A few months ago, we all went on a hike in Paris Mountain that had some low level scrambling for the kids and they loved it. Jones Gap Trail is the next level up from there. The trail is quite rocky, which makes it more difficult for little kids, but the grand boulders alongside the trail are perfect for the kids to climb on. They really get a sense of satsifaction from climbing “to the top” and a sense of what it’s like to be “on the edge,” though none of it is particularly precarious under the watchful parental eye.
We had the afternoon free, so we headed up to Jones Gap State Park for a hike I’ve been wanting to take Jenny and the kids on. We would take it as far as Jones Gap Falls, if the kids made it that far. If we didn’t make it to the falls, the hike alongside the Middle Saluda River would be scenic. Win either way.
According to the DNR, The Middle Saluda River became the first river protected under the Scenic Rivers Program in South Carolina in 1978. Starting at Jones Gap, the walk from the parking lot towards the main office and hiker registration gave us a taste of what we’d be seeing the rest of our day with a rocky path, big boulders for the kids to climb on, and the sound of rushing water close by. Crossing over the Middle Saluda on a bridge brought us to the main area for lazy days by the river and a great place for family picnics.
As we were registering at the kiosk, we overheard another hiker talking with a ranger about yellow jacket swarms. They make their nests, which they’re very protective of, in hollowed out trees and in the ground. Apparently, this is their more aggressive season.
Climbing on all the rocks and hiking slowly along the trail ate up a lot more of our time than I had, in my drill sergeant planning, allowed for. We decided as to head back towards the entrance, as the sun was setting and we may be pushing the limits of the parks hours if we were to continue on any further. Mostly, the kids wouldn’t have time to wade around in the river, which they’d been looking forward to.
Back near the registration kiosk, there are a few good places to allow the kids to get their feet wet. The best spot we went to was right beneath the footbridge that brings you into the park. The water is lower there, or the ground is higher, however you want to look at it. Towards the middle there are a few deeper spots, so one still has to watch them. Keep in mind that the Middle Saluda River in Jones Gap is a rocky river. It’s not flat and sandy. Footing is very uneven in the riverbed, so the kids could easily slip and get soaked. River rocks are slick, so that adds to the potential of a full soak, if not twisted ankles or bonked heads.
In all, Jones Gap Trail along the Middle Saluda is a good adventure trail for kids. Lots to climb and play around on. When you sense they’re getting near having enough, you can turn around. What’s nice is that you don’t have to walk very far for nice scenery.