Ahhh, the infamous Quarry Trail. Blazed in Light Blue, you have to park at the Cabe Lands trailhead and head down the Red Blazed Cabe Lands Trail to find it. Only about 80 yards down the trail, on the left, you’ll see a double-blazed (in red) tree, with the return loop of Cabe Lands – take it. You’ll go down and back up two gully’s, and find the Quarry Trail off to the left, with adequate signage to find it. Starting at that point, it is less than half a mile to the quarry itself, and less than half around the quarry. Figure just short of 2 miles from the trailhead, around the Quarry and back.
From the start of the Quarry Trail, it is a fairly level hike, that parallels the old Cabe Mill Access Road. In fact, back on the Cabe Land trail, just before you hit the Quarry Trail, you stepped into that old roadbed briefly. Look for it on your way back. At the point about 50′ shy of the large Warning sign, you might notice an old abandoned trail off to the right. It just goes along the bluffs overlooking the Quarry and peters out. Note swimming is (hehehe) NOT RECOMMENDED! But take head of the warnings anyway. Little is going to stop people from swimming here – I do – but the cliff diving can be dangerous, and people regularly get injuries from the submerged rocks, including one death back in the early 90’s from getting wedged in the rocks underwater. Use caution and common sense. Rangers do patrol this trail more than any other in the park by a large margin – alcohol infractions are most common, and they do not give many warnings.
Back on the trail, you’ll find a slight depression with two wooden steps on the far side, though most people simply sidestep them and climb the slope next to it. This depression is a crossing of the old Cabe Mill Access Road, abandoned in the late 1800’s. This roadbed can be seen easily if you’re looking for it, and can be followed all the way to the old Mill on the River. It is not maintained and can be tricky with fallen trees. A little further on, the trail actually follows this roadbed briefly, and it diverts off to the left again.
At the point where you have to climb down 4 wooden steps, this old Cabe Mill Access Road is immediately on your left, and you have climbed down into the historic Fish Dam Road, originally an Indian Trading Path, first noted by explorers in the mid 1600’s. Fish Dam Road connected the Shakori Indians at Eno Town on the Neuse River (now under Falls Lake) and the Eno-Occoneechee Indians in Hillsborough. It got the name Fish Dam due to the way they piled rocks in the river forcing the fish to swim in a narrow channel, easily netted. As you step into the roadbed, it branches off to your left (abouot 10 O’Clock) and fades out as it reaches a Trailer Park, and to your right (about 3 O’Clock) and veers left to re-cross the Quarry Trail further on.
For much of the 1800’s this was the only major road that connected Raleigh and Hillsborough, and is thought to have been an access route the Confederate General Johnston took to meet General Sherman (the rascally Union devil) at Bennett Farm nearby for the TRUE surrender of the Civil War. It also had its own Postal Route into the 1900’s before being abandoned to its present state in the early 1920’s, when the straighter and soon-to-be-paved National Highway came through, later called Hwy 10, then US 70 and ultimately I-85. The Fish Dam was reclaimed by nature.
After descending a slight hill, you cross Rhodes Creek which can be dry as a bone, or rushing with run-off depending on the rainfall recently, then climb the bank of the old Quarry, used between 1960 and 1964 to contruct the roadbed for I-85 between Durham and Greensboro. The Quarry Trail circles around the Quarry in either direction – I’ll describe it clockwise. Turning left, you’ll cross over the spillway for the Quarry – which it rarely does. The water is thought to be fed from a Spring at the bottom of the 80′ deep and near-vertically-sided Quarry. There is little input from other sources, yet it stays full in near drought conditions. As you approach the southwest corner, access into the Quarry is made easy with some ledges and step-like rock formations into the clear water. As you turn to the north (right) at that corner, you can spot the remains of the access road, and what looks like a gravel cul-de-sac. This is only used by Rescue personnel to take the injured to the hospital. (I did say to use caution, right?) The remains of this west side is used often for cliff-diving, and the northwest corner slopes to the waterline at what used to be the old access road. It also marks the junction with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to the left (White Blazes). The Quarry trail circles around to the right, straddled between the Eno River on the left and the Quarry on the right. It is at this point that you will find a few nice picnic spots away from the jumpers with a great view of the Quarry.
You complete the loop on the east side, overlooking the Rhodes Creek to your left. Most of this embankment was created to prevent the creek from overflowing into the Quarry. You’ll find the entrance/exit path back across the creek at the southeast corner. Retrace your steps back to the Cabe Lands Trail, turning right to head back to parking, or left to go downhill to the river – pick up this trail description on the Cabe Lands Trail.
NOTE: All trails marked with an asterisk (*) require access to it from another trail. Consult the maps to determine how best to reach this trail, or read the trail description for options and recommended combined trails. Mileages given here ADD to the distance required to access the trail from another.