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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.