Occooneechee Mtn. State Natural Area
Highest Point in Orange County, North Carolina
Facts & Figures
Address: 625 Virginia Cates Rd, Hillsborough, NC 27278
Size: 206 acres
Hours: Open daily from 8:00am to 9:00pm
Phone: (919) 383-1686
Management: North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Division of Parks & Recreation
Located in Hillsborough, North Carolina in Orange County, Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area is 206 acres and features Occoneechee Mountain, the highest point in Orange County, rising more than 350 feet above the Eno River below. It is a spectacular place for hiking and sightseeing. The area offers several hiking trails, including the 2.2-mile Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail around the mountain. It also offers access to the Eno River below for fishing, as well as picnic tables in a grassy knoll near the main parking lot. The Occoneechee name comes from Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. With its central location to the Triangle area of North Carolina, it is easily accessible from Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, just off of Interstate-40.
On Saturday, May 16, 2020 I loaded up our four children and made the one-hour drive to Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area from our home near Clayton, NC. This was our first hike of 2020 and first hike in more than six months, due to COVID-19 and the closure of most of North Carolina’s State Parks. We began making our way up on the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail, then connected the with Chestnut Oak Trail to the Overlook Trail. It was about a 1.1 mile hike to the scenic overlook and took us about 30 minutes to hike. When we arrived to the scenic overlook, it was taped off with caution tape to prevent people from congregating and to enforce social distancing, so unfortunately we weren’t able to experience the overlook along the Eno River down below. However, we were able to find some large rocks to take a break for some snacks before making our way back down to the parking lot. Altogether, it was a 2.25-mile hike that our 9-year old son, 7-year old daughter, 4-year old daughter, and 1-year old son were able to make on their own fairly easily. They were so proud that they had hiked “up a mountain” and I was even more proud of them for doing so. Afterward, we treated ourselves to milkshakes and slushies from the local McDonalds on our drive back home.