Hike to Dargans Cascade - Jones Gap State Park

2-20-16 - Dargans Cascade is on a beautiful section of the Middle Saluda River along the Jones Gap Trail in Jones Gap State Park. There are several ways to get to this waterfall depending on how far you want to hike and how difficult you want the hike to be. Two of the ways will require you to either wade the creek above a sliding cascade, or walk across a log with no rails in the same place. You can see what you are in for in the video above. These 2 ways are about 1.5 miles one way. The other way is a moderate hike of a little over 4 miles one way.

Directions from Brevard to the US276 end of Jones Gap Trail:  From the intersection of Broad and Main Streets in downtown Brevard,  take US276 south (East Main St) for about 12 miles to the North Carolina / South Carolina state line. Drive another 0.2 miles and look on the left for a gate with a blue blaze trail marker and park here without blocking the gate. There's only room for about 3-4 cars here, so if you don't have a spot here you'll have to continue another 1.3 miles and park in the big lot on the left for Raven Cliff Falls and other trails in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness area. (If you park here, you'll begin the hike on the Tom Miller Trail on that side of the road.) A lot of the directions to Dargans Cascade you see online will begin the hike from this point. Your other option is to park at the main entrance of Jones Gap State Park off of River Falls Rd and hike the Jones Gap Trail from this end. You can refer to those directions here if you also want to include Jones Gap Falls, Ben's Sluice, and Toll Road Falls.

If you were able to park at the gate I first mentioned, begin the hike on the other side of the gate and follow the trail slightly down hill. In a short distance, pass by a house on the right. I've only been this way once and I'm not sure what the story on the house is. The electricity was on, but the house didn't look occupied. This first section of trail is kind of rocky and can be muddy after a rain. In about 0.7 miles from the trail head, come to the Middle Saluda River and cross on a footbridge with a hand rail. You'll se that in the video. As soon as you cross, turn left and follow the trail down river. The blue blazes also turn right, but this is the Tom Miller Trail. If you began the hike from that trail head, it's 0.7 miles to this point too, but it's also a 400' drop in elevation. I haven't been this way, but have heard the trail is eroded in places.

Back on the Jones Gap Trail heading down river, continue for about 0.4 miles and come to the log across the river at the top of a nice cascade. The Thomas King book has a picture of this sliding waterfall as his Dargans Cascade photo, but this isn't Dargans Cascade. I don't think it has an official name. As soon as you cross the log (or wade the creek), look for a scramble path down to the base of the falls. Below is a picture of Cindy crossing the log on the way back, then a picture of the waterfall.

Sliding Cascade up river from Dargans Cascade

Once you pass this waterfall, the river falls over more small cascades, but the trail remains fairly level. In about 0.1 miles or less, you'll see Dargans Cascade down below on the right and what looks like a scramble trail down to it. Do not take this goat path down to the waterfall! Continue on the main trail for a short distance and the trail will switchback hard to the right and down to the waterfall in an area called 'The Winds'. Dargans Cascade is maybe 20' high and fairly nice, but combine it with the cascade just down the trail and you have a really nice destination with a lot of photo ops. Water levels were fairly high on our visit, so keep that in mind if you visit during a summer dry spell.

Dargans Cascade  aka Silver Steps
Dargans Cascade

cascade below Dargans

cascade below Dargans
cascade below Dargans

The entire Jones Gap Trail is listed at 5.3 miles. Cindy and I had previously hiked from the other end up to Toll Road Falls, so on this day we decided to continue past Dargans Cascade down to Toll Road which is another 1.4 miles down the trail. Toll Road id right next to the trail at a small foot bridge over this tributary of the Middle Saluda. If you had somebody to shuttle with, you could make a nice hike of it and see several waterfalls by parking a vehicle at one end and beginning the hike from the other. The hike is mostly down hill from the US276 end.

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