This past June, I took my cousin who was visiting for the weekend to one of our state parks for a hike. Jones Gap State Park is about 20 minutes from my house and the drive there is beautiful. The park has an entrance fee of $5 for adults and $3 for children aged 6-15 unless you have a wonderful Park Passport like I purchased at the beginning of the year, in which case you just drive right on in. Jones Gap connects to another state park, Caesar’s Head, and you can actually hike between the two of them (but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart). The Middle Saluda River runs through it and there is lots of fishing to be had there. In fact there was actually a fish hatchery exhibit and trout pound when we first entered the park.
There are 60+ miles of trails at the park, but we decided to do the Jones Gap Falls trail which is 5.3 miles one way (10.6 miles total). I decided not to wear hiking boots and just wore some sneakers I run in instead, but by the end of this long hike I was wishing I had worn some boots just for the extra ankle support. I ended up twisting my ankle pretty bad on the way down since I was so exhausted. Note to self: wear boots on hikes longer than 5 miles. We got to see two waterfalls on this trail and were also walking along the river for a good portion of it which really helped to keep the trail feeling cool. There was, however, quite a bit of mud since it had rained the day before and some felled trees that we had to climb through and over.
The Jones Gap Falls were fantastic. There was a nice little pool that had me wishing I had worn a swimsuit especially with the heat in late June. The rest of the hike was just as beautiful and we really enjoyed it. There were even some little bridges to cross and even some hopping across rocks to get to the rest of the trail. We came across a few hikers, but managed to get there at a time when it wasn’t too busy, so it was pretty quiet overall. There are several other trails that were shorter that looked like they were pretty busy that day, especially for people with families and pets.
Overall, I think our hike was a success. We got to see some beautiful falls and some interesting bugs and foliage. We got some really good cardio in for the weekend. And we even managed to get some pretty good pictures, although next time I would really like to take out my DSLR and get some better shots of the scenery there. I am definitely looking forward to trying some of the shorter trails.