The national parks like Pisgah and Great Smoky Mountains get a lot of attention around Asheville, but there are some truly incredible state and private parks that are just as worthy of a visit.
Just over an hour outside of Asheville is a magnificent waterfall equpit with a swimming hole, it’s a gorge-ous hike to get there. Gorges State Park [976 Grassy Ridge Rd, Sapphire, NC 28774] is a relatively new park with a huge beautiful visitors center. The most popular hike in the 7,000+ acre forest is to Rainbow Falls, a 3.5 mile round trip out and back trek. Parking for the trail is down the hill from the Visitors Center at the Grassy Ridge trailhead.
Trails are very well marked and maintained, begin on the orange and blue blazed trail until you reach the junction for the falls which you will remain on for the rest of the hike. You’ll walk beside the scenic Horsepasture River.
After a little over a mile you’ll notice a spur trail. There is a great little swimming hole to hang around.
Keep going and shortly you’ll make it to the main event, majestic Rainbow Falls.
Standing at 150′ this waterfall is fantastically loud and swimming is not recommended below. Take the stairs to head above the falls, you can see where they begin by taking another spur trail.
Keep going a quarter of a mile on and you’ll reach Turtleback Falls, another favorite swimming hole.
Here, people even slide right down the falls into the cool pool below. There are many other trails and recreational opportunities in the park, too bad for me the weather took a turn for the worse the afternoon I visited.
Good to know: entrance is free, restrooms at the visitors center