North Carolina’s 7,100-acre Gorges State Park is home to more waterfalls than any other park in the state. Located around 53 miles from Asheville, Gorges State Park is a temperate rainforest with an annual rainfall of more than 80 inches and more like the southern Appalachians when it comes to plants and wildlife. Attractions at this park include camping, hiking, fishing and mountain biking.
This is the perfect state park to camp in if you wish to get away from everything. There are never any crowds, no noisy generators, no late-night revelers getting noisy around the campfire and no noisy motorboats waking you up early in the morning. That is not to say that it is quiet here, just peaceful. There are any number of birds singing, squawking and chirping, squirrels scolding anyone, anything and each other as they race around trees, the occasional howl of a coyote or call of a Wild Turkey, the sound of the wind blowing through the tall white pines, the trickle of flowing water and the occasional croaking of a bullfrog. Remember that primitive camping means carrying everything in on your back so you will want to travel light. A checklist is good to follow because you cannot just go to the car, or drive to the store, for something you forgot. A first aid kit is a must in primitive camping; make sure all meds are up-to-date. It is also a good idea to bring a water purifier because it is much easier to make clean water instead of lugging it all in.
Hiking, Mountain Biking and Horseback Riding
The terrain in Gorges State Park is rugged and challenging and, therefore, better for the more seasoned hiker. It is great to try part of a trail as a beginning hiker, just remember to wear good shoes because there is the hike back to camp to consider and blisters come quick. While the backwoods trails are often steep and demanding, the views of one of the majestic waterfalls will make the trip worthwhile. Pass by colorful rhododendron, mountain laurel, hickory and red oaks. Lucky hikers might get the chance to see White-tailed deer, coyote, wild boar, fox, Wild Turkey or maybe even a black bear. Observant hikers will have the chance to see some pretty Oconee Bells, an extremely rare flowering plant that can be found all over the gorges of this park. Visitors are asked to use caution when hiking around waterfalls because rocks are slippery when wet and it is easy to get hurt. Another reason for caution is that there are many rare species living near the falls for which contact with humans can be detrimental.
Biking and horse riding are also allowed at Gorge State Park, on the Auger Hole Trail. Visitors who come with horses have to be able to prove a negative in a Coggins Test; and equine infectious anemia test. This is true for all North Carolina State Parks.
Fishing & Scuba Diving
Because all of the streams in Gorges State Park are designated Wild Trout Waters, it is a popular place to fish for rainbow trout, brown trout and smallmouth bass. It is advised that people fishing stay away from waterfalls just to be on the safe side. Due to swift currents of the rivers and creeks, there is no swimming allowed here. Lake Jocassee, a man-made lake situated on the borders of North and South Carolina, is also open to trout and bass fishing. Access for boats is available on the South Carolina side of this lake. Scuba divers recently discovered a lodge that was left intact from before the lake was made. The remains of the lodge sit 300 feet below water with a hilltop graveyard (at 130 feet under water) nearby. The cemetery was used in a scene of Deliverance, a 1972 thriller with Burt Reynolds.
There are several picnic tables throughout the woods of Gorge State Park for picnickers, including some that are wheelchair accessible. Keep in mind that the park is a carry-in/carry-out park and, therefore, trash must be taken with you. Enjoy a meal underneath the pines with the sound of the stream as accompaniment.
Gorge State Park
NC 281 South
Sapphire, NC 28774