Rocky Branch Creek Falls and Hospital Rock are attractions in Jones Gap State Park in upstate South Carolina. Most visitors to the park hike the easy trails to Rainbow Falls and Jones Gap Falls. A few people challenge themselves with Pinnacle Pass and Rim of the Gap, but almost no one takes the Hospital Rock/Falls Creek Falls Trail.
I had a goal of hiking every trail in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness this past winter, and I did almost all of it by creating loops of varying sizes. Every now and then, I do one of the spur trails that couldn’t be looped with any other trails. This is one of them.
I had limited time, and I was hiking without my trekking poles, so I just hiked a few miles up the trail to where Falls Creek Falls Trail intersects with the Cleveland Connector. At that point, I was on top of the mountain and decided to save the ridge walk and view of the falls for another day.
The trailhead is difficult to find. Assuming you park at the standard lot, it’s up the hill (to your right) behind the trout pond. If you reach the public restrooms, you’ve gone too far. There are also signs for campsites 1-4 at the trailhead.
This climb is no joke. It’s probably as strenuous as Pinnacle Pass and a little less demanding than Rim of the Gap. After maybe 1½ miles, the trail crosses Rocky Branch Creek at the falls. The cascade is impressive and fun to explore.
The hike gets a little easier from here. After another mile or so, you reach Hospital Rock. This is less than impressive. It’s just a big boulder with a hollow space beneath it. There’s not much of a view here either. If you just want to stretch your legs, hike just a bit past the falls. There’s a good view there. Then turn around.
Like I said, I wanted to summit the mountain for exercise, so I kept climbing. There are a few places with better views of the valley—you can make out the Pinnacle Pass Overlook if you know where to look—but this trail fails to provide the kind of spectacle that you get from the summit on the other side of the park. I can see why it’s not as popular.
Remember that Jones Gap is very popular and the rangers limit the number of cars in the park at a time. If you’re not there by 10:30 am, you will have to park and wait for someone to leave before you can get in. This is true year-round.
There are lots of picnic tables by the water, so bring a picnic basket and have lunch outside.