Jones Gap State Park - Rainbow Falls (4-28-15)
Rainbow Falls at Jones Gap is one of those places you have to experience to truly appreciate. I could write paragraphs touting its incredible beauty but until you actually stand beneath its 100' watery veil surrounded by its towering, color-streaked cliffs but those words would only touch on what a wondrous place this is. Also, on this hike, the journey was every bit as wonderful as the destination.
Beginning from the tiny parking area at the entrance to Jones Gap State Park the route to the falls starts out quite gently. For 3/4 of a mile the path journeys first past the old CCC-era visitor center and along the wonderfully wild and rugged Middle Saluda River. Keeping a close eye out for the unmarked trail junction, the red blazed Rainbow Falls Trail then breaks right, crosses the Middle Saluda and attacks the ridge. For the next 1.5 miles to the falls the path is quite a workout, though never overwhelming for the seasoned mountain hiker. An impressive variety of wildflowers, a forest in recovery from recent fires, rock cliffs, brief but stunning views across Jones Gap, and then the spectacular 100' Rainbow Falls itself...all are natural wonders which will compete for you attention along the way. In short, this hike has just about everything one could want from a path in the southern mountains. Come on along with me on what, to me, is possibly the best short day hike I've ever taken in the South Carolina Upstate...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates:35.125438, -82.570374
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: HARD
Hike Length: 5.0 miles Hike Duration: 2:15
Trailhead Temp: 65'F Trail Traffic: 10-25 people
Min. Elevation: 1,350' Max. Elevation: 2,600'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,250' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 500'
Trails Used (blaze color): Jones Gap (blue), Jones Gap Access (unblazed), Rainbow Falls Spur (red)