Gorges State Park, NC: Two Gorges Loop

Trace the watery divide between the Carolinas.
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Trace the watery divide between the Carolinas.

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

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 27.0

Waypoints

GOR001

Location: 35.108767, -82.8838

From the Frozen Creek trailhead, cross the namesake creek via a wooden footbridge and pick up the Auger Hole Trail.

GOR002

Location: 35.107604, -82.885859

Turn left, heading southwest.

GOR003

Location: 35.104725, -82.890429

Turn left (southeast) onto the Canebrake Trail and enter a forest dominated by the rich scent of damp Eastern white pine needles.

GOR004

Location: 35.094227, -82.879937

Turn right (southwest) and 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.)

GOR005

Location: 35.071716, -82.884207

Continue west onto the Foothills Trail and cross the 225-foot suspension bridge over the Toxaway River.

GOR006

Location: 35.065113, -82.900236

Keep left.

GOR007

Location: 35.06755, -82.902483

Bear left. Continue south on the trail.

GOR008

Location: 35.062021, -82.90678

Cross Cobb Creek.

GOR009

Location: 35.058649, -82.914398

Bear left at the turnoff for Auger Hole Trail to camp near Bear Gap.

GOR010

Location: 35.060133, -82.919

Set up camp. Next morning, return to Auger Hole Trail (WPT 9), turn left, and climb 500 feet in .5 mile.

GOR011

Location: 35.068976, -82.918346

Switchback down into Turkeypen Gap.

GOR012

Location: 35.069783, -82.920417

Turkeypen Gap: Turn right at T-junction. Stay on the Auger Hole Trail as it heads northeast, descending deep into the labyrinthine heart of the park’s namesake gorges.

GOR013

Location: 35.078881, -82.911415

Ford knee-deep Bearwallow Creek just downstream from a 15-foot, triple-cascading falls.

GOR014

Location: 35.083288, -82.905858

Reach a thigh-deep (but slow), 40-foot-wide ford of the Toxaway River. (Tip: Check water levels by calling the park office.) Ahead: 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.

GOR015

Location: 35.104743, -82.890515

Hit a left onto the Canebrake Trail to close the final .8 mile.