This is commonly used as a backpacking route but would make a great, though very challenging, ultra run.
The start of the Jones Gap Trail
is located to left of the wooden bridge that crosses to the Ranger Station from the upper parking area. Take a moment to look at the kiosk and fill out the registration info.
Section / Day 1:
Start with running on the Jones Gap Trail
following the Middle Saluda River staying right at the fork up the strenuous Rainbow Falls Trail
to view and enjoy Rainbow Falls
. When ready, backtrack to Jones Gap Trail
, take a right heading past backcountry campsites along the trail spaced about every half mile or so. You'll come to Jones Gap Falls
Trail—a very short trail that dead ends at the tucked away falls. Back track and continue on until Coldspring Branch Trail
heads off to your left. Stay right on Jones Gap Trail
to head back towards campsites #14 and #15, crossing a small footbridge.
Continue to follow this trail to campsites #15, and #14. There will be a few small water crossings on the trail before the sites where you can collect water. However, if there has been little rain this may not be the case. The river can be heard but is not easily seen from the campsites. Camp #15 is about 7 miles into this run.
7 - 18.75 miles
With campsite #D1 as todays end, the run is about 11.75 miles. Continue up Jones Gap Trail
, look for split 8.25 miles in. Jones Gap Trail
right over a log bridge but you'll follow the Tom Miller Trail #2
(not crossing the river) to the left. This is the last easy spot to grab water for the next few miles. The Tom Miller Trail #2
starts narrow and overgrown with underbrush, but as you climb it will open up and level out near the top. Exit into parking lot and cross the road before heading down Raven Cliff Falls Trail #11
and part of Gum Gap Trail, both of which are fairly easy, level and smooth. Take a left on Naturaland Trust Trail #14
which descends gently offering a nice respite. You'll reach a suspension bridge and Raven Cliff Falls
Overlook around 13 miles in.
After, steep descent over the next mile, you'll pass Dismal Trail #12
on your left. Continue straight—the next section is more overgrown compared to areas you have already done. At 15 mile, a trail goes right, crossing a river into private property. Continue about 0.5 miles, take a right to Moonshine and Confusion Falls Trail
to see the falls (easy water fill-up).
A little further up Naturaland Trust Trail #14
from the falls, will be 3 campsites about a half mile apart. Although the first 2 are by water, there is a climb down to them, especially #D3 (#D2 little easier). Past #D2, the trail gets a bit challenging in sections as it climbs around rocks. There is a small water crossing before campsite #D1.
18.75 - 29.5 miles
From #D1 to Pinnacle Pass Trail #20
is less than 0.25 mile. Take a right onto Pinnacle Pass Trail #20
and head downhill, crossing a road up on your left side. This is a singletrack trail which leads to an old overgrown road that switchbacks down to Oil Camp Creek. The first section of this trail can be narrow and it generally climbs, at times quite steeply. There is a great view about 24.25 miles long the route. Farther along the trail follows an old roadbed. Campsite #P1 (if you're staying out another night) is a great option and about 25.5 miles in. You'll pass a couple connector trail stat lead to Rim of The Gap Trail
. The trail ends via some very challenging sections and one high wet slippery rock crossing.
Oak, hickory, flowering dogwood, rhododendron, ferns, flowers, and mosses all grow in this area.
Animals in the area include black bears, white-tailed deer, reptiles, amphibians, wild turkey, wood peckers, warblers, eastern blue birds, and spring migratory songbirds to name a few. Brook, rainbow, and brown trout can be found in the rivers.