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Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area
Jones Gap State Park
Caesars Head State Park

NOTICE: This is a very strenuous hike and only recommended for the experienced hiker.
The Rim of the Gap Trail is closed at the point it connects with the 6/20
connector. Signs indicate boundary issues as well as some other

The Ultimate SC Day Hike Loop
by Jack Thyen (SCJack)

Water: Yes, Plenty of creeks, streams, rivers, and waterfalls throughout the hike.

Difficulty Rating: Strenuous: 9 out of 10 on the difficulty scale

Trail Quality & Enjoyment Rating: 10 out of 10 This is as good as it gets in South Carolina

Pros: Excellent Views, Impressive Waterfalls, plenty of cascading rivers and creeks, well blazed & easy to follow trails.

Cons: None, as long as you enjoy challenging and strenuous hikes. Not for the beginner!

Notes: The Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area is 40,000 acres of wilderness containing over 50 miles of the best hiking trails in the State of South Carolina. There is also access to the 80-mile Foothills Trail. The trails can be accessed via either Jones Gap State Park or Caesars Head State Park. A rough trail map of the area can be found on www.sctrails.net, but I would recommend stopping by the Caesars Head Park Store and purchasing a trail map for $2.10. You can also purchase the same map at Jones Gap, but the Jones Gap park office is rarely open.

As of October 2003, there is now a $2.00/person fee to acess the trails, and as always, you MUST fill out a hiker registration form before hitting the trails.

ver the past year I have hiked every mile of trail in the area. Here, I will describe what I consider The Ultimate South Carolina Day Hike Loop. This loop contains some of my favorite sections of trail in the area and should have everything you would want in a hike. Note: This is a very strenuous hike and only recommended for the experienced hiker.

Hike Route and Mileage:
Start at Jones Gap State Park
Jones Gap Trail - 0.2 miles
Rim of the Gap Trail - 0.4 miles
Pinnacle Pass Trail - 3.3 miles
6/20 Connector Trail - 0.1 miles
Rim of the Gap Trail - 2.5 miles
Frank Coggins Trail - 0.5 miles
Coldspring Connector - 0.3 miles
Coldspring Brach - 1.6 miles
Jones Gap Trail - 2.2 miles
Finish at Jones Gap State Park
Total Mileage = 11.1 miles

Hike Description:

Start out at the Jones Gap Trailhead, just past the park office. Remember to fill out a hiker registration form and place the designated copy in the box at the trailhead. The Jones Gap Trail follows along the Middle Saluda River full of rocks and roaring cascades of water. It is an excellent out and back trail for the beginner hiker. But, for this hike you turn left on to the Rim of the Gap Trail after only a couple of hundred yards. This is where the climb begins.

The Rim of the Gap Trail climbs steeply on a narrow trail over tree roots and rocks with some nice views of Cleveland Cliffs across Jones Gap. After 0.4 miles you will turn left on the Pinnacle Pass Trail. Another option is to stay on the Rim of the Gap Trail and skip the Pinnacle Pass. This will cut about 1.5 miles off the hike, but you will miss the awesome views from the Pinnacle Pass.

The Pinnacle Pass trail will take you on a climb of about 1200 ft, climbing over rocks, crossing countless small streams, and hugging the base of some huge granite cliffs. At times the trail becomes part of the stream making the rocks a little slippery. After about 1.5 miles, the steepest part of the climb is over and the trail opens up a bit. This is where you will see some of the most spectacular views in the area, even when the trees are full. There is one particular overlook with a small wooden guardrail, which I consider the best view in the area. This is a good spot to take a break and pull out the camera.

The trail continues mostly uphill, but with a more gradual slope and a wider track. The excellent views continue, and the trail eventually levels out making for a welcome change. At about 3.3 miles, the 6/20 connector trail will take you back to the Rim of the Gap Trail.

At this point the Rim of the Gap Trail starts out fairly level and easy, but that will soon change. After about a half-mile, you pass the John Sloan Trail Junction. Stay on the Rim of the Gap and begin a short, but steep decent. A few switchbacks make the decent a little easier. Here are some excellent wintertime views across Jones Gap where you can see Rainbow Falls on the opposite cliff. For the next two miles the Rim of the Gap trail will hug the base of the rocky south rim of Jones Gap. This two-mile stretch is my favorite section of trail in the area. After a short distance you will arrive at Weight Watchers Rock, a stack of huge boulders with a small rectangular opening for you to pass through. You will probably have to remove your pack in order to squeeze through. This trail is very rugged with lots of rocks, boulders, ladders, and tree roots to climb over. Numbers waterfalls will be spilling over the side of the cliffs and across the trail. Be careful, because some of these waterfall crossings can be slippery and dangerous. Towards the end of the trail you will be at the base off Cliff Falls, another one of the many photo opportunities along the trail. The last section climbs steeply to the top of the falls where the Rim of the Gap ends.

At the junction of the Frank Coggins, Naturaland Trust, and Rim of the Gap Trail, turn right and follow the Frank Coggins

Trail across the top of Cliff Falls and take the Coldspring Connector after about 0.3 miles.

The Coldspring Connector trails crosses a small stream, and then a short but steep climb before it descends to your first crossing of Coldspring branch. After another short climb you will meet up with the Coldspring Branch Trail where you will turn right to head back down to the Jones Gap Trail.

The Coldspring Branch Trails heads downhill most of the way following Coldspring Branch Creek, and crossing it a total of six different times. Some of these crossings can be a little tricky especially after a good rain. In addition, there are several smaller tributary crossings. There are numerous nice cascades to see along the creek. After 1.6 miles you will arrive back at the Middle Saluda River and the Jones Gap Trail, which you will turn right on to take back to the park.

The Jones Gap Trail is one of the easier trails in the Mountain Bridge Area, and its all a nice gradual downhill from here making it a good ending to your hike. It follows the Middle Saluda, which will offer you some good opportunities to take off your boots and socks and get your feet wet. Almost all the campsites in the area are along this trail, and you will most likely see a lot more people strolling around than on the other trails. At about a mile before the park, a short spur trail heads off to the left to the base of Jones Gap Falls. Don’t miss this no matter how worn out you are. Its no more than 100 yards or so out of you way, and it is one of the more impressive waterfalls in the area. After viewing the falls, head back to the trail and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Middle Saluda River for the final mile of your hike.

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: Near Greenville, South Carolina.
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. The trailhead is just beyond the park buildings and the second crossing of the Middle Saluda River.

To Caesars Head State Park: From Greenville, drive northwest on US 276, about 2 miles before the SC/NC state line.



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