Ready for a slice of Western North Carolina dropped into the middle of the Piedmont?
Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area is just an hour from downtown Raleigh, yet its rhododendron thickets, mature oaks and rock formations heavily resemble the Appalachians —without the three-hour drive.
It’s got a bit of strange history behind it too. This “mini mountain,” also known as a monadnock (Pilot Mountain is another, more popular monadnock), formed hundreds of years ago from remnants of a prehistoric volcanic island arc. Some scientists say the plant and animal life is largely unchanged since the Ice Age.
The hiking is challenging but not overwhelming. More than three miles of marked trails offer views of soaring hawks, fishing ponds, river wildlife, plenty of peaks and valleys and the Eno River.
We recommend the Mountain Loop Trail.
If you go
Park admission: Free
Pets: Leashed dogs welcome
Find It: 625 Virginia Cates Road, Hillsborough, www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/ocmo/main.php
Take I-40 to I-85, then take exit 164; a few more quick turns and you’re there.
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