Raven Cliff Falls and Dismal Trail Loop

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Caesars Head State Park

Raven Cliff Falls and Dismal Trail Loop is a 8.8 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Cleveland, South Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 8.8 miles Elevation Gain: 2,240 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

hiking

nature trips

cave

forest

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

over grown

rocky

Although dogs are allowed on this trail, some users have reported that the trail has ladders and steep rock faces, making it difficult for dogs. Combining the Raven Cliff Falls trail, the Gum Gap trail, the Naturaland Trust trail, and the Dismal trail for a great adventure! This is a great workout with a tremendous payoff. Hike trail #11(FHT/Raven Cliff Falls,easy) to trail #13 (Gum Gap,easy). Follow Gum Gap to trail #14 (Natureland Trust, strenuous) over the suspension bridge and down the the side towards Matthews Creek at the bottom. Along the way there is a great break spot on a ledge and the Cathedral formation. This section is very steep going down. Cross Matthews Creek on the cables and start the vicious switchbacks on Trail #12 (the Dismal Trail) back to trail #11 and eventually the parking lot. This hike is outstanding. Be prepared, either direction this is a hard hike with a well earned payoff.

hiking
12 days ago

Amazing trail! It was very crowded today due to the limitations, but everyone just parked on the side of the road and they let people in. The park ranger told me they were not supposed to let people do that but anyways I made it in and got there late like 11ish. Go early! Raven cliffs falls was crowded and a very easy section. It’s only a small part of this trail, so who cares. I did this loop clockwise and I would recommend it this way because the dismal trail would have been hell climbing up at the end. Going down dismal was fine, not hard at all really. Once you hit the Naturaland Trust trail that changes... it was challenging! I went alone but I would not recommend unless you’re an experienced hiker. Overgrown trail that is very steep, I found myself holding onto tree branches pulling myself up in some areas praying they wouldn’t break and I’d be toast. This part of the trail was incredibly beautiful. Waterfalls, creeks, the cathedral was so neat, bridges, ladders... worth it! Brings lots of water and snacks. Make sure the suspension bridge is open, I wish I would have called ahead to double check before doing it. I was nervous it would be closed and I’d have to trek back up dismal! Luckily it was open! Gum gap super easy section, I was so thankful for the rest it provided.

hiking
13 days ago

Fabulous Hike! Well worth the challenges for the rewards of spectacular views of numerous falls! Need to be in decent hiking shape for this trek!

hiking
18 days ago

Did this trail counter-clockwise today. Definitely think that was the way to go. If you wanted, you could hike to the Cathedral (big rock face) and then turn around for a shorter/less strenuous adventure. I think the Cathedral and the suspension bridge were the best parts of the hike. We thought going all the way down to the bottom would place you at the base of the falls, but that’s not true. Hiking up Dismal Trail is not as dismal as the name suggests. Steep, sure, but pretty short and there are no ladders/scrambly sections like the Natureland Trust trail has. It is pretty easy to lose sight of the trail, but there are many blazes.

Absolutely great hike. It has it’s tough moments the climb up the natural trail is a challenge. The views are great. Cathedral rock is amazing. The bridge is pretty cool. A hike that will stay with you a long time. Give yourself plenty of time and enjoy it. We did 13.7 miles in 6 hours stopped and had lunch take plenty of water 3 liters ran out for mu group of 5 but we had Gatorade for backup

hiking
20 days ago

Hiked the full 8.5 miles with my kids (age 14-22), husband and dog. What a Mother’s Day treat! We hiked the loop clockwise, doing Dismal Trail first. Loved the bridge over Matthew Creek at the bottom as well as suspension bridge over the top of the falls! We made a few wrong turns on the pink trail (Natureland Trust) but in the process discovered a great overlook of falls and were able to backtrack to find pink blazes again. Everyone is sore today but all agree it was more than worth it! :)

hiking
27 days ago

One of my favorite hiking places, it is very challenging and might make you sore in the morning but the view is worth it and you can definitely have a picnic at the end.

Took the clockwise route. Coming up Natureland Trust from Dismal to the bridge was pretty grueling. Be prepared. Also easy to lose the trail in a couple places on this segment if you aren’t paying attention. The rocks under the bridge / top of the falls offer a great spot to rest and eat lunch. Once past the bridge there’s not much excitement.

walking
bridge out
muddy
no shade
over grown
rocky
2 months ago

My husband and I started this trial at 9:45. We got almost all the way to the suspension bridge (going clockwise around the loop), before someone told us it was closed. We were around 5.1-5.2 miles in, so our whole trip was over 10 miles after we had to turn back. We got back to our car at 2:45, so it was 5 hours total. There are very pretty locations to look or take photos. There are areas in the hike where you need to walk through water or rock hop over it. I recommend taking more water than you think you will need! Going up the "dismal trail" is actually miserable. The hike was still worth it though. This is our favorite hike by far!

Very challenging and interesting trail!

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

Amazing and wonderful trail. Definitely difficult.

hiking
3 months ago

I'd have to agree with the "Dad Bod" not as hard as it's made to be. Tough yes, but only for about a mile. I was very disappointed. I had the impression that the trail went to the base of the falls. Next time I will.... Awesome hike. Go clockwise. Straight down for a mile, back up for a mile. Once you cross the bridge and get to ridge, your home free. Very rewarding, even though you don't get to see the falls. I'll be doing this one again. If a middle aged fat man can do this, anyone can. Just take your time. I hit the trail at 7:30am and was out by 1:00 pm.

Hard hike. I recommend clockwise. Great views of waterfalls. If you have a dog be prepared to carry up/down ladders.

hiking
muddy
3 months ago

This is my go-to hike! This trail has a few options making it easy for any level hiker to enjoy. You can check out the falls from the lookout spot, take a short cut to the falls or even hike along side it. Due to the wet season this past week the falls took up more space than usual but it made for a more beautiful view. Great for almost any season! Trails are muddy closer to the waterfall. Looks like the trail has been properly taken care of! Great for dogs (small dogs/ old dogs be warned of the stairs) This was the first hike I took my 6 month old puppy on!

hiking
blowdown
off trail
over grown
rocky
scramble
4 months ago

This loop is tough in sections. The Dismal Trail lives up to the name. I thought we were on a quest with Frodo at times. DO IT CLOCKWISE so you are fresher in the tough sections. The views in the gouge are fantastic. So, take water, strong legs, food and time. Don't start the loop without planning for sunset. The review that gives the blaze colors is spot on. Follow his directions. Be very careful on the Dismal section it is easy to get off the trail. Look closely for the pink blazes because some marked trees are down. It took my wife and me 4.30 to complete the entire hike and we hike a moderate pace.

hiking
icy
off trail
over grown
scramble
4 months ago

This trail is certainly not for the faint of heart. In fact, our hearts were pumping. Overall, this was a super fun trail, definitely intense. Even more experienced hikers we passed we’re struggling. Definitely go Raven Cliff to Dismal to Natureland (? - the pink) to Gum Gap. If you went the other way, hiking Dismal after that long way would be, well...dismal. Only other thing is right at the cathedral there is falling ice right now, and we were about 30 seconds away from a serious head injury / death...so watch out for that. A lot of really fun and scenic areas. Whole thing took shy of 6 hours at steady pace with some stops. The last leg (Gum Gap) doesn’t have much scenery in comparison, so that was a little rough, too. Overall, really enjoyed this.

hiking
icy
4 months ago

*BEST IN WINTER* — I would also suggest doing the trail the way they suggest (raven to dismal) because the other way is super slick and not good footing for going down. But this trail has everything in the winter: views and beautiful waterfall/water crossings. Not for the faint of heart or unprepared but amazing. It was only 8.3 miles

4 months ago

beautiful trail and lots of great views.

hiking
4 months ago

Challenging hike, easy to get off trail in several spots. Fell once while crossing stream on unsteady rock, so that was neat.

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