Jones Gap State Park - Good Peaceful Hiking
Jones Gap is run by South Carolina State Parks system, and is part of the larger Mountain Bridge Wilderness. It has so much to offer. The Middle Saluda River is the centerpiece for the park. Not only is it a soothing backdrop for a family picnic, but it offers great fishing for brook, rainbow, and brown trout. To fish for wild trout, you will need a valid SC fishing license.
There is camping available in backcountry primitive sites for a fee. There are 24 designated sites, most with fire pits. None are accessible by car as they are located on the many hiking trails. Check in at the park office at least 2 hours before sunset, so you have time to reach your site.
Jones Gap trail is an easy to moderate trail, following the beautiful Middle Saluda River upstream from the picnic area. It's a 5.3 mile (8.5 km) path following the old road bed of Jones Gap Road, which was a toll road built in the 1840's by Solomon Jones, a man with quite an aptitude for building roads. In spite of building the road grade by sight and "feel", instead of using instruments, his work has been called the perfect road.
Hospital Rock Trail is also quite popular. This is a strenuous 4.4 mile (7.1 km) trail, up the side of the mountain and across the ridge. I have used the first 2.2 miles (3.5 km) of this trail and the Cleveland Connector to hike from Jones Gap State Park to Pretty Place, an open sided chapel at Camp Greenville, on top of the mountain. About a mile into this trail, you reach Hospital Rock. This is a house sized boulder, with space to stand under it for shelter. It's said that Civil War deserters used to hide here.
Normally, hikers will take Hospital Rock Trail over to Falls Creek, and on to the junction with Falls Creek Trail. From where the two trails meet, it's 1.7 (2.7 km) miles to Falls Creek Road. Along the way, you'll see the spectacular Falls Creek Falls, a waterfalls of several hundred feet. Once at Falls Creek Road, if you don't have a second car there to drive back to the parking lot, it will take a 6 mile (9.7 km) hike back, whether you take the trail or the road, but the road would be easier.
There are other great trails at the park such as Pinnacle Pass and Rim of the Gap. Stop at the park office on your arrival and they'll have trail guides and and any recent information on trail closures.
How do you get to Jones Gap State Park? From Greenville, take US 276 all the way through Travelers Rest and Marietta. Several miles after Highway 11 merges, you'll see a large sign for the park at River Falls Road. Turn right and go a little over 5 miles (8 km) straight into the park. The admission fee is a bargain at $2 per person, payable at the self service boxes in the parking lot.
Be aware that parking is rather limited. This can cause some waits on weekends, especially in the fall. A ranger will queue up cars at the entrance until someone leaves and a parking space is available.
State Parks in South Carolina are excellent. If you're in the upstate, Jones Gap State Park would be worth the stop. Whether you fish, picnic, backcountry camp, or just plain like to hike, this serene mountain cove with its stunning waterfalls and rivers will leave you with memories that will make you want to return, often!
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Natural Flowing River
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Nature's Hiking Trail
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