Hillsborough Day – Occoneechee Mountain and Mystery Brewing

Occoneechee Mountain is a very popular hiking destination in the Triangle. While there are only a few miles of trails in this State Park, it has much to offer, including the mighty waters of the Eno and Occoneechee “Mountain” itself – which at 867 feet, boasts the title of the highest point in Orange County.

On this beautiful Saturday in August, we elected to make a full day out of hiking Occoneechee, by ending the hike at Mystery Brewery Company. We also had the fortune of having our dear friends Patrick and Marissa join us for the adventure.

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Riverwalk Overlooking the Eno. Near the Starting Point

We started the hike in downtown Hillsborough, beginning on the Riverwalk, a paved trail along the Eno River. About 500 feet before the Riverwalk trail hits Eno Mountain Road, it turns to a trail, which is currently marked as “closed”. Don’t worry – we had no issues bushwhacking it through. We took Eno Mountain Road across the Eno River, and quickly made a right onto a gravel trail which led us to Occoneechee Mountain State Park. There are several hiking options once at the park. We elected to start along the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail, then take the Brown Elkin Knob Trail to the Cheshnut Oak Trail (with a pit stop atop Occoneechee Mountain), which hits the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail to finish back to where we started. Basically, this enabled us to cover a lot of ground, and still see the top of top of Occconeechee Mountain, which we would have missed had we just done the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail on its own. See the trail map below for specifics.

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Trail Map – Full Map Here

If you haven’t been to Occonneechee yet, you should. The elevation changes make it a truly unique hike in the Triangle, and the view atop Occonneechee isn’t to be missed. If you want to skip the Riverwalk part of the hike, you can make it much shorted, by just starting in the Parking area at the south area of the park.

We exited the park in the same area we started and headed back towards town via Eno Mountain Road, turning on Dimmocks Mill Road, and then Nash Street where Mystery Brewing Company’s “public house” is (you’ll pass the brewery itself on Dimmocks Mill Road, but its not open to the public).

This was probably the 4th time I’d been to Mystery Brewing Company, and each time I’ve been I’ve liked it more than the last. I was unimpressed several years ago when their offerings where limited, and mostly Belgians. They have since grown their offerings, with over a dozen options of continuously changing options available, of all types of beers (though Belgians are still their primary focus). At any given time they have a “Core Four” of four seasonally rotating drafts available, and “Novellas” which continually rotate and are often more experimental in nature. Also a couple of guest taps to boot.

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Mystery Brewing Company’s Draft Offerings

Sarah and I started with a couple of “Cour Four” beers – the Lockwood’s Retreat (IPA), and Evangeline (Summer Saison). Both were quite tasty, but especially the Evangeline – their Saison’s have never let us down. As one of their guest taps they had Wicked Weed’s Pernicious IPA, which we simply couldn’t pass up for our next beer. Patrick was a little more adventurous and tried a Novella – the “Karass”, a Lime Basil Wit. It didn’t hit the mark for any of us, but I do like that they experiment, and I have no doubt someone enjoyed it immensely.

To finish out the hike, we left Mystery Brewing and headed north on Nash until we hit King Street, which we took into town, admiring the historic houses (some dating back to the 18th century) along the way. If you still have time to kill I recommend grabbing some food (and maybe even another beer or two) at The Wooden Nickel, a quaint little beer bar that is my favorite in all of the Triangle. I’ll save a post for that on another day so I have an excuse to go back there!

Hike Info:

  • MapMyFitness Link
  • Starting Point: Parking Deck next to Weaver Street Market (228 S Churton St, Hillsborough, NC 27278)
  • End Point: Same
  • Length: 6.5 Miles
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (excluding beer break)

Brewery Info: Mystery Brewing Company (230 S Nash St, Hillsborough, NC 27278)

  • Number of Beers: 14+ – (4 rotating seasonals, 8+ constantly rotating experimental beers, ,2 guest taps)
  • Favorites: Any Saison
  • Prices: Decent ($5 for a pint, $3.50 for a 10 ounce pour).
  • Food: Meat and cheese plates
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Mystery Patio and Euchre Domination

Cox Mountain + Fanny’s Ford Loop – Eno River State Park

If you are only going to do one hike on the Eno River, this should be it. IMG_2957
It’s a great 4.5 mile loop showcasing some gorgeous river views, steep ridges, and the famous suspension bridge. From the Few’s Ford parking lot, start on Cox Mountain Trail, following signs to the footbridge. After crossing, take a right towards Fanny’s Ford Trail, and follow that until you hit Cox Mountain Trail, taking a right to make a full loop. You could skip the Fanny’s Ford portion to shorten the trip down by a mile, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as these are my favorite river views in the park. Definitely pack some water as the later portion of the Cox Mountain Trail passes over a surprisingly tall ridge. This is a popular trail, so expect to see people, especially the closer you are to the parking lot.

Hike Info:

  • MapMyFitness Link
  • Starting Point: Few’s Ford Picnic Area (6101 Cole Mill Road Durham, NC)
  • End Point: Same
  • Length: 4.5 Miles
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 1.5 Hours
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Trail Map
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Starting Point

Pea Creek + Dunnagan Trail Loop – Eno River State Park

The Eno River State Park is just a few miles from Sarah and I’s house and is our favorite local place to hike. This particular trail is one of our favorites in the park. At 3 miles, its a perfect distance, spending half of its time along the river, and the other half along a ridge. The trail is well maintained, though on this particular day the bugs and spider webs were worse than usual, probably just due to the time of year. This is a particularly beautiful area of the river. Also, be sure to stop and take a look at the Dunnagan family grave plots along the northern part of the loop.

Hike Info:

  • MapMyFitness Link
  • Starting Point: Cole Mill Parking Lot, at the end of Old Cole Mill Road, Durham, NC
  • End Point: Same
  • Length: 3.1 Miles
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 1 Hour
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Trail Map
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Starting Point
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River Shot
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Dunnagan Grave