Silver Steps Falls aka Dargans Cascade
5-18-21 - Silver Steps Falls (aka Dargans Cascade) is on a beautiful section of the Middle Saluda River along the Jones Gap Trail in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. It can be accessed from either Caesars Head State Park or Jones Gap State Park. Cindy and I decided to do this hike again today (5-18-21), but we came across some fairly recent changes in access to the Jones Gap Trail on the Caesars Head side. One end of the Jones Gap Trail used to end on US276 in SC at a very small unofficial parking area with a gate and a blue blaze indicating the Jones Gap Trail. The gate is still there, but the blue blaze has been painted over. So today we initially passed that spot and continued down 276 towards Caesars Head. About a mile down on the left, we noticed a new driveway lined with a new split rail fence and a sign for Silver Steps Falls access. (This is a pay parking area and is $3 per adult.) We pulled in to look at the map (a new revised Mountains Bridge Wilderness Area map) and saw 2 trail heads in the parking area. One is the new Silver Steps Trail which I think was listed as a mile and connected this parking area with the Jones Gap Trail. The other is a blue blazed trail that leads a shorter distance up to the parking area for Raven Cliff Falls. I wasn't paying very close attention, but I believe this is now the rerouted Tom Miller Trail. It no longer connects the Raven Cliff parking area with the Jones Gap Trail. We were going to hike the new Silver Steps Trail, but neither one of us brought cash, so we drove back up to the old parking area. There weren't any signs saying we couldn't park there, but when we got back to the vehicle, there was a note from a ranger saying we could no longer park there.
That being said, I'll have to go back at some point to check out the new trail and get an accurate mileage to Silver Steps Falls from this end. I'm guessing it's around 2 miles one way. If you come in from the Jones Gap Sp end, it's a 4 mile hike one way to the falls. Also note that this waterfall is currently best known as Dargans Cascade, but the park opted for Silver Steps Falls which I believe is an obscure name from the past.
Directions from Brevard to the Silver Steps parking area: 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. This is the old parking area I was talking about above. Don't pull in here, but continue about another mile and look for the entrance to the Silver Steps parking area on the left. Pull in here, pay the fee, and look for the white blazed trail on the left near the kiosk. The blue blazed Tom Miller Trail is at the far end of the parking area. Your other option for hiking to the falls is to park at the main entrance to 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.
I have not hiked the Silver Steps Trail yet, so I don't know the mileage, elevation change or difficulty of the trail. It ends with a log bridge over the Middle Saluda River and intersects with the blue blazed Jones Gap Trail, though. Turn right to continue to Silver Steps Falls. The trail from here is a little rocky in places, but fairly easy and with little elevation change. It follows the river - which is more the size of a creek - but you don't always see it due to the thick dog hobble and other vegetation. At about 1/2 mile from the intersection, cross the river on a log bridge. Once on the other side, you may notice where the Tom Miller Trail used to join the Jones Gap Trail, which continues down river. In less than 1/2 mile from this point, arrive at a double log bridge across the river at the top of an unnamed cascade. Cross the river and look on the right to see if you want to scramble down for a view from the base. It's a beautiful spot and deserves a decent trail where everyone can get down to enjoy the view.
If you didn't know, you might think this cascade was Silver Steps Falls, but it isn't. Continue down the Jones Gap Trail for another 1/10th of a mile or so and you'll see Silver Steps down below, you'll also notice a steep goat trail leading down, but don't take it. Continue another 1/10th of a mile and the Jones Gap Trail cuts hard to the right and leads down towards the waterfall. Once back at river level, a short spur trail leads to the base of the falls before the Jones Gap Trail cuts hard left and continues down river. The falls is maybe 15' high, and is very scenic.
Silver Steps Falls
Silver Steps Falls
There's another really nice cascade below Silver Steps just as the Jones Gap Trail cuts hard to the left away from the falls. Unfortunately on the latest visit, a tree had fallen into the river at that point, so below are photos from a previous hike.
cascade below Dargans
back to my SC waterfalls page