Ultimate Guide to Gorges State Park

Western North Carolina’s Gorges State Park boasts a dramatic landscape of cascading waterfalls, deep river gorges, and towering cliffs. Adventurous visitors can explore the park’s backcountry trails, perfect for activities like backpacking and horseback riding. Nestled within the Blue Ridge Escarpment, the park encompasses over 8,000 acres of lush temperate rainforest teeming with diverse plant and animal life.

Hikers can discover 26 waterfalls within the park boundaries, and the park also borders the northern shore of Lake Jocassee. For long-distance trekkers, a section of the 70-mile Foothills Trail passes through the park. With a location less than 45 minutes from Pilot Cove, this is a no-brainer addition to your Western NC vacation!

A Landscape of Enchanting Beauty

Gorges State Park encompasses over 7,500 acres, carved by the powerful Horsepasture River. Explore a network of over 25 miles of trails that wind through a tapestry of ecosystems. Be greeted by the refreshing mist of cascading waterfalls, each with its own unique charm. Hike through hardwood forests teeming with life, and marvel at the jagged beauty of exposed rock faces. Whether you seek a leisurely stroll or a challenging climb, Gorges State Park has something for everyone.

Waterfall Wonderland

Gorges State Park is a haven for waterfall enthusiasts. Here are a few must-sees:

  • Rainbow Falls & Turtleback Falls: Embark on a moderate 4-mile round trip hike and be rewarded with two magnificent waterfalls. Rainbow Falls, a 150-foot cascade, is a true showstopper.
  • Upper Bearwallow Falls: This easily accessible 80-foot waterfall is perfect for families and those seeking a shorter hike.
  • Lower Bearwallow Falls: Take a more challenging 2.2-mile loop trail to discover this hidden gem, featuring a cascading waterfall and a refreshing swimming hole (at your own risk).

Activities Galore

Beyond waterfall chasing, Gorges State Park offers a variety of activities:

  • Hiking: With trails ranging from easy to challenging, explore hidden coves, breathtaking overlooks, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Picnicking: Pack a delicious spread and enjoy a relaxing afternoon at one of the designated picnic areas.
  • Geocaching: Turn your hike into a treasure hunt with this fun GPS-based activity.

Planning Your Gorges State Park Adventure

  • Getting There: The park is located near Sapphire, NC, approximately 45 miles southwest of Asheville. Refer to the NC State Parks website for detailed directions. (See resources list below.)
  • Be Prepared: Check the weather forecast before you go, as conditions can change rapidly in the mountains. Pack plenty of water, snacks, and wear sturdy footwear appropriate for the season. Insect repellent and sunscreen are also recommended.
  • Leave No Trace: Help preserve the park’s natural beauty by following Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all trash, camp only in designated areas, and respect wildlife.

Embrace the Magic

Gorges State Park is more than just a collection of waterfalls and trails; it’s an experience. Breathe in the fresh mountain air, feel the cool spray of a cascading waterfall, and disconnect from the everyday hustle. Let the magic of Gorges State Park work its wonder on you.

Ready to start planning your adventure? Here are some helpful resources:

Gorges State Park awaits! Go explore and then return to your perfect basecamp, Pilot Cove.