If you take a 20-minute drive down the road from our Landmark Vacation Rentals office, you’ll find the massively adored Gorges State Park. The expansive state park is more than 7,500 acres and it’s located just over the Transylvania County line. It also touches the edge of South Carolina.
Gorges State Park is a mecca for all things outdoors in the North Carolina mountains. In this big state park, you can do pretty much any of your favorite outdoorsy activities: Distance hiking, fishing, camping and in certain areas, horseback riding. These are all hallmarks of this park. And did we mention there are 26 waterfalls to see? We are going to cover it all so you can get the most out of your next trip to Western North Carolina.
There are so many trails and so little time. That’s what you’ll find yourself saying once you arrive at the park. There are a handful of trails that you can choose to explore, and you should choose your trail based on your preferences and experience level. Grab your dog to join you on the hike and check out any one of these trails listed below:
Foothills Trail- At its full length, this hiking trail is 76 miles long and it passes through both Carolinas. The portion of the trail that passes through Gorges State Park is 6.7 miles of strenuous path, so this hike should be reserved for experienced hikers and backpackers. At the end of the trail, you’ll wind around a beautiful suspension bridge that goes around Lake Jocassee. There are a few campsites around the end of the trail, for those who don’t want to make the over 12-mile roundtrip.
Bearwallow Falls- This trail is only .4 miles one-way and .8 miles roundtrip. This is a much shorter hike that will allow you to see one of the Gorges State Park waterfalls. However, this shorter hike is still strenuous. But when you get to the end, you’ll see the gorgeous waterfall that awaits you and you’ll decide that the work to get there was worth it.
Rainbow Falls Trail- This is one of our favorite hikes in the area. The trail to Gorges State Park Rainbow Falls is jointly maintained by Pisgah National Forest and Gorges State Park. The trail is about three miles roundtrip and at the end you are greeted by the most breathtaking, cascading waterfall. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can hike an extra quarter-mile past Rainbow Falls and visit Turtleback Falls. No matter how you choose to explore this trail, visitors are cautioned to be extra careful around waterfalls. Slippery rocks and unexpected rising water levels can be dangerous even for hikers who are more familiar with the area.
Auger Hole Trail- Cutting right through the center of the park, this 7.2-mile trail is for a more experienced hiker/backpacker. Mountain biking and horseback riding are both permitted on this trail, so if either of those two hobbies are your thing, make sure you check out this trail first.
Raymond Fisher Trail- At only 1.5 miles roundtrip, the Raymond Fisher Trail is a great trail for families who want a fun, overnight camping experience. You can reserve the campsites and they are all surrounded by a pond where you can swim and fish for catfish, if you have your North Carolina fishing license.
Of course, now you know that you can hike and camp at Raymond Fisher Trail, but there are other options when it comes to camping near Gorges State Park.
Before you go camping, you should know that the park does close its gates for the evening after 9 p.m. and the gates don’t open again until 7 a.m. Those who don’t plan on spending the night at a Gorges State Park campground should be prepared to leave by 9.
Primitive campsites are available throughout the park, which means you’ll need to bring your tent, sleeping bag, and other camping essentials. There are camping sites at Frozen Creek access area and the Grassy Ridge access area, and across other trails in Gorges State Park. There are six designated backpacking sites along the Foothills Trail near the southern part of the park. These sites are free of charge and are available on a first-come-first-served basis. You cannot reserve them.
Opening in 2009, Gorges State park is a relatively new NC state park and the facilities are still in pretty great shape. Only 55 miles from Asheville, there are two access points to the park. The visitor center is the main hub of the park where tourists and locals can come in and check out ecological facts and area history to give them some extra appreciation for the beautiful, sprawling park.
The best part is that there is no admission fee, so visitors can come and go within the park’s open hours and enjoy everything the nature within has to offer.
More than 19 million people visit at least one North Carolina State Park a year, and once you visit, it’s easy to see why. With 40 parks to choose from, visitors get to see the ecosystem that makes each region of this diverse state unique. Visiting an NC State Park is a great way to really get to know the area. Gorges State Park is no exception; this park abides by the same policies and procedures that all North Carolina state parks do.
The biggest thing to note when you visit the park is that you should always carry out any trash you create when going on. There are places to dispose of trash and recyclables throughout the park. Help us keep our beautiful North Carolina parks clean and beautiful for generations to come!