Raven Cliff Falls Loop Caesars Head State Park, SC
miles
LENGTH 7.7 MILES
DIFFICULTY 16.4 Medium
Hard
DURATION 4-6 hours
ELEVATION GAIN
2000
feet
TRAIL TYPE
Lollipop
Loop
Raven Cliff Falls Loop

Explore the Mountain Bridge Wilderness at Caesars Head State Park along the Raven Cliff Falls Loop, a feature rich, heart-pumping hike. This lollipop loop explores above and below the 420-foot Raven Cliff Falls, dropping you deep into the Matthews Creek gorge before climbing back out. Dogs are allowed in the park, but it's not recommended for this hike due to steep terrain and several ladders.

Most people, including the park rangers, suggest taking this loop clockwise to hike the harder sections toward the beginning. From the elevation graph, the steep sections are pretty close to the middle of the route, so it doesn't matter. When I calculated the difficulty if you went counter-clockwise, it was .2 points less, so not much difference either way.

The trail begins on the other side of the highway from the parking lot. This hike makes a lollipop loop starting with the Raven Cliff Falls Trail (#11, Red), and combining it with the Dismal Trail (#12, Purple), Naturaland Trust Trail (#14, Pink), and the Gum Gap Trail (#13, Blue). If going clockwise, head out to the view at the end of the Raven Cliff Falls Trail before taking the Dismal Trail to catch a long distance view of Raven Cliff Falls.

Other than being quite steep, there isn't much to tell about the Dismal. A few minor creek crossings and the constant sounds of water follow you to the intersection with the Naturaland Trust. Here you'll cross over Matthews Creek by way of a log bridge. This used to be a cable crossing or rock hop years ago.

You can skip the gym for the rest of the week after hiking up the Naturaland Trust to the top of the falls. It's quite a workout. You'll also have to deal with some confusing trail blazes. Many places the double pink blaze indicates a turn but the blazes are stacked on top of each other without a clear indication of right or left. These are also sometimes after the turn you should have taken. The trail is blazed consistently so just keep an eye out for pink. And if the trail looks too overgrown you may have gone the wrong way.

Along the way, you'll walk along an impressive rock wall towering higher than the trees known as the Cathedral. This is just over halfway up to the suspension bridge that takes you over the creek just above Raven Cliff Falls. Explore a few side trails along the creek near the suspension bridge for great spots to take a break and enjoy smaller waterfalls and cascades. Round out the loop with the easy Gum Gap Trail that reconnects with the Raven Cliff Falls Trail.

If all this sounds too difficult, you can still hike these trails by taking the Raven Cliff Falls Trail by itself or head around the Gum Gap Trail to visit Raven Cliff Falls Suspension Bridge without a visit to the bottom of the gorge.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Slope Breakdown
Elevation Gain
Elevation Range
Grade Range
Length
Elevation Gain
0 - 250 ft/mi
~ 0 - 5 %
1.2 mi
107 ft
250 - 500 ft/mi
~ 5 - 10 %
1.2 mi
461 ft
500 - 750 ft/mi
~ 10 - 15 %
0.8 mi
465 ft
750 - 1000 ft/mi
~ 15 - 20 %
0.4 mi
353 ft
1000+ ft/mi
~ 20+ %
0.4 mi
658 ft
Elevation Loss
Elevation Range
Grade Range
Length
Elevation Loss
0 - 250 ft/mi
~ 0 - 5 %
0.8 mi
122 ft
250 - 500 ft/mi
~ 5 - 10 %
1.1 mi
398 ft
500 - 750 ft/mi
~ 10 - 15 %
0.8 mi
471 ft
750 - 1000 ft/mi
~ 15 - 20 %
0.5 mi
415 ft
1000+ ft/mi
~ 20+ %
0.5 mi
669 ft
Terrain Map Click to control map
Navigation
Reverse Hike loop in reverse direction.
0.0 mi
0.0 mi - Trailhead The trail begins on the opposite side of the highway between the entrance and exit of the parking lot.
1.4 mi
1.4 mi - Turn Left Hiking this lollipop loop clockwise, turn left to continue following the red-blazed Raven Cliff Falls Trail. Right will take you along the blue-blazed Gum Gap Trail.
1.8 mi
1.8 mi - Turn Right Stay right to continue following the red-blazed Raven Cliff Falls Trail. Left will take you down the steep purple-blazed Dismal Trail that you'll take after the view.
1.9 mi
1.9 mi - Raven Cliff Falls View Observation platform and pavilion. From here you'll turn around and head back to the previous intersection with the Dismal Trail.
2.0 mi
2.0 mi - Turn Right Turn right on the Dismal Trail you passed previously.
3.3 mi
3.3 mi - Turn Right Turn right on the pink-blazed Naturaland Trust Trail.
3.5 mi
3.5 mi - Log Bridge Cross over Matthews Creek via a log bridge. This used to be a cable crossing or rock hop.
Next .8 mi
Next .8 mi - Look for Blazes Several sections along the Naturaland Trust Trail can be a little confusing going up. Keep a lookout for blazes. A double blaze indicates a turn, although most are not clearly leaning one way or another to indicate which direction and sometimes the double blaze is well after the turn.
4.0 mi
4.0 mi - The Cathedral Hike along side a towering rock face known as the Cathedral.
4.3 mi
4.3 mi - Raven Cliff Falls Suspension Bridge Cross over Matthews Creek above the falls. Just afterward, several side trail take you to the creek for a good place to take a break and view smaller waterfalls and cascades.
4.9 mi
4.9 mi - Turn Right Turn right on the blue-blazed Gum Gap Trail.
5.9 mi
5.9 mi - Turn Right Turn right, following the blazes and signs to stay on the Gum Gap Trail.
6.3 mi
6.3 mi - Turn Left Finish the loop part of the hike by turning left on the red-blazed Raven Cliff Falls Trail.
7.7 mi
7.7 mi - Return to Trailhead
Details
length7.7 miles
difficulty16.4 Medium-Hard
duration4 - 6 hours
trail typeLollipop Loop
blazeRed (Raven Cliff Falls #11), Purple (Dismal #12), Pink (Naturaland Trust #14), Blue (Gum Gap #13)
elevation gain2000 ft.
park/forestCaesars Head State Park
visitor infoVisitor Center
8155 Geer Hwy
Cleveland, SC 29635
864-836-6115
hours9am - 9pm (daylight savings time), 9am - 6pm (rest of year)
Trails close 1hr before dark
parking fee$2/adult, $1.25/SC senior, kids 15 and below free
trailhead coordinates 35.11559, -82.638329 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°6.94, W 82°38.3 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°6'56'', N 35°6'56'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Trailhead Directions
35.11559, -82.638329 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°6.94, W 82°38.3 most GPS units use this one
N 35°6'56'', N 35°6'56'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
The trail begins on the opposite side of the highway between the entrance and exit of the parking lot. When crossing, listen for cars as they can come around the corners fast.
Parking Capacity
18 parking spots with overflow along the highway.
Notes
Better views in late fall/winter/early spring.
Very rocky and rooty in places.
Be careful on slick wet rocks over a few minor creek crossings and at the base of the Cathedral rock wall.
The Naturaland Trust Trail can be difficult to navigate. Keep an eye out for blazes and remember a double blaze means a turn. Sometimes the turn is before you see the double blaze.
Dogs are allowed on the trails but due to the steep rocky sections and ladders (2 up, 1 down) along the Naturaland Trust Trail it's not recommended.
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Reviews / Comments
Average Review Rating
5 (1)
hikethesouth-2 weeks ago
Feature Rich Hike
This is one of my favorite hikes although it got a little less interesting without the cable crossing. You get to explore Matthews Creek above and below the falls and take in views from both sides of the gorge. Cross over a log bridge and a suspension bridge and walk in the shadow of the massive Cathedral rock face. Most people suggest doing this clockwise. I've done it both ways. Personally, I think clockwise is more difficult. The Naturaland Trust Trail is much rougher than the Dismal. Depends on if you have more problems going up or down really steep trails.
Medium-Hard | Hiked Summer 2019
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