My most Unusual Hike…….Occoneechee Speedway, Hillsborough,NC

Yes a speedway. Occoneechee Speedway was a yearly stop on the NASCAR circuit from 1948 to1968. It was built by Bill France two years before the official start of NASCAR. When it closed it was preserved by the city of Hillsborough and today is a hiking and walking venue in the city. Besides the dirt track which is just under a mile there are other trails that the patrons of the track used to move from point to point and there is a side trail that will take you out onto the Mountain to Sea Trail for a couple miles.

To make the drive worthwhile I started this cold morning at Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, near the track site. Occoneechee Mountain is the highest point in Orange County NC at 867 feet.

Ice on the water of the Eno River attests to the cold morning of this hike.

Occoneechee Mountain is named after the Occoneechi Indians a band of the Saponi Tribe who lived in the area before the arrival of Europeans. Part of Oconeechee Mountain was once a Quarry where pyrophyllite and Quartz was once mined.

From Wikipedia:
Pyrophyllite is a phyllosilicate mineral composed of aluminum silicate hydroxide.


The hiking was okay here. You definitely knew you were near the city. The Mountain sits near the junction of I-40 and I-85 so there is a lot of road noise. Once you get behind the mountain most of the noise dies away. Here the trail traces the course of the Eno River.

The trail then rises over the mountain to the old Quarry.

trail up Occoneechee Mountain.

up in the Quarry area

This trail is only about three miles so the day is just beginning. I take a quick drive into Hillsborough for the hike I came for, the Speedway. What an unusual place to hike! Besides the obvious mile track with the curves still banked, I then walked the Grandstand Path which took you past the ticket booth and grandstands.

The Flag stand at the start/finish line
ticket booth
The Grandstands

It was much like walking around in a ghost town. You could almost feel the cars and the people cheering. The Historic Speedway Group, a local non-profit has worked diligently on the restoration of the area. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Occoneechee Speedway was also known as The Orange Speedway. The name change came because no one could spell or pronounce Occoneechee consistently.

The race at Occoneechee was a crown jewel in the NASCAR series for most of it’s existence. Legends such as Fireball Roberts, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett, and Junior Johnson raced at the track and the final race in 1968 was won by Richard Petty.

Old race car. Gene Hobby was a local driver but did compete in thirty five races over two years 1964-1966
concession stand and press box.

After touring the track area, three miles of trails total! I went over the banking in turn 3 and hit the Mountain to Sea Trail for a couple miles or so. I hit a dead end at a roadway so I turned back. What an unusual and amazing adventure that day!

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