Rainbow Falls, Jones Gap State Park

Since I mentioned Jones Gap State Park in the last post, I'll jump ahead to a recent hike we took at the park during a recent visit to the Upstate.

It's difficult to capture the essence of the mountainous portion of the Upstate in words. Those traveling along Wade Hampton Boulevard in Greenville can look northward in some places and see a ridge rising dramatically along the horizon. This view is even clearer at locations along Highway 14 and 101. It is a part of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, where the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountain range suddenly drops off as if the rest collapsed and inexplicably disappeared.

Hogback and Glassy Mountains as seen from Hwy 14
The formation of the escarpment, from erosion and/or the collision of land masses, is another post (see Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas by Stewart and Roberson). For the purpose of this post, the information is important because within the inner boundaries of the escarpment, one finds a rugged, rocky terrain once occupied by the Cherokee; history involving moonshine and deserters from both sides during the War Between the States; shallow, scenic rivers strewn with boulders; waterfalls, and several state parks established to preserve these resources, including Jones Gap.

Several sources claim Jones Gap is named after Solomon Jones, who reportedly cleared a road between Caesar's Head and NC's Cedar Mountain. 1 Today, Caesar's Head and surrounding acres, including Jones Gap, are part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness. Instead of hand-cut roads reclaimed by nature (or perhaps because of them?) the aptly-named wilderness is connected by a series of trails, several of which we've hiked over the years. Our destination on this visit: Rainbow Falls.

Parking is limited at Jones Gap, so arrive early or plan a visit during the week. We hiked mid-week, and we easily found a parking spot in the shady lot located near the Middle Saluda River. From the trailhead beyond the visitors center, we hiked a portion of the Jones Gap Trail to the fork that would take us to Rainbow Falls.

Copyright 2013 Kimberli Buffaloe

Copyright 2013 Kimberli Buffaloe
The 1.6 mile trail (from the cut-off) with a steep gain in elevation is rocky and strenuous at times, and we passed several kids and young adults who couldn't take the exertion. But it's scenic and hikers who make it to the end are treated to a lovely waterfall situated in an alcove of layered rock.

Steep elevation gain (Copyright 2013 Kimberli Buffaloe)
Lower View of the Falls

Upper View
As always, please be careful around wet rocks and waterfalls. They're beautiful, but they're simply not to be trusted. Take care while crossing streams, even if the rock appear to be dry.

Also, when visiting any park, state or national, don't leave valuables in your vehicle, especially if they're visible. Though the parking lot is small and there were few visitors that day, a lady we'd passed several times during the hike returned to discover someone had broken into her car and stole her purse. This doesn't reflect on the park--I heard the same warning from a ranger at the Grand Canyon. It reflects on people. Like wet rocks, some just cannot be trusted. Secure your valuables and have a great visit.

 For more information on Jones Gap, go to

More more information on the history of what once was known as the Dark Corner, read:

The Dark Corner: A Documentary and Distilling the Mysteries of Hogback Mountain

Used To Be A Rough Place In Them Hills: Moonshine, The Dark Corner, And The New South


1. History Resides in Jones Cemetery, pg 4,


Eric McCarty said...

Great post Emily. I need to make the trip to Rainbow soon.

Kimberli said...

It's a great hike. Exhausting at times, but well worth it. Enjoy!