|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
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 via a wooden footbridge and pick up the Auger Hole Trail. In .6 mile, turn left (southeast) onto the Canebrake Trail 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. (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 and cross the 225-foot suspension bridge 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, and continue .5 mile to Bear Gap 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 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. (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 to close the final .8 mile.
PERMIT Free; self-register at entrance stations.
MAP Free; ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/gorg/pics/parkmap.pdf
GEAR UP Half-Moon Outfitters, 1420 Laurens Rd., Greenville. (864) 233-4001; halfmoonoutfitters.com
-Mapped by Peter Rives