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Backpacker Magazine – September 2011

Rip & Go: Two Gorges Loop - Gorges State Park, NC

Trace the watery divide between the Carolinas.

by: Peter Rives

Toxaway Creek (Photo by Peter Rives)
Toxaway Creek (Photo by Peter Rives)
Morel (Photo by Michael P. Gadomski)
Morel (Photo by Michael P. Gadomski)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.
Do it
Savor a rare slice of temperate Carolina rainforest on this 16.8-mile loop over rivers, though gorges, and up to soaring ridgetops in an area gone green with more than 130 species of plants, including a handful of ferns usually found only in the tropics. From the Frozen Creek trailhead, cross the namesake creek (1) via a wooden footbridge and pick up the Auger Hole Trail (2). In .6 mile, turn left (southeast) onto the Canebrake Trail (3) and enter a forest dominated by the rich scent of damp Eastern white pine needles. Ramble up through miles of beech, azalea, poplars, and hemlocks to the northernmost arm of Lake Jocassee (4). (Anglers alert: State records for redeye, smallmouth, and spotted bass, plus brown and rainbow trout, were all caught here.)

Continue west onto the Foothills Trail (“Locals Know,” next page) and cross the 225-foot suspension bridge (5) over the Toxaway River at mile 5.3. Halfway into the ensuing 730-foot climb, you’ll hear the murmur of a cascade that drops out of sight. After a one-mile traverse of Grindstone Mountain’s flank, drop 300 feet back to the forest floor. Head back up a gentle climb on an old fire road, past the turnoff for the Auger Hole Trail (6), and continue .5 mile to Bear Gap (7) with camping.

Next morning, return to Auger Hole Trail and climb 500 feet in .5 mile before switchbacking down into Turkeypen Gap. Stay on the Auger Hole Trail as it heads northeast, descending deep into the labyrinthine heart of the park’s namesake gorges. Ford knee-deep Bearwallow Creek (8) just downstream from a 15-foot, triple-cascading falls. In .9 mile, reach a thigh-deep (but slow), 40-foot-wide ford of the Toxaway River (9). (Tip: Check water levels by calling the park office.) The final 4.5 miles generally trace Auger Fork Creek to its headwaters, which pool below the 2,900-foot Blue Ridge Mountains and the Tennessee Valley Divide. Hit a left onto the Canebrake Trail (10) to close the final .8 mile.


Trip Planner
 
Get there From Greenville, take SC 183 N 18 miles to US 178. Drive west 24 miles to US 64 W. Turn left onto Frozen Creek Rd. and park in 4.5 miles.
 
Gear up Half-Moon Outfitters, 1420 Laurens Rd., Greenville. (864) 233-4001; halfmoonoutfitters.com
 
 
Permit Free; self-register at entrance stations.
 
 



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READERS COMMENTS

Jon
May 24, 2012

The park map gives out-and-back distances for trails. Canebrake is five miles one way, but the map says 10.

Jon
May 24, 2012

The park map gives out-and-back distances for trails. Canebrake is five miles one way, but the map says 10.

Derek & Gwen
Sep 25, 2011

We just finished this loop and would call strenuous, but we aren't in top condition. You are correct about the mileage being off. The first day works out to 11.5 miles (the miles from the suspension bridge to the auger hole trail is 6 miles not 3.9)and the second day is 8 miles. We shared the campsite with a couple that were following the backpacker route (Hi Mike and Randi) and they ran into the same issue with the mileage. It was a great loop overall, and we would do it again.

Derek & Gwen
Sep 25, 2011

We just finished this loop and would call strenuous, but we aren't in top condition. You are correct about the mileage being off. The first day works out to 11.5 miles (the miles from the suspension bridge to the auger hole trail is 6 miles not 3.9)and the second day is 8 miles. We shared the campsite with a couple that were following the backpacker route (Hi Mike and Randi) and they ran into the same issue with the mileage. It was a great loop overall, and we would do it again.

Derek & Gwen
Sep 25, 2011

Sitting at the brewing company having just completed this loop and for us it was strenuous, although to be fair we aren't in top condition. You are correct about the mileage being off both ways, it is 11.5 miles the first day(it tells you 3.9 to the turn off and its 6 miles) and 8 miles the second day. The first day mileage can make you question if you missed the turn off for the auger hole trail if you are like us and know your distance per hour. We shared the campsite with a couple (hi Mike and Randi) that were also following these directions and they had run into the same issue. Over all a good loop, just leave yourself enough time for day one.

J Welch
Sep 22, 2011

Does anyone know how accurate the distance and difficulty rating actually is? The link to the free map shows the first trail being 10 miles and the second 14.5 miles; considerably longer than the 16.8 listed. Also, the trip data ranks the difficulty at 6/10 while the state park map lists both main trails as "strenuous."

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