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Jones Gap State Park

Jones Gap is a 3,964-acre state park in northern Greenville County near the town of Marietta.  The park, along with adjoining Caesars Head State Park, is administered by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism as the Middle Bridge Wilderness.  The park is named for Solomon Jones, who according to legend, built a road from Caesars Head to Cedar Mountain, NC in the mid 19th century.

Contact Information:

303 Jones Gap Road
Marietta, SC 29661

Phone: (864) 836-3647
Fax: (864) 836-3647

GPS Coordinates: 35.12549,-82.56539

Directions:

From Greenville, go north on US-276.  Approximately 2 miles north of the junction with SC-11 (Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway), turn right at the park sign onto River Falls Road.  Continue on River Falls Road for approximately 6 miles past US-276 to enter the park.  The road name will change to Jones Gap Road.

Map:

Hiking:

There are more than 30 miles of hiking trails in the park and even more when combined with the trails in adjacent Caesars Head State Park.  Ranging from easy to strenuous, many of these trails lead to scenic waterfalls.  Descriptions of individual trails are below.

Jones Gap Trail #1:

Length:
Blaze: Blue
Difficulty:

Jones Gap Trail runs along the Middle Saluda River through the park.  The trail starts at the trailhead by the Park Office and terminates at US-276 in Caesars Head State Park.  I've only hiked the first mile of the trail to Jones Gap Falls.

Light along Jones Gap Trail

Rainbow Falls Trail #4:

Length:
Blaze: Red
Difficulty: Strenuous

Rainbow Falls Trail leads to its namesake waterfall on Cox Camp Creek.  The trail starts at a split from Jones Gap Trail, about a half-mile west of the trailhead.  The trail crosses Middle Saluda River on a footbridge and begins heading upstream along Cox Camp Creek.  The trail is very steep, but a number of switchbacks and stairs reduce the slope somewhat.  After passing by some cliff faces, the trail levels off a bit before approaching the waterfall.

Falls Creek Trail #31:

Length:
Blaze: Purple
Difficulty: Strenuous

Falls Creek Trail is currently the only way to reach Falls Creek Falls (Hospital Rock Trail is partially closed due to a landslide).  The trailhead is located outside of the park.  From the main entrance, backtrack on River Falls Road and turn left on Duckworth Road towards Palmetto Bible Camp.  Turn right on Fall Creek and park at the kiosk.  You must register to hike at the kiosk at the trailhead.  From the kiosk, the trail leads up along an old road.  The trail is quite steep for a while, then levels off as it crosses Little Falls Creek and then gets steep again before reaching the waterfall.

Waterfalls:

Falls Creek Falls:

Falls Creek Falls is a spectacular waterfall, but much less well-known than Rainbow Falls, perhaps because the trailhead is outside of the park.  From the Park Office, head back on River Falls Road and turn left on Duckworth Road towards Palmetto Bible Camp.  Turn right on Fall Creek and go just under a half-mile to the pullout at the kiosk.  Hike a little over 1.5 miles on Falls Creek Trail to waterfall.  It's a big waterfall and hard to see the entire thing.  When you reach the waterfall, you can climb down a bit to the base of the waterfall as in the first picture below.  Crossing the creek at the base of the waterfall leads to Hospital Rock Trail on the other side.  If you climb up a ways, you can find a spot in the middle of the waterfall for better views of the upper section as in the second picture below.



Jones Gap Falls:

Jones Gap Falls is a pretty 50-foot waterfall right in the middle of the park.  From the Park Office, hike west along Jones Gap Trail for about a mile to a short spur trail leading to the waterfall.  It's right after you cross Middle Saluda River on a footbridge near a couple of primitive campsites.  This waterfall is best seen during wet times; in dry weather, there probably isn't much of a waterfall to see.

Rainbow Falls:

Rainbow Falls is an amazing 100-foot waterfall on Cox Camp Creek and probably the most popular waterfall in the park.  From the parking lot, hike on the Jones Gap Trail following the Middle Saluda River upstread.  After just over half a mile, the trail splits - bear right to get on the red-blazed Rainbow Falls Trail.  The trail crosses the river via a footbridge and begins heading upstream along Cox Camp Creek.  Initially, the trail isn't too steep, but soon it veers away from the creek and begins to climb in earnest.  Several switchbacks reduce the slope somewhat, but it's still a very steep trail.  After a bit, you'll pass some steep cliffs and then the trail heads back towards the creek near the base of the falls.  Right before reaching the falls, there are a couple of stream crossings that can be tricky on wet rocks.  I first visited this waterfall right after a storm and during an especially wet summer, so the water flow was very high.  I couldn't get closer than maybe 30 feet from the base of the falls due to spray and very strong winds.  I visited again when the water level wasn't so high and it was still absolutely beautiful.

Rainbow Falls

External Links:

SC State Parks Website: http://southcarolinaparks.com/jonesgap/introduction.aspx

Photos:

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