Accessibility – Moderate+
Height: Approx: 90′
Distance – 5.0 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 8
Solitude – 5
GPS Info: LAT 35.1333 LONG -82.5881
Last updated – 08-01-2018
After my relocation to Greenville in July, the first stop I made was at one of the local waterfalls, Rainbow Falls, located in the SC upstate. Several family members hiked to the falls when they lived in the area a few years ago and told me about having to come down the ropes from Camp Greenville. There was no such nonsense on our trip as we followed the trail from Jones gap State Park to the falls requiring nary a rope.
Even though not requiring a rope, it was an arduous hike of nearly 2.5 miles one way to reach the falls with an elevation gain of about 800 feet according to my GPS. The trail is a mix of rocky sections and packed dirt, with the lower section following a scenic creek that passes the ranger station.
To get to Jones Gap State Park from Brevard take US276 from Brevard heading South to Caesar’s Head State Park. US276 meets SC11 (Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway) where you make a left. Follow SC11 about 4 miles (passing Wildcat Wayside) and turn left onto River Falls Road. There is a convenience store on the corner where you turn. Coming from Greenville, follow SC11 to River Falls Road and make a right. The park entrance is 3.8 miles from the turn and there is a parking lot on the right with a daily per-person fee of $2 is paid.
From the parking area the trail to the ranger station leaves from the upper end of the parking area near the kiosk. The enters the woods and comes to a creek and a set of steps. At the top of the steps a is a small man-made pond filled with fish. Beyond this are the restrooms and the ranger station. The trail to the falls starts on the far side of the bridge, heading upstream following the Middle Saluda River. This section is the Jones Gap Trail, which is the route for 0.8 of a mile when the trail splits. If you’re also going to Jones Gap Falls you can bear to the the left to remain on the Jones Gap Trail. If you’re going to Rainbow Falls Trail follow the red blazed trail to the right. The trail will cross the river on an overdone metal bridge just past the trail split. After this bridge, the next two smaller crossings are on traditional wooded bridges.
From here the trail climbs steeply and passes several rocks areas. One has a staircase in the middle of two large rocks and another borders a large cliff face. After the rock staircase the climb will lessen for the final push to the falls. You can see the falls as the trail bends around but for a closer look, cross to river right and climb higher. I ended up crossing back to river left near the base and making my way up the grade on the left. I took a few shots before locating a trail that led up to a rock plateau about halfway up the falls. It gave a great view and was a cool place to hang out.