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West stretch of Occoneechee Speedway dirt track past grandstands.

Riverwalk and the Occoneechee Speedway

August 17, 2021 Sarah Coggins
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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.

Gold Park

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.

Riverwalk heading under railroad crossing at Gold Park in Hillsborough, NC.

Hillsborough Riverwalk

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.

Riverwalk through downtown Hillsborough, NC.

The path took us past downtown Hillsborough, River Park, Occaneechi Indian Village, and the Hillsborough Urban Gardens.

Cedar poles encircling a replica of the Occaneechi Indian Village in Hillsborough, NC.

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.

Girl walking along dirt path of Mountains to Sea Trail through CHAPT area in Hillsborough, NC.

Occoneechee Speedway

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.

Two children walking along dirt path entry to the Occoneechee Speedway race track.

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.

Weaver Street Market sign in downtown Hillsborough, NC. The store is located just a few steps off Riverwalk making it a great spot to stop for break.
Locopops at Weaver Street Market in Hillsborough, NC.

Final Thoughts

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.

Map of hike along Riverwalk and around Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsborough, NC.

And somehow both kids had energy leftover to want to enjoy the playground at Gold Park when we returned!

Boy and girl enjoying the music play section at Gold Park in Hillsborough, NC.

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.

About Me


Hi! I'm a DIY and craft obsessed mom to 2. I have my hands covered in sawdust or paint any given day. My husband and kids join me in many of our projects. When we aren't creating at home, we're creating memories in our many adventures. Join along! Read More


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