With its stunning view of the Blue Ridge and woods full of rhododendrons, mountain laurel and wildflowers, Keowee-Toxaway State Natural Area is truly one of South Carolinas pretty places. The Jocassee Gorges Visitor Center exhibits and other visitor information serve as a gatewayto the Jocassee Gorges, roughly 50,000 acres of largely undisturbed, protected land where the Blue Ridge Mountains quickly fall 2,000 feet or more to the Piedmont below. The park features a rental cabin with a porch overlooking Lake Keowee and a courtesy dock. Camping also is available.
Nice loop. We took the right. I think if we would've taken the left, it may have been a little less uphill. Not that it mattered but I have 3 kids and it was middle of the afternoon, hot and humid. Overall, it's a pretty hike. Several small water creeks, cool little waterfall and cave like area around the natural bridge. Wish I had done an early morning hike.
We backpacked to the trail side campground at the park. Everything was well maintained and we had no issues. The park is rather empty all the time with a few hikers here and there. I wouldn't suggest camping on the trail side camp ground unless you just want to sit around and not do much.
This was a great hike my friends and I attempted. We planned a weekend camping trip at the primitive sites alongside the trail. While the hike itself was perfect, we brought along a large cooler and 80 pounds of camping gear. If you are camping and do not have a canoe/kayak, then pack lightly! I love this hike and the campsites associated with it.
Beautiful hike! We saw lots of wild flowers in bloom! I finally made it to the update to hike when the rhododendrons were in bloom. They had not reached their peak yet, but still beautiful! We hiked the Natural Bridge trail and the Raven Rock trail. We hiked at a comfortable pace, while stopping to take lots of pictures, and it only took 2 and a half hours.
Kate C. on Raven Rock Loop Trail
I have mixed feelings about this hike. First allow me to describe the positives of this trail:
Raven Rock Trail is an absolutely gorgeous trail in a lush mountain setting. There are many beautiful things to see along your hike including incredible geological formations, a natural stone bridge over a racing mountain stream, abundant rhododendron, gorgeous hardwood forest, and sweeping lake views with opulent mansions on the opposite shore. The sweet smell of the leaf litter, the sun peeking through the canopy, and the sounds of song birds provide a cathedral to remedy a city-weary soul.
Technically, Raven Rock is a well-marked and well maintained loop trail. You reach the Raven Rock trail head by hiking the Natural Bridge Trail loop trail first. The Raven Rock trail head is about halfway through the Natural Bridge trail. Both trails are loops, and if you're looking for a shorter but still vigorous hike I would recommend just sticking to the Natural Bridge Trail. If you have the time and endurance for 3 more miles, take the Raven Rock Trail. But pace yourself...
This leads me to what I perceive to be the challenges of the Raven Rock trail:
Ladies, and Gents, if you're not in great shape this is one heck of a workout! I admit that I'm not the hiker I once was. My new year's resolution was to complete 52 hikes in 2016. This was my 2nd hike of the year and certainly presented a fair share of challenges. Let me explain.
You begin your hike at a relatively high elevation. From the parking area you descend about 150 feet to a beautiful mountain stream passing through a rock formation (the Natural Stone Bridge), then climb 238 feet (rather steeply) to your first mountain peak. From there you descend only a little and ridge-hike to your next peak, the highest, at 1,171 feet. You then follow the trail down to the lake shore, 377 feet only to turn around and climb again (at this point getting pretty tired) all the way back up to 1,166 feet. You figure you've got the worst of it behind you and bound down the hill towards your car. This is where they throw a wrench into your hike. Because you then hike a gradual, but endless mile and a half uphill all the way back to your car. This was the part that had me ready to lay down on the side of the trail and sleep till morning! It is only another elevation gain of 234 feet but it was difficult for me because my body was spent from the rest of the hike.
So if you're new to hiking, or only returning to hiking after a long hiatus as I was, or not in the best of shape, don't despair you can still do it! Just be sure you've allowed yourself plenty of time to complete the hike factoring in breaks to give your body time to recover. I believe this was one of our problems. We only began the hike at about 2pm in the beginning of January so we knew we had to complete the hike by 5. It began getting dark on the trail by about 3:30 so we were really pushing ourselves to finish quickly and were spent by the time we reached the last hill.
Bring plenty of water, specifically in warmer temperatures, and perhaps a picnic to enjoy before the final leg of the hike.
There are two Ys in the trail and we went to the right each time. It may be slightly easier if you go to the left instead, which is what we'll try the next time. Then your final hill is a little shorter and more gradual to get you back to the parking area.
So the challenges of the hills are the only reason I rated this hike as a 4 star instead of a 5 star. My husband, who is in far better shape than I am, said persistently that the rating of this trail as moderate was inaccurate. He felt it was a pretty difficult trail, but hiked the entire thing with a 30lb weight vest and did beautifully. It is a gorgeous and well-maintained trail and would likely be very easy to the seasoned hiker.
Sheri P. on Raven Rock Loop Trail
The trail is great but I wasn't prepared for it. This was only my second hike and it became a bit harder at the end where it seemed to constantly be going up. I hope to try it again when I'm a bit more in shape because now I know what to expect.
Fun trail--not easy or difficult, Had nice views of lake, stream, and mountains, Plenty of places to get wet in, Some views are of million dollar homes too. It's a narrow, curvy trail with not too many roots or rocks. One steep part even had a bench conveniently nearby to rest on. My hip hurt a little after the hike, but all and all, a good time. It was above 50 today, so I got to swim without getting too cold. I guess Americorps has been cutting out the trees that are in the way. It can be completed in about 3 hours with a couple breaks. It is attached to the natural bridge trail.
The trail was very well maintained although at places it was covered in leaves and a little harder to make out. This was only my second hike and I vastly underestimated the difficulty- there are some really steep (not treacherous) places and I tired out fairly quickly- but we did make it all the way. The rock overlooking the lake was a fun spot to sit and take a rest and have a snack. All in all I would hike this trail again :) Our group finished in 2 hours and 10 minutes- granted our hike leader was a bit of a "conqueror" I could have easily taken another half hour by taking it a bit slower.