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Raven Cliff Falls Loop

Mountain Bridge Wilderness

Caesars Head State Park

Greenville County, SC


by Jack Thyen (SCJack)

Hike Distance: 8.8 miles

Difficulty Rating: Strenuous: 7 out of 10 on the difficulty scale

Trail Quality & Enjoyment Rating: 9 out of 10

Pros: Awesome waterfall, nice creek with many cascades along the way, very impressive rock outcroppings.

Cons: Crowds at the Raven Cliff Falls Overlook

Camping: There are a few campsites along the Naturaland Trust Trail on the banks of Matthews Creek.  Contact the Caesars Head State Park Office for more details: (864) 836-6115

 

Notes:
The Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area is 40,000 acres of wilderness containing over 50 miles of the best hiking trails in the State of South Carolina.  There is also access to the 80-mile Foothills Trail.  A rough trail map of the area can be found on www.sctrails.net, but I would recommend stopping by the Caesars Head Park Office and purchasing a trail map for $2.10.  While you are there, it is highly recommended that you check out the view from the Caesars Head Overlook!

As of October 2003, there is now a $2.00/person fee to access the hiking trails.  You must also fill out a hiker registration form before hitting the trails. 

 

Hike Route and Mileage:

Start at the Raven Cliff Falls Parking Area (Caesars Head Lot B)

2.2 miles - Raven Cliff Falls Trail (#11) down to the Overlook

0.3 miles - Backtrack to the Dismal Trail

1.5 miles - Dismal Trail (#12)

1.8 miles - Naturaland Trust Trail (#14)

3.0 miles - Gum Gap Trail (#13)

Finish back at the Raven Cliff Falls Parking Area

Total Mileage = 8.8 miles

 

Hike Description:

From the Raven Cliff Falls Parking Area, the trail head is just across US276.  Make sure you fill out a hiker registration form and place the white copy in the box. 

The Raven Cliff Falls Trail begins as a wide gravel road that gradually descends into the forest.  After about a quarter mile it narrows a bit as it turns to the right and follows the ridge line.  There are some nice views to the South along this section of trail.  After about a mile the trail descends down three flights of wooden steps while passing through tunnels of mountain laurel and rhododendron.

At the 1.5 mile mark, you reach a shelter at the junction of the Gum Gap and Raven Cliff Falls Trails.  Turn left at this intersection to continue on to Raven Cliff Falls.  Shortly past the shelter, the Dismal Trail breaks off to the left, but for now, continue to the right on the Raven Cliff Falls Trail.  The final 0.3 mile descends gradually with the trail ending at the Raven Cliff Falls viewing platform.

Raven Cliff Falls is probably the most visited waterfall in South Carolina and once you arrive at the overlook you will know why!  Matthews Creek plunges 420-ft over the side of Raven Cliff Mountain to form this truly awesome waterfall!  After viewing and photographing the falls, return back to the junction of the Dismal Trail to continue the loop.

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The Dismal Trail steeply descends approximately 1200-ft over its 1.5 mile stretch. It is far less traveled than the Raven Cliff Falls trail, so this part of the hike should offer you some nice solitude.  After a quarter mile on the Dismal Trail, some large granite boulders offer a distant side view of Raven Cliff Falls.  After many switchbacks down through the Dismal Forest the roaring sounds of Matthews Creek can be heard.  The Dismal Trail ends at the Naturaland Trust Trail.  Turn right at this junction to continue the loop.

This section of The Naturaland Trust Trail starts off by following Matthews Creek upstream.  The are a couple of excellent campsites, and many nice cascades can be seen before arriving at a creek crossing where a pair of cables are strung across the creek.   During high water times, use the bottom cable for your feet and the top cable to hold on to.  If the water level is low, you can safely step across the rocks using the bottom cable for balance.

After leaving Matthews Creek, the trail begins a steep climb of about 1000-ft, which is the most difficult section of this hike.  About halfway up is a very impressive 150-ft tall rock outcropping called The Cathedral.

Past the Cathedral, the trail begins a series of switchbacks up the face of Raven Cliff Mountain.  You can hear the roar of Raven Cliff Falls, but you cannot see it from the trail.  In order to view the falls from this part of the trail, look for a spur trail heading straight at the point where one of the switchbacks makes it's turn.  This side trail is just before the 1st ladder.

The short spur trail of less than 100 yards takes you to the edge of a cliff and offers a nice side view of the Falls.  From here you can also see the Raven Cliff Falls Overlook platform across the gorge.  Be careful not to get to close to the edge as a fall from here would likely be fatal!

After returning to the main trail, a few more switchbacks and a couple of ladders will take you to the suspension bridge across the top of Raven Cliff Falls.  The bridge sits directly above the 1st drop and offers a very interesting perspective of the falls. 

Continuing on past the bridge, the Naturaland Trust Trail follows Matthews Creek upstream where several more small waterfalls and cascades can be viewed.  The Naturaland Trust Trail ends at the intersection of the Gum Gap Trail, where you turn right to continue the loop.  Turning left (West) here would take you to the beginning of the 80-mile Foothills Trail.

The Gum Gap Trail, which follows a wide dirt road makes for a nice easy ending to the hike.  The trail eventually turns to the right and leaves the dirt road before joining up with the Raven Cliff Falls Trail at the shelter.  Return to the trail head and parking area via the Raven Cliff Falls Trail.

 

 

Gettin' There:   Near Greenville, South Carolina  From the junction of US276 & SC11, head Northwest on US276.  Once you reach the top of the mountain, the Caesars Head State Park office and overlook will be on the left.  The Raven Cliff Falls Parking Area and trail head is about one mile past the park office, and about 2 miles South of the NC/SC State Line.

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