Jones Gap State Park: The Complete Guide

Jones Gap State Park
Jones Gap State Park. Dustin Ahrens / Getty Images
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Jones Gap State Park

303 Jones Gap Rd, Marietta, SC 29661, USA
Phone +1 864-836-3647

With mountain vistas, tumbling waterfalls, and pristine forests, the Upstate is home to some of South Carolina's most stunning landscapes, including Jones Gap State Park. Located just 25 miles north of Greenville, South Carolina and 45 miles south of Asheville, North Carolina, the park is part of the 13,000-acre Mountain Bridge Wilderness area and is home to over 60 miles of trails, two waterfalls, the scenic Saluda River, and 18 backcountry campsites. Jones Gap is a popular destination for trout fishing, bird watching, geocaching, and hiking, with options for beginner to advanced backpackers.

Things to Do

Jones Gap State Park offers several activities for visitors of all skills and ages making it an ideal day trip from Asheville or Greenville. The incredible hiking trails here will take you past misty, tumbling waterfalls and bubbling creeks through deep woodlands and to rocky cliffs overlooking lush countryside. In addition, the park's many freshwater creeks and rivers are teeming with brook, rainbow, and brown trout and all are open to anglers with a valid South Carolina fishing license. Learn more about the park's local water life at the Cleveland Fish Hatchery's fish pond, which showcases 60 to 80 trout complete with educational exhibits about the different species and the state's restoration efforts. Jones Gap also offers geocaching and birdwatching, plus trailside camping for those wishing to stay overnight.

The Great Woodland Adventure Trail and the Animal Discovery Den offer exploratory fun for the little ones in the group with 12 discovery activities and an interpretive center, complete with live animals. Then, when your family's had its fill, gather near the tent at Cliff Dwellers Gifts on a sunny day to hear local musician John Mason play his hammered dulcimer.

Best Hikes & Trails

Ranging from beginner-friendly strolls to expert-level hikes, the trails at Jone Gap State Park traverse through dense forests to mountain cliffs and majestic waterfalls. Some trails even have built-in staircases to accommodate the park's rugged terrain, giving you access to scenic overlooks at waterfalls and mountain vistas. All trails are also open to leashed dogs. Take care with your step after a rainfall, as the steep terrain can get slippery and dangerous, and thru-hikers and overnight campers must enter the park at least two hours before dark for safety reasons.

Rainbow Falls Trail: One of the park's most popular routes, this 4.4-mile out-and-back trail is a go-to for hiking and nature sighting. While the path starts out with a gentle, level path near the river, it quickly climbs more than 1,200 feet over rocky terrain to reach the summit: the dramatic namesake falls. Make a half-day of it with a picnic to enjoy at the top.

Jones Gap Falls: A favorite of families, this round-trip hike is moderately paced, with a well-maintained trail and long, flat stretches along with a bit of rocky terrain and some stream crossings to keep it interesting. The reward? A 50-foot waterfall that drops over granite ledges and is a favorite spot for post-hike dips and picnics.

Pinnacle Pass: One of the state's steepest trails, Pinnacle Pass is a 1o-mile trail that climbs over 2,000 feet in half a mile as it winds over mountain ridges and through forests, offering panoramic views of the Middle Saluda River and Jones Gap framed by craggy summits.

Hospital Rock to Falls Creek: For a challenging day hike, opt for the 6.2-mile trail that runs point to point from Jones Gap to Falls Creek. While strenuous—think stream crossings, rock scrambling, and steep ascents that climb nearly 4,000 feet—the hike rewards with swaths of mountain laurel and patches of wildflowers in bloom, sweeping mountain vistas, and two dramatic waterfalls. If you don't want to hike back, catch a ride or walk back along the less scenic but easier terrain of Jones Gap Road.

Freshwater Fishing

Jones Gap park offers some of the best freshwater fishing in Upstate South Carolina. The Middle Saluda River and its tributary, Coldbranch Spring, are home to wild and stocked brook, rainbow, and brown trout. Fishing requires a valid South Carolina fishing license, and only artificial lures and flies are allowed. Accessing the upper part of river requires hiking along the Jones Gap Trail, but the steep descent is worth the trek: the fast pocket water is teeming with trout and covered in a tree canopy that keeps both the water and people cool on warm days. Note that the section of the river from the footbridge at the Jones Gap State park line to Hugh Smith Road is catch-and-release only. The majority of the lower part of the river is on private property, but the public portion can be accessed via the U.S. Highway 76 Bridge in Cleveland.

Where to Camp

Jones Gap has 18 walk-in, trailside campsites available in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. The no-frills sites are only accessible on foot, and 14 offer fire pits. There are no water or electricity hook-ups. Advanced permits are required for all campsites and can be obtained by calling 1-866-345-PARK (7275) or reserving online. Same-day reservations must be arranged directly with the park, and all campers must check-in at least two hours before dark. Leashed pets are allowed in campsites, and there is one group campsite available, which accommodates 10-20 guests.

Where to Stay Nearby

  • Hotel Domestique, Traveler's Rest: Looking to splurge on accommodations? Experience European luxury in the heart of the Upstate at this luxury hotel owned by world-renowned cyclist George Hincapie. Just 13 miles from Jones Gap State Park, the property—with rustic hardwood floors, manicured lawns, and Tuscan-hued draperies and linens—has it all: guided bike excursions, seven golf courses, an infrared sauna, saltwater pool, and tennis courts, plus on-site fine dining.
  • Hampton Inn Greenville/Traveler's Rest: Located 18 miles south of the park, the Hampton Inn is a moderately priced option and a good choice for families. In addition to free parking, complimentary breakfast, and Wi-Fi, the hotel has an outdoor pool and fitness center and is close to the town's many shops, bike trails, galleries, and restaurants.
  • Best Western Traveler's Rest/Greenville: For those on a budget, this reliable chain in Traveler's Rest is a solid option. Rates are generally less than $100 per night and include a full breakfast and access to an indoor gym and outdoor pool. The park is only 20 miles (30-minute drive) away.
  • AC Hotel Greenville Downtown: Stay in the heart of downtown Greenville and within walking distance to major attractions such as museums, restaurants, independent boutiques, coffee shops, and the stunning Falls Park on the Reedy at this modern, high-end hotel. Hotel amenities include seven separate dining experiences—including a rooftop garden gin bar—as well as a fitness center and an art collection with over 100 works by local artists.

How to Get There

From downtown Greenville and Traveler's Rest, take Highway 276-W, then turn right on River Falls Road. Stay on that road for 5 miles and continue on Jones Gap Road to the entrance. The parking lot is on the right. Alternatively, take 276-W to 25-N to Gap Creek Road. Follow that road for 8 miles to Jones Gap Road and the park entrance and parking.

From downtown Asheville, take I-26 E for 26 miles. Take exit 54 for US 25-S for ten miles, then turn right on S-41/Gap Creek Rd. Follow that road for 5.5 miles, then turn right onto Jones Gap Rd/River Falls Road and follow to Jones Gap Road, then follow directions above.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Reserve parking in advance (which has an additional fee to the park entrance fee) if visiting before 2 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays. Spots will be held until 2 p.m.
  • Wear waterproof shoes, as many of the trails require stream and water crossings.
  • Consider bringing hiking poles to assist with scrambles and water crossings if hiking the park's more technical trails.
  • Be aware of the time. All trails close one hour before dark, and thru-hikers and overnight campers must enter the park at least two hours before close.
  • Keep all dogs leashed and on trails and dispose of all waste properly.
  • Stock up on camping supplies like firewood at the park's gift shop, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
  • Plan ahead with paper maps, as cell phone service is limited inside the park.
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Jones Gap State Park: The Complete Guide