Often passed over in lieu of it’s more well known iconic neighbors, the relatively new Gorges State Park offers a seclusion not easily found in those popular parks. This moderate, two night backpack trip leads hikers through a dense and varied temperate rain forest – crowded only with hemlock, rhododendron, and groves of trees.
What Makes It Great
Getting outdoors, particularly backpacking, is often about getting away from it all. But sometimes even the trails can be congested with people, ironically looking for peace and quiet. For those looking for some seclusion, where every sense is filled only with the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest, the 17-ish mile loop at Gorges State Park is the perfect getaway.
Beginning at the Frozen Creek Trailhead and plunging into the Jocassee Gorge, this two night trip uses just three trails, making it simple to follow. Start on the Auger Hole trail and quickly turn left on the Canebrake Trail. About five miles later, at the very northern tip of Lake Jocassee, Canebrake intersects with the long distance Footshills Trail. There is a collection of well-designed backcountry campsites lining the tip of the lake. Grab one, set up your tent, and head down to the water for a well-deserved dip.
Day two is a short, six-mile strut on the Foothills trail. Head west and enjoy a stroll across the swinging bridge. With views up and down the Toxaway River, this is one of the few spots that break the wall of trees.
Your second night’s accommodations are at a small site about a half mile past the intersection with the Augur Hole Trail. The path drops even further into a valley, losing around 500 feet of elevation in just a half mile. Protected by a deep ravine covered in fern, hemlock, and chestnut, your dreams of seclusion are realized. A stream trickles next to the sight, adding to the soundtrack of small birds and rustling leaves.
Your hike out on day three begins with an eye-opening haul back up the hill that lead you into the ravine. Taking a left on the Auger Hole Trail, your final seven miles climbs back out of the gorge passing a couple ankle or knee-high stream crossings.
Who is Going to Love It
Carrying your entire life on your pack is never easy. But since this loop doesn’t require a lot of advanced planning and the distances aren’t long if done over three days, this is a great trip for healthy backpacking newbies. Really though, it’s a trip made for anyone hoping to immerse themselves in one of the most biologically diverse forests in the eastern United States.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The more popular trails lie in the western part of the park. You can find a visitor center with bathrooms and water there. The Frozen Creek Trailhead is much more basic. It’s accessible via Frozen Creek Road off of highway 64, about 15 miles from Brevard, NC.
There is plenty of water along the trail but it all should be treated before drinking.