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Hospital Rock – Falls Creek Falls Loop Continued

Option - Out and Back side trip Symmes Chapel (aka Pretty Place):

Note: Symmes Chapel is on the private property of Camp Greenville. The camp welcomes visitors to the chapel unless it is being used for a wedding or camp related activity. It’s a good idea to check with the camp before planning to hike to the chapel: (864) 836-3291. You can also visit the chapel via car, but I say, "Where's the fun in that!"

The Cleveland Connector is a nice level and wide track all the way. There is not a whole lot to see here, but after the agonies of the Hospital Rock climb this easy trail is a welcome break! The Cleveland Connector ends after 0.5 miles at a T-intersection with a dirt road (CCC Road). Turn left and just follow the dirt road for the next 1.4 miles. About half way, the road comes to a power line clearing which offers some excellent views. Keep following the dirt road until it ends up at Camp Greenville's paved road. Turn left here to arrive at Symmes Chapel and enjoy the breathtaking views of Jones Gap and the surrounding mountains and countryside. After taking a break to enjoy the view and read some of the many inspirational plaques on the chapels walls and columns, return to the Hospital Rock Trail the same way you came.

At the Cleveland Connector / Hospital Rock Trail Junction continue towards the East on the Hospital Rock Trail. After a short climb the trail levels out and follows an old logging road for a while before turning left and descending down to the Headforemost Creek Area. The next mile or so of trail consists of numerous short climbs, descents, and small stream crossings before reaching Falls Creek and turning into the Falls Creek Trail. There is no marking of exactly when the trail changes names and the blazes stay the same orange color.

 

The Falls Creek Trail takes you along the banks of Falls Creek and through lush tunnels of Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel. At the top of the Falls the trail heads west to begin a series of switchbacks down a really steep section of trail. There is a nice rocky area here that offers some excellent views. You can't see the falls, but the sounds of crashing water make their presence known. After the steep descent you will emerge at the base of Falls Creek Falls, and be treated to one of the most spectacular sights in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. The falls drop over 200-ft, and the view from this vantage point is amazing I highly recommend seeing these falls yourself. Even if you don't feel up to the full hike, you can make a 3-mile out and back trip (1.5 each way) from the Falls Creek Falls Trail head. At this point you will want to take a break to take some photos of this awesome display of nature. On a hot summer day, the cool mist as you cross the base of the Falls is very refreshing. A well placed cable and some rocks make the crossing fairly easy, but still a little scary.

The cable continues on the other side to help you up a short, but very steep and rocky climb. You get a few slightly more distant views of the falls through the trees from this part of the trail, before they disappear from view. The last mile of trail is mostly downhill with some nice views over the countryside and a few small creek crossings before ending at the Falls Creek Trailhead on Falls Creek Road.

A small parking area at the Falls Creek Trailhead make it possible to park a 2nd vehicle, or you can just enjoy a final 3 mile walk back to Jones Gap State Park along some paved roads (Falls Creek Road to Duckworth Road to Jones Gap Road). The roads are nice and level making for a good “cool down” after the strenuous hike. You will enjoy looking up to the north and seeing the mountain that you just finished hiking. There are also a few spots along Falls Creek Road where you can get a clear view of Falls Creek Falls from over a mile away, and as you get closer to Jones Gap State Park, you can see Symmes Chapel perched on top of Cleveland Cliffs.

Camping: Camping is allowed at 24 designated trail sites. Almost all of these are located close to Jones Gap State Park, or along the Jones Gap Trail. Fee/person is $4/night. Group sites can be reserved for 10 - 20 people. Registration is required. A heated restroom facility with hot showers is available for campers at Jones Gap Park. There are additional campsites along the Foothills Trail, which can be accessed via some of the Mountain Bridge Trails. Contact one of the Park Offices for more camping details:

Caesars Head State Park: 864-836-6115

Jones Gap State Park: 864-836-3647

Gettin’ There:

To Jones Gap State Park: From Greenville, drive northwest on US 276 to the junction of US 276 and SC11. Continue approximately one mile and turn right onto River Falls Road (Greenville County S-23-97), which changes to Jones Gap Road, and continue to Jones Gap State Park. From the parking lot, hike toward the park buildings on a short trail that crosses the Middle Saluda River. Turn right at the fishpond and the trail will be straight ahead.

To the eastern (Falls Creek) trailhead: After turning on River Falls Road from US276, go approximately 4 miles. Turn right on Duckworth Road. After about 0.7 mile turn right again on Falls Creek Road. After about a half mile a small parking area and the trailhead will be on your left.

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