This is one of a series of articles on “Family Friendly” hikes and outings published here. For others, search for articles with “Family Outing” in the title.
These 2 hikes are physically close together, only about a horizontal mile apart, they are separated by 2000 vertical feet, the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Both are in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area but in 2 different state parks, Jones Gap State Park and Caesar’s Head State Park.
Given their proximity, these two hikes with four waterfalls make for a full day family outing with lunch in between at one of the state park picnic areas.
Start your outing hiking to Jones Gap Falls then finish with the waterfalls on Caesar’s Head. For driving directions to your first trail head in Jones Gap State Park, see the Jones Gap Falls page on the South Carolina Trail Program web site.
- Jones Gap Falls. Located in its namesake, Jones Gap State Park, this is a great family hike. It is only about 1.1 miles (one way) with almost the entire length alongside the whitewater of the Middle Saluda River with plenty of places to stop and play on the rocks and in the water. And the waterfall is extremely picturesque – a great place for some nice “here we are in the wilderness” photos.
- Lunch. You have several choices about what to do for lunch.
- Picnic at Jones Gap State Park. From the parking area, you will have walked through the picnic area. However, no cooking or fires are permitted, so it will be sandwiches, not hamburgers for lunch. Also bear in mind there are not all that many picnic tables.
- Hot dogs at the F-Mart. At the corner of River Falls Road and Hwy 276 sits the F-Mart where you can get some good hot dogs and enjoy the unique atmosphere of the place. Or, for a more varied menu go back down Hwy 276 to Cleveland (it’s only a mile or so), there is a cafe inside the Echo Valley Convenience Store, also an interesting place. Check out the animals in the pasture behind the store.
- Picnic at Caesar’s Head State Park. Coming out River Falls Road from Jones Gap State Park, turn right at the F-Mart onto Hwy 276 and follow the highway to the top of Caesar’s Head. At the top, on the left, you’ll find the Visitor’s Center, the overlook itself and a picnic area with plenty of tables. Cooking fires are permitted.
- Caesar’s Head Loop. This is about 2.2 mile loop trail that catches 3 waterfalls, Cliff Falls, Firewater Falls and Rock Cliff Falls. Frank Coggins Trail #15 starts across the road from the Visitors’ Center and will take you to Cliff Falls where you’ll pick up Natrualand Trust #14 for the other 2 waterfalls.The kids will really enjoy Firewater Falls, it is a low volume drip rock waterfall with a cave at the base of the falls. The final half mile of the hike returning to the parking lot at the Visitor’s Center is along the side of Hwy 276, so some caution is required.
While you’re at the Caesar’s Head Visitors Center be sure to check out the spectacular view from the overlook. Inside the Center is a topographic model of the park showing all the features and trails. You’ll also find a selection of trail and waterfall books available.