North Carolina January 14, 2017
The Hidden Park That Will Make You Feel Like You’ve Discovered North Carolina’s Best Kept Secret
With the way the weather changes here, I wasn’t too surprised to learn that western North Carolina is actually home to its own mini rainforest. Due to shift and sudden elevation changes, a surreal environment was formed. Lush plants line steep, rocky paths. Waterfalls tower above you and all kinds of birds zip past. There’s really so much to see at Gorges State Park, it can almost feel like you’ve entered another world. Yet, that’s the best part.
One part that makes the area so enchanting is that Gorges State Park is home to the only temperate rainforest in the United States, Jocassee Gorges. You'll find the park between Brevard and Cashiers. The breathtaking scenery and temperate climate are in part to the elevation rising nearly 2,000 ft. in just 4 miles plus over 80 inches of yearly rain.
Gorges State Park encompasses 7,709 acres with multiple waterfalls, hiking trails, and unique wildlife and plant life found throughout. One favorite hike is to Rainbow Falls. While the hike is listed as strenuous it's mainly due in part to climbing a few hills in the rugged terrain. Rainbow Falls is a true gem when it comes to North Carolina waterfalls.
Until 1999 this gorgeous area was almost inaccessible to tourists. After opening, hikers, and backpackers were able to explore the uncharted wilderness and primitive beauty.
Even the newly renovated visitors center is first-class with museum style exhibits educating you on all the park has to offer. A hallmark of the area is the backcountry style aspect where you feel a million miles away. In the park you'll find the long-distance Foothills Trail and the park touches the South Carolina border where the beautiful Lake Jocassee is located.
It's no surprise that in such an insane environment, not far away you'll find the highest waterfall east of the Rockies - Whitewater Falls. The fall spans a total of 800ft. with the upper portion in North Carolina and the lower in South Carolina. Sadly, the forest fires from this fall destroyed the observation deck to the falls, but it can still be accessed by hiking.
You'll truly be thrust into the wilderness here, but that's the appeal to most hikers. The scenery changes drastically per mile as the environment is so unique. Although being opened some 17 years ago, the park is still relatively new, which incorporates the backpacking feel with each place you explore.
Gorges State Park is truly an amazing destination hiding right here in North Carolina. Have you visited here before?
For more state parks to explore,
these ten will blow you away.