A trail guide to the Picnic Area Connector Trail in Gorges State Park. This is a great leg-stretcher trail for the entire family, especially if you need to walk off some of your picnic.
This is a fun and easy hike suitable for almost all ability levels. Its placement between the two primary picnic areas of Gorges State Park promises consistent popularity.
View down into the forest from the Picnic Area Connector Trail.
Photo by Barron C. Stewart
From N.C.: Take U.S. Highway 64 to N.C. 281 South. Turn onto N.C. 281 South. Travel .9 miles from U.S. Highway 64 to Park Entrance.
From S.C.: Take S.C. Highway 11 to S.C. Highway 130 North. Turn onto 130 North. Travel 10.2 miles to the North Carolina State line. S.C. Highway 130 becomes N.C. 281. Travel 7.8 miles to Gorges State Park Entrance.
From Park Entrance: Travel one mile to the new visitor’s centre. Turn left just past the visitor’s centre onto an unnamed paved road. Travel .9 miles to the second and primary Bearwallow Picnic Area.
There are two picnic areas. The first, White Pine Picnic Area, is encountered at .7 miles, and is the smaller of the two. The larger picnic area at .9 miles has two trailheads, the Bearwallow Picnic Area Trailhead and the Upper Bearwallow Falls Trailhead, and bus parking. Due to the larger size of the area, the larger size of the parking lot, and the presence of signed trailheads, I am considering the second picnic area the primary area. The two picnic areas are visible to one another if the viewer is standing in the right place.
Blaze Markings: white metal triangles
Length: approximately .3 mile; exactly 1870 feet
Difficulty: easy (my categorization; when I hiked this trail, none of the park literature included this trail) due to the short length and very little elevation change.
Detail of a laurel bloom along the trail.
Photo by Bret James Stewart
The Picnic Area Connector Trail begins in the larger portion of the Bearwallow Picnic Area at the sidewalk approximately 10’ from the bathrooms. The trail climbs the small hill and enters the woods. For 365’, the Picnic Area Connector Trail and the Bearwallow Valley Trail (blazed with red triangles) overlap. At the 365’ mark, the Bearwallow Valley Trail breaks off from the Picnic Area Connector Trail.
This leg-stretcher is relatively flat and easy to traverse. It has been newly constructed as the fresh gravel and remainder of straw along the trail edges attest. There is a lot of laurel (Rhododendron maximum) along the way, indicating the relative acidity of the soil, as well as beautifying the scenery. When I hiked the trail in early July, the white blooms were prolific and very well-appreciated.
The Picnic Area Connector Trail ends at the smaller picnic area, joining up with the concrete pad of the restroom. You can hear a jolly creek across the road from th parking area. As short as the trail is, a hiker could readily back-track to the beginning. Those wanting to make a loop can walk the road back to the primary picnic area.
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