Some things are well worth the wait! After more than a year and a half and an estimated $6 million in renovation costs Gorges State Park reopens its gates to the North Carolina public. Situated on 7,520 pristine acres in the Sapphire/Lake Toxaway region of the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, Gorges is the only state park found west of Asheville. The newest additions to the park include 350 new parking spaces in four parking lots; four miles of paved roads; new trailheads and trails; and improvements to the parks infrastructure including water, electricity and phone lines. And thats just the beginning! Construction of the next phase in the transformation of Gorges State Park is slated for the winter of 2010. Plans include a visitor center and two sheltered picnic areas, as well as new restroom facilities and a maintenance area.
Gorges State Park now features six hiking trails anywhere from one to over 14 miles in length for a total trail system of 28 moderate to strenuous miles. Horses and mountain bikes are allowed on the 14 mile Auger Hole trail, and campers are welcome to pitch their tents on one of six campsites along the nearly 7 mile Foothills trail. Nature lovers will appreciate the fact that close to 125 rare plant and animal species native to the Western North Carolina mountain region can be found within the park, 12 of which are either threatened or endangered.
The park is currently open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors should be mindful of the fact that the gates are secured at closing. To access the park from Cashiers, travel east on Highway 64 to Highway 281. Travel approximately 7 miles south on 281 to the entrance of Gorges State Park. Upper Bearwallow Falls, the Bearwallow Falls Overlook and a new picnic area are scheduled to open on Monday, May 18. The Gorges Overlook is lined up to open on Monday, May 25.
March May 8 a.m. 8 p.m. June August 8 a.m. 9 p.m. September October 8 a.m. 8 p.m. November February8 a.m. 6 p.m.
Ranger Presentation/Education Series:
Talking Turkey May 16 at 2 p.m. Box Turtles and Timber RattlersMay 17 at 2 p.m. Trailhead and Trailside WildflowersMay 20 at 9 a.m.
For more information about these and future programs, call the Gorges office at (828) 966-9099.