Whether you prefer gorgeous long-range views, massive waterfalls, or gentle mountain ponds, Gorges State Park has something for you.
Gorges is a 7,641-acre jewel in Transylvania County, North Carolina, along Jocassee Gorges, which was purchased by the state from Duke Energy Corporation in 1999. It is North Carolina’s westernmost state park and one of the state’s newest. Gorges State Park opened its new 7,100 square-foot Visitor Center on October of 2012 and is ready to welcome you.
This area is home to a wide variety of habitats due to its geologic formations, elevation, and climate. Extreme elevation and 80 inches of rain per year creates a temperate rain forest and the sharp elevation change has resulted in a number of fantastic waterfalls. Gorges State Park is rife with wildlife. It is home to roughly 125 rare plant and animal species, including the very rare plant Oconee Bells and the state’s largest population of Green Salamanders, and 12 endangered or threatened plant and animal species as well as an abundance of plant and animal life typical to the southern Appalachians.
The views from the Visitor Center alone are worth the drive. Rainbow Falls is the most popular area in the Park. Raymond Fisher Pond provides a serene mountain pond with great hiking and camping.
Although the falls are not technically in Gorges, the only legal access to the falls is from the Rainbow Falls Trail within the Park. The Rainbow Falls Trail is a three mile round trip climaxing at the gorgeous Rainbow Falls. The 125′ tall Rainbow Falls is named for the rainbows that form from its spray when the sun is right. The lively action of the water creates a windy and misty cloud that coats the steep area around the plunge pool, creating a fey effect in sparkling airborne water droplets and glimmering rocks continually coated by the mist. During the winter, the waterfall becomes a jewel displayed in a frozen pillow.
As if this weren’t enough, there are other readily-accessible waterfalls nearby. These include Drift Falls, Turtleback Falls, Stairway Falls, Sidepocket Falls, and Windy Falls. Get out and explore!
Raymond Fisher Pond
Raymond Fisher Pond is accessible via the Raymond Fisher Trail that initially overlaps with the Rainbow Falls Trail. The Raymond Fisher Trail is a 1.5 mile round trip leading to a beautiful mountain pond nestled in the mountains. The pond is known for its catfish (sorry, guys, no fishing). Eight primitive campsites are near the pond. Each campsite features a camping pad, a fire ring, a picnic table, and a lantern hook. Pit toilets are nearby. There is a fee for camping; self-registration is provided at the kiosk at the Grassy Ridge trailhead.
The Raymond Fisher Trail is presumably named for a local resident of that name who lived in the vicinity at the aptly named “Raymond Fisher Place.” Raymond, along with his father and two brothers, drowned in a fishing accident, almost certainly while dynamiting fish.
Can a visitor center be a destination? Absolutely. The visitor center features large windows, a cozy atmosphere including a large fireplace, a small gift shop, and learning activities for various ages. The building is placed for tremendous views. Wide decks, some of them covered, provide long and short range mountain views, including into South Carolina. This great set-up is especially nice for handicapped folks or those who cannot hike a long way to see views. This is definitely a family-friendly aspect of the Park, but should be part of everyone’s itinerary.
For more information, please see the Gorges official site at www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/gorg/main.php.