Hiking Jones Gap State Park in South Carolina

Note to my fellow wanderers: This guide was written from my first-hand experiences. I try my best not to over-glamorize any location I travel to because I want HappyWander’s content to be as authentic as possible. My goal is to provide you real information so that you can have the best possible adventures wandering the world. Enjoy!

Jones Gap State Park is a state park in South Carolina that features almost 4000 acres of natural beauty. In this guide, I will review my experience hiking Jones Gap State Park and provide everything you need to know to start this adventure on your own.

Overview of Jones Gap State Park

Located about 40 miles south of Asheville, Jones Gap State Park is a lovely South Carolina state park that features several waterfalls, including Rainbow Falls, the main and must see attraction.

Hiking Jones Gap State Park Map

This is a map (via alltrails.com) of the route I did in red.

Where to Park

I parked at a parking lot inside Jones Gap State Park. It’s a nice parking lot with a decent amount of spots. It does cost $6 per person to enter the park, which you will pay in the parking lot. Be sure to bring cash as there is no person or kiosk to take credit cards.

Distance Traveled

According to Alltrails.com, I traveled over 11 miles. That seems about right.

How Long Does it Take to Hike?

I arrived at 9:30 am and finished the hike at 5:00 PM. I did take my time with photos and videos, so if you just hike this one without dilly-dallying you should finish in 5 or 6 hours.

Elevation Change

According to alltrails.com, this hike has over 2800 feet of elevation. I wouldn’t say this hike is particularly hard though.

Hiking Jones Gap State Park Elevation Chart

Jones Gap State Park elevation profile (via alltrails.com)

Difficulty

This hike wasn’t that hard for me. The inclines weren’t too steep, but you will need some endurance to get up the mountain towards Rainbow Falls. After that, it’s pretty tame.

Overall, I’d give this hike a 6 / 10 in difficulty.

Permits

You will need the $6 per person pass, which will provide you with a tag for your car mirror.

Cost

It cost $6 to park for the day. Make sure you have cash because to pay, you need to drop an envelop in a wooden box and then place the tag on your mirror.

When to Go

I went in September, and it was a pleasant experience. However, this is a park you could visit year round as long as you are prepared to trek up the mountain with the proper footwear.

Recommended Gear

To hike Jones Gap State Park. I’ll highlight the gear that I brought, as well as additional gear that might benefit you:

  • Layers: Depending on the weather, I’d recommend wearing layers. I wore exercise shorts and a dry-fit long-sleeve shirt.
  • Hiking backpack with straps: If you don’t have a backpack with straps, I recommend you get one. They aren’t too expensive on Amazon. Your shoulders and back will thank you later. This hike, while not difficult, still has some ups and downs that can pay your body a toll without the proper gear.
  • Portable charger: If you take a lot of photos / videos like me, you’ll want to bring a portable charger for your phone. I also use the alltrails.com app to navigate so having enough battery is important.
  • Water bladder: If you want to save on weight and also help your backpack be more balanced than carrying a big bottle of water in your bag, a water bladder is important. I personally use a 3L water bladder that lasts an entire 10 hour day hike, which was more than enough for this hike. I also brought 2 20 ounce water bottles, and I needed them.
  • Hiking shoes: Hiking shoes that are waterproof will benefit you if you go in on this trail. The terrain is wet at times, so having the proper footwear will help you.
  • Snacks: Who doesn’t like snacks? While hiking on a 10+ mile hike like this, you burn lots of calories. My personal go-to’s on this hike were: Honey roasted peanuts, sour gummy worms, protein shakes, and protein bars. I didn’t stop for lunch on this hike but these snacks were more than adequate. But I was starving by the time I finished (more on my dinner of choice later).
  • Bug spray: I didn’t really need bug spray but I always put some on to ward off ticks
  • First aid kit: It’s a good idea to bring Band-Aids, a bandage, and some cut cleaning items. I have needed band-aids in the past from slipping on rocks, but I did not on this hike.
  • Sunscreen: There is a lot of tree coverage on this hike, but it’s still a good idea to have sunsc

Nice to Have Gear:

Here are a few items that would make your Hanging Rock hiking experience even better:

  • Shoe impact insoles: These can help as you traverse hard rocks along the way.
  • Phone tripod: A phone tripod is great for taking photos of yourself and loved ones. I didn’t use it on this hike, however.
  • Flashlight: If you plan on hiking in twilight or at dark, it’s always good to have a flashlight on you in your pack.

The Play By Play: My Route Hiking Jones Gap State Park

So what’s it like Jones Gap State Park? I’ll review my experience in each section of this hike below:

Hiking Jones Gap State Park Entrance Bridge

Jones Gap Trail

Jones Gap Trail leading up to Rainbow Falls Trail is relatively flat and treks along Middle Saluda River, which is a pretty nice ambiance!

Rainbow Falls Trail

Once you take the path to the right on Jones Gap Trail, it will take you to Rainbow Falls Trail, which starts taking you up in elevation pretty quickly. This is the hardest part of the trail, but it’s not too steep or difficult in any particular area. I enjoyed this portion of the hike, and my heart rate got up pretty good too!

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is pretty awesome. When you first lay eyes on it, it’s a sight to behold. It’s a hidden little oasis surrounded by beautiful rock formations way up on top of the mountain.

Towards the bottom are a few smaller waterfalls, maybe 10 to 15 feet in height.

The path takes you across the river to steps up towards the main attraction. Once you clear these steps, you’ll see all kinds of rocks where you can have a seat and take in the pleasant roaring of Rainbow Falls.

This would be quite a romantic spot to take your lover for a picnic.

Jones Gap Falls

Jones Gap Falls, despite bearing the name of the park, is not nearly as impressive as Rainbow Falls. Unless you really want to do a long hike (like I did at the time), I’d recommend skipping this and turning around after Rainbow Falls.

Ben’s Sluice

On a warm day, Ben’s Sluice is a refreshing spot to stop. While it’s not a large sluice, you’ll be able to splash ice cold water on your face, which felt amazing! Another bonus, I didn’t see any hikers past Rainbow Falls, so this sluice was all mine.

After Hike Dinner

After hiking Hanging Rock State Park, I chose to get some protein. I went to Chick-Fila and got the 30 piece chicken nuggets. I ate them so fast in the car on the way home I forgot to take a photo. Oops!

About My Experience Hiking Jones Gap State Park

Overall, hiking Jones Gap State Park was a good experience. I definitely recommend making this a shorter hike by skipping everything after Rainbow Falls.

Favorite Parts

Here are a few of my favorite parts of hiking Jones Gap State Park:

Rainbow Falls: This was a beautiful area. I stayed up here near the falls for about an hour, I could have spent the rest of the day here. Rainbow Falls are about 100 feet tall, and also have smaller falls towards the base of the falls, with tons of areas to sit, eat, and relax. I only saw 3 other people up there the entire hour I was there. Highly recommend seeing Rainbow Falls.

Least Favorite Parts

Here is my least favorite part of this hike:

Everything After Rainbow Falls: Rainbow Falls was great! After that, not so much. It was pretty boring walking the miles of trails after Rainbow Falls. The falls after Rainbow Falls were pretty small, so after seeing that 100 foot beauty, it’s hard to get excited about the last couple on the trail.

Personal Recommendations

There is a reason I didn’t see any hikers after Rainbow Falls. I’d recommend that you stop after Rainbow Falls, because everything after seems a little lackluster in comparison. If you do decide to keep going, Ben’s Sluice was a nice little spot to stop and play in the water. But after this, definitely turn back as the trail gets VERY boring.

Overall Score

Jones Gap State Park is a nice medium to long hike you should definitely do if you’re in the Western South or North Carolina area. I give it a 6.5 / 10, mostly because of Rainbow Falls. If you skipped the hike after Rainbow Falls, I’d give this hike an 8 / 10.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Jones Gap State Park

I gave this hike a 6.5 / 10, might it might not be fair because Rainbow Falls is a great sight to see. My recommendation to you is to go hike up to Rainbow Falls, eat lunch, relax, and leave. It will probably cut the hike in half, but the other half of the hike is not worth seeing in my experience. This is still an amazing place to go for a few hours, I highly recommend venturing out to hike Jones Gap State Park. Happy wandering!

Anthony Bart
Author: Anthony Bart

Hello! Welcome to HappyWanders! My name is Anthony, I'm on a mission to live a life full of adventure and to help you to do the same. As an ex-corporate worker and current entrepreneur, I've been working to design a life with more time for adventure and less time for the 9-5 grind. If you're ready for an adventure, you're my type of person!

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