December – Occoneechee Quarry

August_OV
Latitude 36º 3′ 52.67″ N/
August_CU/Longitude 78º 7′ 5.04″ W

How to get there:

DRIVING DIRECTIONS to Occoneechee Quarry from I-85: take Exit 164 and head north toward Hillsborough on Churton Street (Old NC 86). If you are exiting from I-85 north, then you will pass under the interstate on Churton St. In less than 0.2 miles, you will come to a stoplight. Turn left onto Mayo Street. Stay on Mayo St. until it T-intersects Orange Grove Road. Turn left and take Orange Grove Rd. for less than ½ mile. Look for the brown park sign and make a right onto Virginia Cates Road (gravel). The entrance to Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area will be just ahead. Continue on the park drive past the two ponds and park in the gravel lot on the left. The physical address is 618 Virginia Cates Road, Hillsborough NC 27278.

HIKING DIRECTIONS to Occoneechee Quarry Overlook: You have several options for getting to the overlook, but the quickest route is along the park drive. Head east out of the parking area and turn left on the park drive. This is the beginning of the Chestnut Oak Trail (blazed with orange circles). Follow the trail past the ranger residence and up the mountain. In 0.2 miles, you will reach the Overlook Trail (blazed in yellow circles). Turn right and follow the trail 0.15 miles out to the Quarry Overlook, the hidden for this month. This round-trip hike is approximately 0.75 miles.

HIKING DIRECTIONS to the base of Occoneechee Quarry: Again, you have several options, but the easiest route is to circle the mountain along the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail (blazed with red circles). This 2.2-mile trek will take you around the mountain and along the river to the base of the quarry before ending at the Occoneechee ponds. Turn left on the gravel road to get back to the parking area

About Occoneechee Quarry

Truthfully, all of Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area is a hidden gem. The mountain is the highest point from the Triangle to the North Carolina coast with the next highest peaks to the west being 75 miles away. This height is what fosters Occoneechee Mountain’s many unique plants and animals. It also provides a great place to see the sunset! From the Quarry Overlook, you can sit and watch the sun fade behind the western hills and catch a glimpse of the Eno River. Just remember to bring a flashlight and check the park’s closing hours before enjoying this treat.

Visit our website to learn more about the natural and cultural history of this gem: http://www.enoriver.org/what-we-protect/parks/occoneechee-mountain/.

Explore the geology of the abandoned quarry and the mountain at the NC Geologic Survey’s educational website: http://www.ncgeology.com/Eno_interactive_webs/Occoneechee_mtn_Main.html.

The photos below are a preview of the sites you will see on your visit to Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area. The bottom left photo (by Christopher Ammon) is of the abandoned quarry from the base of the mountain. The bottom right photo (by Joe Liles) is the view to the northwest from the Quarry Overlook

Have you been there? We are having a contest to see who can make it to all 12 locations in 2014. If you go, bring a camera and upload a photo to our Flickr photostream. Tag your photo as “Hidden Gems of the Eno” (you must use quotes around it!) and be sure to title each photo with your first name and last initial. Send an email to calendar@enoriver.org to let us know you are participating in the contest. We will honor those who make it to all of the locations at our annual calendar celebration at the end of the year and give you a special gift!