Located approximately one hour south of Asheville near the South Carolina border lies Gorges State Park, a 7,500-acre park with many hiking trails, plunging waterfalls, mighty rivers, and incredible national forests to discover. Situated just outside of Sapphire in Transylvania County, this North Carolina State Park is a true gem.
North Carolina’s Gorges State Park
With an emphasis on backcountry trails in more secluded and remote areas of the park, Gorges is home to top-rated trails, including the Foothills Trail and the Bearwallow Falls Trail.
Created by Duke Energy, the famous Foothills Trail meanders through the southern part of Gorges State Park around Lake Jocassee. The trailhead starts at the Frozen Creek access area off of Frozen Creek Road in Rosman. Sprinkled with primitive campsites, picnic areas, and even more trails, this 6.7-mile (one-way) trail is rated as strenuous and passes through the Andrew Pickens Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest, Ellicott Rock Wilderness, and Whitewater Falls.
If you have a few minutes to spare, the quarter-mile Visitor Center Trail starts near the Grassy Ridge Access entry off Highway 281 South in Sapphire. This stroll leaves the Visitor Center to the Bearwallow Valley Observation Deck. It connects to the Bearwallow Valley Trail (to Upper Bearwallow Falls).
For a 3-mile round-trip hike to and from Rainbow Falls, take the Rainbow Falls Trail to see a network of beautiful waterfalls. The Pisgah Ranger District also manages this trail. After hikers reach Rainbow Falls, they can continue a quarter-mile more to Turtleback Falls. Due to the dangers of these waterfalls, it is encouraged for visitors not to swim in the Horsepasture River.
Other trails worth checking out at Gorges include the Auger Hole Trail (7.2 miles one-way), the Canebrake Trail (5 miles one-way), and the Raymond Fisher Trail (0.75 miles one-way).
Aside from hiking and backpacking, Gorges State Park is home to a high concentration of rare plant and animal species, a visitor center with museum-like exhibits, prime trout fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and more along the Blue Ridge Escarpment in western North Carolina.
Anglers looking to fish in the park will delight in knowing that all streams and rivers are designated Wild Trout Rivers. Due to swift water currents, no swimming is permitted in the park’s rivers, creeks, or ponds. Fishing enthusiasts can try their luck in Bearwallow Creek, Toxaway River, and Lake Jocassee.
Mountain bikes and horses are allowed on the Auger Hole Trail from the Frozen Creek access area to Turkey Pen Gap on the park’s western edge. Enjoy the use of the picnic areas in the Frozen Creek area in Rosman.
Visiting Gorges State Park
Visting this North Carolina State Park is free, and there are no entrance fees required! Park visitors can find the primary Visitor Center located at 976 Grassy Ridge Road in Sapphire. In contrast, you can find the Frozen Creek Access on Frozen Creek Road in Brevard.
Some rentable facilities are available in the park, including the auditorium, the classroom, and two picnic shelters. The park hours are 7 AM to 10 PM every day (closed on Christmas Day), and you will find ample parking areas and parking lots throughout Gorges State Park.
Other Notable Attractions Nearby
-Pisgah National Forest
-Table Rock State Park