This trail is named for the cave-like rock that sits on the western side of the trail closer to Jones Gap State Park. This trail also doubles as a section of The Palmetto Trail: Middle Saluda Passage
It can be done as a shuttle hike by parking at Falls Creek Falls
parking area, or an out-and-back hike by parking inside Jones Gap State Park. It is very steep and strenuous in some sections and can be dangerous when wet or covered with leaves during the fall and winter. To access this trail from Jones Gap State Park, follow the paved path behind the trout hatchery pond and past the restroom building.
Look for the signs directing you to campsites 1 through 4. Follow the trail, and you'll see a sign for Hospital Rock Trail once past the marker for campsite 4. From here the trail begins to climb steeper and steeper for the next 2-2.5 miles. Several boulders are strewn about the landscape, many of which need to be gone around or over, making this a very scenic trail, especially in the winter months.
After the first 1.5 miles or so, you'll reach Hospital Rock. From here the trail is less traveled and may be hard to discern when covered with leaves from dropped fall foliage. Look for the gold blazes to stay on the trail. After about another mile or so, the trail levels out and follows the ridge for 2-2.5 more miles. This section of the trail is much less strenuous.
After following the ridge, the trail will descend to Falls Creek Falls
. This descent is treacherous in several areas and can be very dangerous. To get to the bottom of the falls, it is much safer to hike Falls Creek Falls
trail from the bottom.