Pinnacle Pass Trail Professional Review and Guide
"A rugged, one-to-two-day hike up and over a number of mountains and ridges, punctuated by a spectacular vista of Jones Gap. The best view in South Carolina, possibly in the eastern United States, is less than 2 miles from popular Jones Gap State Park. The trail runs mostly uphill, but the view is an experience well worth the climb. Interesting rock outcroppings, rock sluices, and excellent autumn colors and views of Cleveland Cliff make for a delightful hike. After a rugged climb, the trail drops 10 or 20 feet, and a railing and chain protect you from the 2,000-foot drop-off. Here is the vista that makes the climb worth the effort. You are 2.2 miles from Jones Gap State Park and standing atop a crest of Little Pinnacle Mountain."
--John Clark & John Dantzler, Hiking South Carolina (Falcon Guides).
Hiking from Jones State Park is very very strenuous with a loaded pack. There are some technical sections on this hike and several portions are not very well maintained. You have to pay to park at Jones State Park ($2/day or less) and the initial climb should be attempted early in the day to be able to appreciate the extraordinary views at the top. Once you reach the top, the trail continues for a few miles along the top of the ridge and follows an old road bed where some good camping spots and one "designated camping" spot can be found. This trail is not traversed much; you are unlikely to meet other hikers on it. I was there on July 4th weekend and did not pass another person on it or at any of the trails that intersected it. A real treat lies after a heinous downhill a second spectacular view can be taken in on a broad rock face, similar to the one on the initial climb. Be aware to follow the white blazes on the rocks, which are sometimes joined by the older orange blazes. The descent is sharp following this last view and eventually you intersect the dirt portion of oil creek road alongside the river. At this point, you can choose to walk and follow the river down where it will intersect the road leading back to the park or you can continue up the trail which leads to highway 276 and eventually Caesars Head State Park. This entire hike is very demanding with the exception occurring for a couple miles when the trail follows the ridge line. Not recommended for beginners or those wanting an easy hike, but the views you get after the steep climbs/descents are well worth the difficulty
This was an awesome trail. It's definately not for a rookie hiker! We left the Visitors Center at 9:30 a.m. and got back around 5:00. Total of 11 miles. Started out on Little Pinnacle Pass, then took the Connector Trail to the Rim of the Gap Trail, and made a complete circle getting back on the Jones Gap Trail. Absolutely spectacular view on Pinnacle Mountain! Twisty turns all along the trails, along with rivers to cross, and ladders and rocks to climb over. Fortunately, the trails were marked very well. Have to say, if you have bad knees, don't take this hike. Down hill was a killer. We were dead tired by the time we got back, but would do it again for sure!
We did see signs of bear on the trails, and would probably feel a little safer carrying some defense, like mace. (just in case).
All in all, I'd definately recommend it. The Visitors Office was very helpful as they told us the best way to go and we purchased a map of the Park before we started. (Although, there is only a small window of when they're open.)
All in all, it was a hike to remember!
This is a great trail. I am always looking for challenging trails to bring my dogs on so they can roam free and not get hurt. My advice is to combine Pinnacle Pass with Rim of the Gap. Start out on Jones Gap, after about 100 yards you split off to the left on Rim of the Gap (yellow). You will then have to option to split left again to get on Pinnacle Pass, which is a somewhat challenging ascent, or stay right on Rim of the Gap, which is even more challenging. There are a couple of trails that connect the two (#21 and #22 I believe), so in all it's a nice 7-8 mile loop. Definitely worth doing, and the best part is not many people are on the trail.
**Get to Jones Gap early on nice days - they only have limited parking, and you have to wait in line until others leave.
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