural Area
The Confluence Natural Area is so named because the East and West Forks of the Eno River flow from the north to merge here, thus forming the Eno River. This land has a long history stretching back to the late 1700s. Remnants of an old mill can still be visited by following the trails. In addition, this section of the river is a Nationally Significant Natural Heritage area and home to populations of multiple rare plant species. The gates are only open on Saturdays and Sundays, so plan your trip wisely.
The Poet’s Walk
The Poet’s Walk is a one-mile walking trail that meanders through the woodlands and pastures surrounding the Ayr Mount Historic Site. It sweeps alongside the banks of the Eno River, creating serene riverside lookouts, and features views of the Kirkland family cemetery, the old tavern foundation, and Hillsborough’s Old Indian Trading Path. A walk, run or stroll on the trail is perfect for history buffs, dog walkers and nature enthusiasts alike. You may also wish to bring a picnic basket to enjoy at one of the picnic tables nestled under hardwoods and pines, or on the beautifully landscaped grounds.