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Jones Gap - Caesars Head Loop

 4.0 (1)

Length


28.5 Miles 45.9 Kilometers


6,337' 1,932 m

Ascent

-6,336' -1,931 m

Descent

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

53%

Max Grade (28°)

3,097' 944 m

High

1,343' 409 m

Low

Shared By Mark P...

Conditions


Minor Issues 54 days ago
Dry, Fallen Trees: Sections of down trees (told Ranger, clear?). Naturaland and Pinnacle trails, few overgrown areas, not easy to use/see trail. History

Getting forecast...

The Jones Gap - Caesars Head Loop is a great option for multi-day hikes passing many waterfalls and great views.

Mark P...

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Cave · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked

Overview

This challenging hike provides a two or three overnight backpacking trip in the Jones Gap and Caesars Head State Parks. Along the trails you'll see five main waterfalls; Rainbow Falls , Jones Gap Falls and Raven Cliff Falls, and the smaller on Moonshine and Confusion Falls. Parts of trails follow close to creeks, while other parts provide great views such as Raven Cliffs Overlook and lookouts along Pinnacle Pass Trail #20. There are some great backcountry camping site options along Jones Gap Trail (fire rings), Naturaland Trust Trail #14 (no fires), and Pinnacle Pass Trail #20 (no fires) that can be reserved by phone.

Need to Know

The full loop is not for beginners. For intermediate hikers, use one of the connector trails from Pinnacle Pass Trail #20 to Rim of The Gap Trail to limit some of the difficulties.

Trails close an hour before dark/Leave No Trace.

Cell phones service is limited. There is occasionally some on top of the mountains or you can use the call box at the trailhead across the bridge from the Jones Gap Ranger Station.

Backcountry campsites on Naturaland Trust Trail #14 and Pinnacle Pass Trail #20 are limited and reserved by phone with Jones Gap State Park. No fires allowed.

Description

The start of the Jones Gap Trail is located to left of the wooden bridge that crosses to the Ranger Station from the upper parking area. Take a moment to look at the kiosk and fill out the registration info.

Section / Day 1:
Start with hiking on the Jones Gap Trail following the Middle Saluda River staying right at the fork up the strenuous Rainbow Falls Trail to view and enjoy Rainbow Falls. When ready, backtrack to Jones Gap Trail, take a right heading past backcountry campsites along the trail spaced about every half mile or so. You'll come to Jones Gap Falls Trail—a very short trail that dead ends at the tucked away falls. Back track and continue on until Coldspring Branch Trail heads off to your left. Stay right on Jones Gap Trail to head back towards campsites #14 and #15, crossing a small footbridge.

Continue to follow this trail to campsites #15, and #14. There will be a few small water crossings on the trail before the sites where you can collect water. However, if there has been little rain this may not be the case. The river can be heard but is not easily seen from the campsites. Camp #15 is about 7 miles into this hike.

Day 2:
7 - 18.75 miles
With campsite #D1 as todays end, the hike is about 11.75 miles. Continue up Jones Gap Trail, look for split 8.25 miles in. Jones Gap Trail right over a log bridge but you'll follow the Tom Miller Trail #2 (not crossing the river) to the left. This is the last easy spot to grab water for the next few miles. The Tom Miller Trail #2 starts narrow and overgrown with underbrush, but as you climb it will open up and level out near the top. Exit into parking lot and cross the road before heading down Raven Cliff Falls Trail #11 and part of Gum Gap Trail, both of which are fairly easy, level and smooth. Take a left on Naturaland Trust Trail #14 which descends gently offering a nice respite. You'll reach a suspension bridge and Raven Cliff Falls Overlook around 13 miles in.

After, steep descent over the next mile, you'll pass Dismal Trail #12 on your left. Continue straight—the next section is more overgrown compared to areas you have already done. At 15 mile, a trail goes right, crossing a river into private property. Continue about 0.5 miles, take a right to Moonshine and Confusion Falls Trail to see the falls (easy water fill-up).

A little further up Naturaland Trust Trail #14 from the falls, will be 3 campsites about a half mile apart. Although the first 2 are by water, there is a climb down to them, especially #D3 (#D2 little easier). Past #D2, the trail gets a bit challenging in sections as it climbs around rocks. There is a small water crossing before campsite #D1.

Day 3:
18.75 - 29.5 miles
From #D1 to Pinnacle Pass Trail #20 is less than 0.25 mile. Take a right onto Pinnacle Pass Trail #20 and head downhill, crossing a road up on your left side. This is a singletrack trail which leads to an old overgrown road that switchbacks down to Oil Camp Creek. The first section of this trail can be narrow and it generally climbs, at times quite steeply. There is a great view about 24.25 miles long the route. Farther along the trail follows an old roadbed. Campsite #P1 (if you're staying out another night) is a great option and about 25.5 miles in. You'll pass a couple connector trail stat lead to Rim of The Gap Trail. The trail ends via some very challenging sections and one high wet slippery rock crossing.

Flora & Fauna

Oak, hickory, flowering dogwood, rhododendron, ferns, flowers, and mosses all grow in this area.

Animals in the area include black bears, white-tailed deer, reptiles, amphibians, wild turkey, wood peckers, warblers, eastern blue birds, and spring migratory songbirds to name a few. Brook, rainbow, and brown trout can be found in the rivers.

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Oct 23, 2018
Mark P...
A nice 2.5 day solo hike & camp. Great waterfall / valley views in sections. Legs / knees felt it days after hike. 1 App said 30, other 28 miles. 29mi — 20h 00m

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