UNIQUE PLACES SERIES

Today we take you to Hillsborough where you can enjoy a bit of riverside nature, have a healthy lunch, and roam an old NASCAR Speedway – no driving required!

A scenic river hike, followed by a heathy and delicious lunch, and ending with a race in the woods – what more could one ask for on a warm and sunny day!

HILLSBOROUGH RIVERWALK
Nash and Kollock Streets.

The Hillsborough Riverwalk is a cool and shaded greenway that stretches about 1.8 miles along the scenic Eno River. It is a popular trail for walking, jogging and cycling, and provides pedestrian connections between several neighborhoods. 

The greenway’s downtown portion is the primary route of the N.C. Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and the first section of the statewide trail system to be constructed in Orange County. Riverwalk also is one of the few sections of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail located in an urban environment, giving users easy access to restrooms, restaurants and shopping.

The main access to Riverwalk is adjacent to the free Eno River Parking Deck at the end of Nash and Kollock Street. Simply exit the parking lot and you are on a pedestrian bridge that crosses the mighty Eno.

There is much to see and do as you wind along the river sometimes getting a glimpse of a heron fishing or a turtle sunning. And there are signs along the way that identify the many varieties of trees and plants that call this home and some that tell a story of an era mostly now forgotten. Stay on the trail long enough and you will pass under an old railroad trestle that is still in use today. Tarry here a while and a train may pass right over you. Go a little further and the landscape will be transformed into a 20-acre park with a playground, dog park, multi-use fields, picnic tables, picnic shelters, natural areas, a pollinator garden and bee hotels, and restrooms,

And after you retrace your steps it might well be time for a bite to eat and something to drink.

WEAVER STREET MARKET
228 South Churton Street

The Weaver Street Market is adjacent to the same Eno River Parking Deck where you parked your car. Their many offerings include a food bar and bakery where they make handcrafted bread with organic flours from Lindley Mills in Graham, North Carolina, and from Carolina Ground in Asheville.

Their kitchen staff prepares fresh food daily for their hot bar and salad bar, as well as packaged items like sandwiches and soups for Grab N Go.

And perhaps the best part is their large open-air dining area with tables, chairs, and umbrellas, where you are welcome to bring your purchases and enjoy a tasty and healthy lunch with old or new friends. A favorite gathering place for both visitors and residents and pet friendly too!

OCCONEECHEE SPEEDWAY
320 Elizabeth Brady Rd.

Walk in the opposite direction along the Eno River Trail for about a mile (3 minutes by car) and you will find the historic Occoneechee Speedway, one of the first NASCAR tracks to open. However it closed its doors for good in 1968 and today is the only dirt track remaining from the inaugural NASCAR season back in 1949.

A farm originally occupied this spot in the late 19th century. The farm was named after the Occaneechi Indians that lived in the area in the late 17th century and late 18th century.

The Occoneechee Speedway once hosted stock car racing legends such as Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson. However the controversial Sunday racing schedule prompted grassroots opposition in Hillsborough and the final race was a Richard Petty victory on September 15, 1968.

In 2003, 35 years after the track closed, local preservationists started restoring the dirt track. They also constructed walking trails with informational posts along the way detailing the tracks history. Through their efforts, signs of racing are becoming evident. Concrete spectator stands and other buildings have been unearthed, and a few hundred feet of the once famous clay track are embedded into the walking trails.

The old facilities that once helped operate the track including the flag stand, ticket office and outhouses are in the process of being restored to preserve them for many years to come.

The Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail is under the care of Classical American Homes Preservation Trust and are located beside the Eno River (across the river from the location of the Ayr Mount historic house).