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I blame the waterfall. Rainbow Falls is a wide curtain of water that drops 150 feet over a sheer granite cliff on the Horsepasture River. It’s something you’d find on

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I blame the waterfall. Rainbow Falls is a wide curtain of water that drops 150 feet over a sheer granite cliff on the Horsepasture River. It’s something you’d find on

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I blame the waterfall. Rainbow Falls is a wide curtain of water that drops 150 feet over a sheer granite cliff on the Horsepasture River. It’s something you’d find on

A Love Letter to Gorges State Park

I blame the waterfall.

Rainbow Falls is a wide curtain of water that drops 150 feet over a sheer granite cliff on the Horsepasture River. It’s something you’d find on a magazine cover, or in a commercial for a really fresh deodorant, and it sits just outside the border of Gorges State Park. Hike the trail through the park, and you can swim in clear pools, rock-hop between boulders, and jump from a ledge off the side of the falls. It’s great fun … and it’s where I lost my wedding ring. On the first anniversary of that wedding, no less.

I was frolicking in the river with my wife. The water was cold. My hands shriveled. And I was so distracted by the utter beauty of it all that I didn’t even notice the ring slip from my finger. I blame the waterfall. But maybe I should blame Gorges State Park, a land so wild that it’s no place for nice things like wedding rings.

Gorges protects a 7,100-acre slice of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, a geological wonder where the landscape shifts dramatically from rolling Piedmont to towering mountains. That shift happens fast, with elevations rising 2,000 feet like a Great Blue Wall, as locals put it. The park encapsulates a handful of creeks and rivers that drop off of that wall, carving deep scars through the mountains as gravity pulls them toward Lake Jocassee in South Carolina. Waterfalls happen a lot here. You can see a couple of doozies by hiking Rainbow Falls Trail, but the real gems lie deeper in the park, where some of the dramatic drops aren’t even on the map. Imagine that: a state park with treasures that it doesn’t brag about! Gorges is like that — wild, unbridled.

Most state parks are loaded with nature trails and electrical hookups, facilities that attract RVers and elementary school field trips. They’re to be cherished, but it’s hard to get lost and hypothermic on a quarter-mile nature trail. Gorges State Park runs counter to these stereotypes. It is a rugged area of rivers, canyons, and waterfalls that defies expectations. I love it because it still holds mysteries and big adventures.

And a tiny wedding ring sitting on the bottom of the Horsepasture River.

Gorges State Park
976 Grassy Ridge Road
Sapphire, NC 28774
(828) 966-9099
ncparks.gov/gorges-state-park

This story was published on Mar 28, 2022

Graham Averill

Graham Averill is a contributor to Our State. He writes about adventure and travel for Outside, Bike, and Southern Living. He lives in Asheville with his wife and two children, all of whom humor him when he puts on his lumberjack pants.