Cliff Falls Loop
Head State Park
Distance: 8.8 miles
Rating: Strenuous: 7 out of 10 on the difficulty
Quality & Enjoyment Rating: 9 out of 10
Awesome waterfall, nice creek with many cascades along
the way, very impressive rock outcroppings.
Crowds at the Raven Cliff Falls Overlook
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)
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
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.
Route and Mileage:
at the Raven Cliff Falls Parking Area (Caesars Head Lot B)
miles - Raven Cliff Falls Trail (#11) down to the Overlook
miles - Backtrack to the Dismal Trail
miles - Dismal Trail (#12)
miles - Naturaland Trust Trail (#14)
miles - Gum Gap Trail (#13)
back at the Raven Cliff Falls Parking Area
Mileage = 8.8 miles
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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