Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

190 acres in Orange County


Orange County


190 acres



Topographical maps are available by contacting:
NC Geographical Survey.
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612.
(919) 715-9718


Eno River State Park
6101 Cole Mill Road
Durham, NC 27705
(919) 383-1686


Occoneechee Mountain is managed as a satellite of Eno River State Park. Park rangers hold regularly scheduled education and interpretive programs at Occoneechee Mountain.  The natural area contains nearly two miles of trails, but no developed faclities. 


In 1997, the North Carolina Chapter purchased 59 acres of Occoneechee Mountain in two tracts from Virginia Cates Bartow and Nacey Cates Beard and transferred the property to the Division of Parks and Recreation.  In 1999, The Nature Conservancy purchased another 37 acres from Fred Cates as an addition to the natural area.



Occoneechee Mountain is the highest point in Orange County at 867 feet.  From the summit you can see the lush green carpet of the Eno River floodplain forest, spread out below you and the quaint housetops and steeples of Hillsborough poking above the forest canopy.  The mountain is a monadnock and a part of a series of knobs and ridges that run through the southwest part of the county.  

One of the most significant areas on the mountain, the Panther's Den ravine, extends from 700 feet from the north-facing slope of the mountain.  The ravine is constantly shaded, creating a damp, cool microhabitat that supports the unusual mountain spleenwort.  Mountainous plants thrive in this environment; regionally rare Catawba rhododendron and mountain laurel form dense thickets, and galax covers much of the north face of Occoneechee.  Several plant species, including Bradley's spleenwort and wild sarsaparilla, reach the eastern edge of their range at Occoneechee Mountain. 

As part of the Eno River valley, Occoneechee Mountain is an important wildlife corridor.  The area's chestnut oaks and heaths provide mast (acorns and berries) for animals such as the ground hog, deer, and wild turkey. A healthy population of the brown elfin butterfly inhabits the dry habitat on the summit and upper slopes.  This population is located 100 miles from the population in the mountains and is thought to be a relic from the last ice age.

Hiking / Birding / Wildflowers / Fishing / Picnicking

The natural area is a good birding spot in the spring:  American woodcock, and yellow-throated warbler and Cooper's hawk (a species of special concern in North Carolina) have been documented in this area.

The park has several nice, easy loop trails with good views of the Eno River; follow the signs to those trails.  The best view is from one of the loop trails, atop a Civil War-era quarry, overlooking the Eno.

Restrooms and picnic tables are available at the parking lot.


To reach the park from I-85 south of Hillsborough take exit 164 off of I-85 , turn north onto Churton Street and then turn left at the stoplight onto Mayo Street. Turn left at the stop sign onto Orange Grove Road.  Turn right onto Virginia Cates Road and follow the signs to the parking area.


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