To complete a requirement for Boy Scouts, our son planned a 5 mile hike for our family in Hillsborough, NC. We started at Gold Park and followed Riverwalk east to the Occoneechee Speedway. This ended up being a great family outing.
We’ve visited Gold Park previously to explore and let the kids play. There are easy trails to enjoy within the park, a nice playground, large field for games, and picnic areas. One of the perks of starting our adventure here is ample parking and restrooms. I highly recommend a quick visit there before beginning the journey if you want to complete the full 5 miles as we did.
Hillsborough Riverwalk aligns with part of the Mountains to Sea Trail as it connects Gold Park to the Occoneechee Speedway trails. It’s mainly hard surface (paved or wooden bridges/walkways) making for easy walking as well as accessible for strollers, bikes, and scooters. We saw quite a few families enjoying these as we walked through.
The path took us past downtown Hillsborough, River Park, Occaneechi Indian Village, and the Hillsborough Urban Gardens.
As we followed the trail into the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (CAHPT) area that includes Ayr Mount and the Occoneechee Speedway, the path turned to dirt. If bringing a stroller, be sure it’s one that can handle more ‘off roading.’ Thankfully, we’re past that stage and it was an easy walk for all 4 of us.
The Occoneechee Speedway dates back to the 1949 NASCAR Inaugural Season. It is the only remaining dirt track from that time. You can walk the 1 mile loop either direction. We chose to follow the path the cars would have taken.
On the west side, history comes to life with the grandstands, a concession stand, and a couple of rusted cars. Climb to the top of the grandstand to take in the view. Here you can almost see the cars racing past and hear the sounds of the fans cheering.
Things to know:
- There is a small parking lot off Elizabeth Brady Road to access the Speedway if you want a shorter walk.
- No bathrooms, water fountains, etc are available at the Speedway. Plan ahead for stops and carry your own water & snacks.
- Depending on time of year, wear bug spray. We didn’t have any major issues, but you are in a natural area and bugs are to be expected.
Quick Break for a Cool Treat
On our return walk to Gold Park, we detoured off Riverwalk into downtown Hillsborough for a quick stop at Weaver Street Market. I chose this spot intentionally knowing they sold LocoPops and had outdoor seating. All 4 of us enjoyed the break and cool, sweet treat before heading back to the trails and completing our hike.
All in all, our adventure took us under 2-1/2 hours including our stop at Weaver Street Market. We were all solidly tired by the end, but excited that we managed to complete it. Especially our youngest. At 6 years old, this was a good hike for her.
And somehow both kids had energy leftover to want to enjoy the playground at Gold Park when we returned!
If you are looking for an outdoor, family friendly adventure in the Triangle, we definitely recommend exploring Riverwalk and any or all of these spots.