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Mountain Bridge Wilderness

Skill:

Easy to Advanced

Water:

 Filter it, of course. Middle Saluda River and other streams

Pros:

 Many combinations of hikes, many loops, waterfalls 

Cons:

Crowds

Notes:

The most complex trail system in South Carolina. Well marked trails, reserved back country camping and bridged water crossings are some of the nicer features here. This area include Cesar's Head State Park and Jones Gap State Park

The Ultimate Loop | Hospital Rock Trail

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Jones Gap State Park

As drove up to Jone Gap State Park gate, I was stopped by a Park Ranger. Thirty minute wait, he declared in a pleasant tone. It was Saturday and I was expecting the short delay at the gate. A small price to pay for my favorite hiking destination in South Carolina. I'd rather they limit visitors than ruin this pristine wilderness with throngs of crowds.

 
 

Extensive Trails

Located in the South Carolina Upcountry, this area encompasses two state parks and more than 10,000 acres. Access to this area can be had from either Cesar's Head State Park or Jones Gap State Park. The name Mountain Bridge refers to the two watersheds that are within the boundries of this area, The Table Rock watershed and the Poinsett watershed. This is the most extensive trail system in South Carolina. Most of the trails are well marked and easy to follow. They trails range from easy creek hikes to strenuous loop hikes that can take all day. What makes this a fun destination is that most anyone of any hiking skill level can enjoy this area.

On any weekend with good weather, many people from all walks of life congregate at the trailhead. Most of the swimming holes for the fist mile of the Foothills Trail are occupied by "regular" people from the Greenville South Carolina area. Next to the North Carolina border, this area has elevations that range from 1400 feet along Oil Camp Creek to 3260 feet at Cesar's Head State Park. Just over the border of North Carolina, a few short miles away, are 5000 foot peaks. Because of the sudden elevation change in just a few short miles, this area is the home to an stunning variety of waterfalls. The elevation change allows for a wonderful variety of plant life, more than 400 species in all. There are some rare varieties as well, some only found in this area.

 
 
 

The Forest

Unlike much of South Carolina, most of the forest here is a Cove Hardwood Forest ecosystem. More common to the higher elevations in North Carolina, it is present here in the South Carolina Upcountry. Two state records, the Fraser Magnolia and Mokernut Hickory can be found here. Some other typical trees of this forest include the yellow buckeye, Cucumber tree, Eastern Hemlock and White Basswood. Because of its soft, fine grain, basswood is highly valued by wood carvers. The rich moist soil and prevailing cool conditions also contribute to an abundance of ferns and wildflowers some of which are rare in South Carolina. These include Dutchman's' Pipe, Blue Cohosh and Walking Fern. Among the most common animal in this forest are salamanders. The largest of these the Black Bellied Salamander can sometimes be seen along the edges of the smaller streams. Several species of birds frequent the area including the tiny Black Throated Green Warbler and the brightly colored Scarlet Tanager.

 

 

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