Some of the best hiking trails in South Carolina are located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, 11,000 acres of pristine woodlands on the Blue Ridge Escarpment.
Jones Gap State Park, the northernmost property in the state park system, provides access to this forested wonderland and a 60-mile network of easy to strenuous trails that connect to the adjoining Caesars Head State Park. Trails from the park lead to 100-foot waterfalls, house-sized granite boulders, sheer rock cliffs and fantastic views of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, an abrupt wall of mountains rising from the lower Piedmont.
Two of the park's most spectacular trails are Rainbow Falls and Hospital Rock. Both are rated strenuous, but well worth the trek.
If you're not into hiking, you can still enjoy the quiet natural beauty of this out-of-the-way outdoor retreat. Running through the park is the Middle Saluda, the state's first designated scenic river.
Enjoy lunch on picnic tables overlooking the rushing water or bring your rod and reel and cast for wild brook, rainbow and brown trout from the river bank. A South Carolina fishing license is required to fish on the Saluda, as well as Matthews and Julian creeks.
The 3,346-acre park also features a busy learning center offering hands-on ecology lessons and a restored pool from the Old Cleveland Fish Hatchery.
Trailside backcountry camping is available at 24 primitive sites in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. Several of the sites overlook the Middle Saluda River. Hot showers are available in the park's heated restroom facility.
For more information on Jones Gap State Park, click here or call 864.836.3647.