• Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    8.8 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2000 Feet

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

This trail will take you to the gorgeous Raven Cliffs Waterfall in Caesars Head State Park, which can be seen from a peaceful overlook, or accessed by a large suspension feet which is 30+ feet above the falls! Steep, rocky terrain mixed with old logging roads makes for a diverse hike with plenty of views of wildflowers, rock outcrops, and Matthews Creek.

Location: From the intersection of US276 & SC11, head Northwest on US276.  Drive to the top of the mountain, 1 mile past the visitor's center, and The Raven Cliff Falls Parking Area and trail head will be on your right. 

From the Raven Cliff Falls Parking Area, the trail head is right across the street. You will see a brown sign that reads "The Foothills Trail - Caesars Head Access" There are forms for hikers to fill out at the trailhead, please be courteous and fill them out and leave a fee if applicable.

The Raven Cliff Falls Trail begins as a wide gravel road that gradually descends into the forest.  After about a quarter mile the trail narrows and turns to the right to follows the ridge line.  There are some nice views to the South along this section of trail.  After about a mile the trail will begin to descend down three flights of wooden steps with passing through 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. At this point you have some options, to go to the falls directly, or to visit the overlook to foreshadow your trip. To go to the overlook, turn left.  Shortly past the shelter, the Dismal Trail breaks off to the left, but first, continue to the right on the Raven Cliff Falls Trail.  After about a quarter mile, you will reach the Raven Cliff Falls overlook shelter. 

At the viewing platform, you can see the entire 420 foot drop from across the valley, and there are benches where you could eat lunch or a snack. After viewing and photographing the falls, return back to the junction of the Dismal Trail to continue the loop.

The Dismal Trail steeply descends approximately 2000-ft over a 1.5 mile stretch. Beware, this is quite steep and if you decide to travel the trail from the opposite direction, just be aware that it is strenuous, so know your limits. After a short walk on the Dismal Trail, some large granite boulders offer a distant side view of Raven Cliff Falls off to your right.  After many switchbacks down through the Dismal Forest, you will begin to hear the sounds of Matthews Creek.  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 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 (depending on your direction).  About halfway up is a very impressive 150-ft tall rock outcrop nicknamed "The Cathedral."

Past the rock wall, the trail begins a series of switchbacks up the face of Raven Cliff Mountain. At this point, you can hear the falls but it cannot be seen from the main trail. In a few places, a spur trail can be faintly seen which leads to a view of the falls. 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, there are no metal restraints, and so it is possible to fall. 

After returning to the main trail, you will ascend a series of metal rung ladders which will ultimately lead you to the suspension bridge. The suspension bridge allows you to see Raven Cliff falls from directly above the bottom of the 1st tier of the falls. It is a great place for pictures, but please be careful because a fall would be extremely dangerous, and be sure to not linger too long if other groups are trying to enjoy the view as well. 

After the suspension bridge, the trail follows Matthews Creek upstream where several more small waterfalls and cascades can be seen. 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 connect you to the Foothills Trail in the direction of Table Rock State Park. 

The Gum Gap Trail is dirt/gravel and wider than single track. This section is much easier terrain, and the trail eventually turns to the right and leaves the dirt road before joining up with the Raven Cliff Falls Trail at the shelter. Use this trail to back-track and arrive back at the trailhead and parking.

(Thanks to Jack Thyne - Hiking the Carolinas: for information on trail)

Pack List

  • Day pack
  • Hydration (bottles or small bladder) 
  • Snacks (trail mix, clif bars, etc.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking boots/ shoes
  • Wicking clothing for warm weather
  • Base layers for cooler weather 
  • Rain gear, weather is unpredictable in this region
  • Camera 
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos


Overall rating:  Rate this Adventure

Leave a Review

Have you done this adventure? Leave a review!

Brett Kelly

Research assistant at Iowa State University studying native brook trout populations in the driftless region. MTB, Hiking, Backpacking, and fishing.

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike to Jones Gap Falls

Cleveland, South Carolina

For Caesar's Head State Park access, head North from Pickens on HWY 178 until it intersects with HWY 11.

49 Saves

Take in the View from Caesars Head Overlook

Cleveland, South Carolina

The Drive: Head North on SC Highway 11 "Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway" towards Table Rock State Park.

94 Saves

Photograph Fred W. Symmes Chapel (Pretty Place)

Cleveland, South Carolina

Getting there Fred W. Symmes (aka Pretty Place) Chapel is perched near the top of Standing Stone Mountain at 3000 feet above sea level.

47 Saves