Nestled in the woods of Hillsborough, you’ll find NASCAR’s last remaining dirt track, as well as rusty remnants of the inaugural 1948-49 season. The Occoneechee Speedway, a 44-acre site on the National Register of Historic Places, once seated up to 5,000 spectators and hosted legendary drivers like Glen “Fireball” Roberts, Richard Petty, Fonty Flock and Junior Johnson during its glory days between 1948 and 1968.
When it opened, the speedway attracted thousands of spectators and was referred to as the Occoneechee/Orange Speedway. The only 1-mile oval dirt track on the Eastern seaboard between two other tracks in Atlanta and Langhorne, Pennsylvania, the speedway served as one of NASCAR’s primary auto racing venues.
Now visitors walk instead of drive the 1-mile oval, which is part of a 3-mile trail that navigates tall pines, blackberry thickets and mossy undergrowth surrounding the track and along the banks of the Eno River. Take the trail to the speedway’s old ticket booth and concession stand. And when you need a rest, climb the old stairs up into the original grandstand and take a seat. If you use your imagination, you may just hear the sounds of vintage stock car engines racing by.
The trail is not accessible after sunset. Be sure to put on bug spray.