Rainbow Falls, SC
Rainbow Falls in upstate South Carolina is a gorgeous 80-100' free falling waterfall on Cox Camp Creek. In past years the only access to this waterfall was by way of a steep trail from Camp Greenville at the NC/SC border south of Brevard, NC. A few years back, a new trail was constructed from Jones Gap State Park. I'm not sure if the waterfall is on Camp Greenville property or is now part of Jones Gap State Park, but this is now the official trail to the waterfall. It's a 2.5 mile hike to the base of the waterfall and the hike gains over 1200' in elevation which could make this a strenuous hike for those not in that great of shape. If you pack a lunch and take time to enjoy the hike and waterfall, you could make this a 4-5 hour adventure. Cox Camp Creek isn't a large volume creek, so the waterfall flow will be thin during a dry spell.
Directions to Jones Gap State Park from Brevard: Take US276 south into South Carolina passing Caesar's Head State Park. The other end of the 5 mile Jones Gap Trail starts near here so you could stop in there and ask if they have any info. Keep heading south on 276 to Hwy 11 and turn left. Drive about 4 miles and turn left at the F-Mart on to River Falls Road. From there it's 4 miles to the park entrance. Parking is just a couple of hundred yards up on the right. There is a $5 per adult charge to access the park, so be sure to bring cash! If you plan on visiting several of the SC state parks in the span of a year, I suggest getting one of the South Carolina State Parks passports. It will pay for itself after a very few visits. Check your favorite maps for ways to come in from I-26 in SC and US25 from both the SC side and from the Hendersonville, NC area.
Once parked, walk back up towards the parking entrance and take the trail that heads across the bridge and towards the visitors center and rest rooms. The trail to the waterfall begins at the kiosk just on the other side of the Middle Saluda River. Begin the hike on the Jones Gap Trail which follows the river past several primitive campsites. After about 3/4 of a mile to a mile, the trail splits and you'll want to take the red blazed trail up to the waterfall. The trail soon crosses the river on a metal bridge, then crosses Cox Camp Creek a couple of times on smaller wooded bridges. (Even if you don't plan to head up to Rainbow Falls, but are heading to Jones Gap Falls instead, it's worth it to take the Rainbow Falls Trail this far. There are some nice large boulders in this area.) From here the trail begins a steep climb to the base of the watefall. It's a series of switchbacks to lessen the impact to the environment - and one's legs - and offers up a variety of scenery along the way. Your first view of the waterfall may be obscured by leaves if you go when they are on the trees. The image above was taken in March with leaves off. A series of smaller cascades are below the main drop and offer up plenty of photo ops and some good hanging out time. The next shot is one of those cascades - below that are 2 views of the falls from closer in.
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