If you’re looking for a mountain oasis, Jones Gap State Park in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area was made for you!
This park isn’t hard to reach but will make you feel as if you have been transported to another world filled with pristine water, majestic wildlife, panoramic mountain views, and tall trees to explore. No matter what outdoor activities you love, Jones Gap State Park will be just what you need.
We love this park because it offers intense back-country trails and expert-level exploring while also being the perfect family park.
It has an education center where the park rangers love teaching young ones about the surrounding area. It’s also a great park to learn how to fish! There’s a ton of rivers and streams throughout the wilderness area, so take your whole family to the park and build your perfect adventure.
Below we look at hiking, camping, fishing, waterfalls in the park, insider tips and more!
Hiking at Jones Gap State Park
Since Jones Gap State Park backs up to Caesars Head in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, there is a wide variety of hiking trails for all skill levels. Trails range from easy to strenuous and feature different nature highlights. For safety, visitors must register with the park before exploring the hiking trails. A few of the top recommended trails in the area are:
- Cleveland Connector is a 0.5-mile trail (see the trail map here)
- Hospital Rock #30 is a 4.4-mile trail (trail map)
- Rainbow Falls Trail is a 2.2-mile trail (trail map)
- Coldspring Branch is a 2.6-mile trail (trail map)
This list is non-exhaustive, but it gives a good view of the range of trail difficulties offered in the park.
Since the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area offers 13,000 acres of land to explore, you can visit Jones Gap State Park many times and never do the same trail twice, unless you fall in love with one that you just can’t stay away from!
Park hours are 9 AM to 9 PM daily, but all hikers must vacate the trails by 7 PM each day.
Camping at Jones Gap State Park
There are multiple primitive campsites located within the park that can be reserved for use. Visitors are not permitted to do drive-up camping without reservations, while camping in areas other than designated camping spaces can result in fines.
There are 18 trailside campsites in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, 14 of which permit fires in the pits provided.
In the backcountry camping spots, campers are asked to follow the “leave no trace” rules. That means what you bring into the site, you take with you when you leave. Make sure you’re packing out all garbage and food scraps. This policy helps keep our park’s animals safe from humans and vice versa. It also helps keep the beautiful acreage clean and ready for all to enjoy.
You can make a backcountry trailside camping reservation at Jones Gap State Park by clicking here.
Please note: there is no car camping or RV camping in this park. All sites are meant for backpacking or primitive camping experiences.
Geocaching at Jones Gap State Park
One of the best family-friendly activities in the park is Geocaching. Geocaching is using tools such as a GPS to find the coordinates of a hidden trinket or prize left by other geocachers.
In the mountains of Jones Gap State Park, there are many different geocaching areas. Your kids will love this activity because it feels like a treasure hunt! And you’ll love it because it makes hiking fun enough that you get to spend all day exploring the great outdoors. It’s a win-win for everyone!
If you haven’t tried geocaching, give it a go! It exists all over the world so it’s a great hobby to get kids into while they’re young because it turns exploring and hiking into something fun for them too! See what treasure hunts currently exist at the park by searching here.
Pro tip: bring your own small trinket to leave behind at the geocaching sites and you can take a treasure from each one! This is a great way to collect special souvenirs that your family will cherish for years to come.
Fishing at Jones Gap State Park
South Carolina offers fantastic freshwater fishing, and Jones Gap State Park is no different.
Visitors can catch Brook, Rainbow Trout, and Brown Trout in the area, as long as they have a valid South Carolina fishing license.
Fishing licenses are fairly simple to get and can be registered online, so don’t let that be a deterrent. You can start the process here.
Waterfalls at Jones Gap State Park
Jones Gap State Park features two 100 ft tall waterfalls that are practically begging to be marveled at! Enjoy the rushing water from a scenic mountaintop; just don’t forget to take a family photo in front of one of the waterfalls when you visit.
- Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls is 100 ft tall and the water free falls to the ground. It’s breathtaking and well worth a visit. There is a short 2.2-mile hike to this trail, but it’s well worth the effort. The trail isn’t too difficult and kids will be able to enjoy the sights along the way. See the trail map here.
- Falls Creek Falls
Fells Creek Falls is the same size as Rainbow Falls, but instead of free-falling, it flows over the rocky outcroppings from the mountain. However it’s just as stunning. The hike to get to the falls is only 1.7 mies, but the trail ascents 600 feet which makes it a moderate to difficult hike. See the trail map here.
One of the best things about this park is the effort they put into educating the public on the flora, fauna, and animals that live in the area, as well as a curriculum focused on conservation.
Jones Gap State Park is a Discover Carolina site, which offers education programs to South Carolina school children. The park has its very own learning center where it hosts educational programs. The learning center has a classroom and aquatic ecology lab for hands-on activities.
Planning Your Visit
The Mountain Bridge Wilderness Areas has so much to offer. It’s a great stop for a day trip, but if you decide to stay longer you’ll have no shortage of things to explore.
This is a hiking and backpacking haven with mountain views that will put your jaw on the floor. Make sure to book your reservations in advance if you do plan to camp, as you will not be able to do so on the day of your arrival.
This park is easily accessible and has so much to offer; it’s a must-add to your list of South Carolina State Parks. (Recommended: Hamilton Branch State Park: An Insider’s Guide).