Raven Cliff Falls


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Raven Cliff Falls is the king of South Carolina waterfalls at an estimated 420 feet. Matthews Creek plunges off Raven Cliff Mountain at the Blue Ridge Escarpment near Caesars Head. The escarpment is where the Blue Ridge Mountains (part of the Appalachian chain) drop abruptly 2,000 feet to the Piedmont below. This sudden drop is the geologic reason why there are so many falls in the area. A very popular 4.4-mile roundtrip trail leads to an overlook across the gorge from the falls. The 4.4-mile hike is moderately difficult with steep descents in the first .25 mile and last .75 mile. That means you will have to ascend on the return trip. When you reach a set of stairs on this trail, you are near the halfway point. When you reach the shelter, turn left to begin the final .75 mile descent to the overlook. Caesars Head State Park is part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness, a 40,000-acre preserve in northwestern South Carolina.

Numerous hiking trails crisscross the area, including the Naturaland Trust trail that takes you across the top of Raven Cliff Falls on a steel and wood suspension bridge. The bridge is directly above a 15-foot drop that you perceive as the top of the falls from the overlook. The seven-mile hike to and from the bridge is also moderately difficult. Hike the red-blazed Raven Cliff Falls Trail (#11) 1.5 miles to its intersection with the Gum Gap Trail (#13) at the small wood shelter. Follow the blue-blazed Gum Gap Trail another 1.5 mile until it intersects the Naturaland (Natraland) Trust Trail (#14). Hike the Naturaland (Natraland) Trust Trail .5 mile until you reach the bridge. Backtrack to return to the Raven Cliff parking lot. A much more difficult loop (8.5 miles long) can also be hiked to get to the bridge. It involves descending 1,200 feet over one mile into the Matthews Creek gorge and then acsending out of the gorge. I hiked the loop clockwise, meaning I went down the The Dismal then went up the Naturaland Trust Trail. Different guides recommend hiking it clockwise or counterclockwise. As a park ranger put to me, "Would you like to get the hard part over with at the beginning of the hike or at the end?" Hiking the loop clockwise gets the hard part over at the beginning and leaves the comparatively easy Gum Gap Trail for the end. For more details, consult the Mountain Bridge Wilderness trail guide produced by the Naturaland Trust. Copies are for sale at the Jones Gap and Caesars Head state park visitor's centers and at many outdoor outfitters.







Directions: From Caesars Head State Park on US 276 in northern Greenville County, drive north for one mile to a large, paved parking lot on the right. Take the second right down into the lot. The trail begins across the road. It is required by law to register at the trail box. Follow the red blazes on the trees and the signs to the falls because two other, much more difficult, trails (including a spur of the Foothills Trail) intersect the Raven Cliff Falls Trail.

All photos Allen Easler.