Hike: Occoneechee Mountain
Location: Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area
Nearby Town: Hillsborough
Elevation (Max): 867'
Elevation Gained: 455'
Trailhead: Take either Exit 261 from I-40 or Exit 164 from I-85. Head north on Old North Carolina 86. Turn L on Orange Grove Rd. Turn R on Virginia Cates Rd, park in the dirt lot.
Web Site: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/ocmo/main.php
At 867 feet, Occoneechee Mountain is the highest point in the Triangle. It provides a nice workout compared to relative flatness of many Triangle hikes. There are trail maps at the trailhead along with a pit toilet. The trail is mostly dirt with occasional gravel.
The trail leaves the parking lot going up and eventually skirting around the summit. It then curves around the far side of the mountain along the Eno River before arriving at an imposing view of the old quarry that was here.
The trail then climbs to an overlook from the top of the quarry, which was closed when we were there due to instability and rock slides.
The hike continues to the summit along a gravel auto road. The summit is not very impressive with no views to speak of, and the summit is dominated by a large communications tower. Backtrack to the Cox Mountain Loop and continue around the mountain through thick stands of mountain laurel--rare in the Triangle, past two ponds, and back to the parking lot. A hike at Occoneechee is best followed up with an ice cream at the nearby Maple View Farms. Below is a GPS-generated map of this hike.