Outdoor activities in the South Carolina Upcountry abound, and there are a good variety of trails for hikers of all levels. From waterfalls to amazing mountain views, each trail offers hikers an incredible experience. Because the Upcountry is relatively undiscovered, there are very few books that have a true compilation of hikes in the area. In Five-Star Trails: South Carolina Upstate, author Sherry Jackson brings together those hiking trails that offer a five-star experience.
Each trail has been thoroughly researched, recently hiked, and includes a detailed description, trail profiles, and map. At-a-glance ratings in important categories such as scenery, trail condition, difficulty, solitude, and appropriateness for children let you quickly select a trail that fits your tastes and ability. Other useful information such as fees, restrictions for dogs on the trail, and advice on when to visit helps you plan your trip with ease.
Five-Star Trails: South Carolina Upstate provides directions and commentary for each trail on what to expect along the way, making it more than just an average guidebook.
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Caesars Head State Park: Raven Cliff Falls
Scenery: 5 stars
Trail Condition: 4 stars
Children: 3 stars
Difficulty: 3 stars
Solitude: 2 stars
GPS Trailhead Coordinates: N35" 06.943' W82" 38.291'
Distance & Configuration: 4.0 mile out-and-back
Hiking Time: 3.25 hours
Highlights: Magnificent views, creeks and a waterfall
Elevation: 2,866 elevation at the trailhead and 3,165 elevation about a mile into the hike.
Access: 9a.m.-9p.m., daily during daylight saving time. 9a.m.-6p.m., daily the remainder of the year. Trails close one hour before dark, year round. There is a $2.00 per person hiking fee payable at the visitor center or via honor system at the parking area.
Maps: USGS Table Rock, South Carolina Parks, Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area
Facilities: Restrooms at the Visitors Center.
Wheelchair Access: No
Comments: Pets are allowed but must be leashed. On weekends the parking lot can get full quickly. There are no trash cans so you must pack out what you bring.
Contacts: Caesars' Head State Park, 8155 Geer Highway, Cleveland, SC 29635, Phone: 864-836-6115
Caesars Head is one of South Carolina's most famous natural landmarks with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. The Raven Cliff Falls trail is part of the 10,000-acre Mountain Bridge Wilderness trail system and Foothills Trail, and is one of the most popular hikes at Caesar's Head. The moderately difficult trail leads to an overlook where you can view the 420-foot Raven Cliff Falls in the distance.
A granite gneiss (a major metamorphic rock) outcropping atop the Blue Ridge Escarpment is what gave Caesars Head State Park its name. It's worth stopping at the Visitors Center to not only pay the $2.00 per person hiking fee but also to take in the amazing views from the outlook areas. If visiting during Hawk Watch (Sept 1 through November 30) you can watch migrating raptors soar above the trees. If the Visitors Center is not open, there are envelopes available on an honor system at the parking area to pay the hiking fee.
You can either park at the Visitors Center or across the street in the Raven Cliff Falls parking area. If parking in the Raven Cliff Falls parking area, after parking you must first cross Highway 276 to get to the trailhead. The trailhead begins at the top of the trail at the Highway. The beginning part of the trail is actually on old buggy road so it is quite wide and graded. Several other trails also begin from this location so make sure you are following the red trail blazers.
You immediately begin a downhill descent and the air suddenly seems to get cooler and takes you through a forest of ferns. At the Caesars Head Water Company Building the trail will veer to the right. Here the trail becomes narrower and you can begin to hear the sound of rushing water from the small creek that you will be passing over. Tree roots begin to encroach on the dirt trail as it starts to wind around and begin an uphill approach as you follow along the edge of the mountain.
As you make your way alongside the mountain, you will begin to catch glimpses of the magnificent views through the trees. As you start a gradual descent, you will lose the sound of the Highway and begin to hear the rushing of the falls in the distance. At about 6/10 of a mile you'll turn to the right, away from the mountain edge that you have been following. Since you have been climbing in elevation, you will begin to notice more pine trees.
As you make your way across some rocks (don't worry-they are mostly flat and easy to walk on) you will come to a set of stairs. At this point you are about halfway. The trail turns back towards the left as the descent gets steeper; the tree canopy gets higher and less light filters in. There will be a lot of up and downs in the trail as you begin to walk along a small creek deep in the forest. Soon though you'll be at the top of the mountain again and you start to weave around it. The trail becomes sandy here and evens out for a little while. You'll come to a crossroads where the blue trail will go to the right and the red trail (Raven Cliff Falls) goes to the left. Stay on the red trail.
As the trail levels out a little more, you'll come to a sign identifying the trail. Unless you are feeling very adventurous, do not go to the left which is the Purple Dismal Trail. This trail is very strenuous and will add another four hours to your hike. Continue on the red trail to the right and soon you will get to a nice overlook with benches with Raven Cliff Falls in the background. It's important to note that you do not get up close to this waterfall, it's quite a ways off in the distance and depending on rainfall, the waterfall may not be as spectacular as others in the area. Once rested, turn around and return the way you came. As you return, you may notice Cairns or "hiker art". These are a collection of rocks stacked upon each other. Be sure to stop and add your own contribution.
While at Caesars Head make sure to view the outlooks. There are also picnic tables. There are several other hikes varying in length that leave from this area. Check in with the rangers at the Visitors Center for a detailed trail map and information.
From Greenville take Highway 276 West. Follow the signs towards Caesars Head. The parking area for Raven Cliff Falls is on the right-hand side of Highway 276 just past the Caesars Head Visitors Center.
Table of ContentsOverview Map
Overview Map Key
Anderson & Oconee Counties
1. Bad Creek: Lower Whitewater Falls
2. Blue Ridge Railroad Trail
3. Chau Ram County Park
4. Devils Fork State Park: Bear Cove Trail
5. Lake Hartwell Dam Walking Trail
6. Oconee State Park: Old Waterwheel Trail
7. Oconee Station: Interpretive Nature Trail & Station Cove Trail
8. Winding Stairs Trail
9. Yellow Branch Falls
10. Eastatoe Heritage Preserve Trail
11. Keowee-Toxaway State Park: Raven Rock Trail
12. Nine Times Preserve
13. Table Rock State Park: Carrick Creek Trail
14. Table Rock State Park: National Recreation Trail
15. Wildcat Branch Falls Trail
16. Blue Wall Passage Preserve Trail & Waterfall Loop
17. Caesars Head State Park: Raven Cliff Falls
18. Cedar Falls Park Trail
19. Falls Creek Falls Trail
20. Jones Gap State Park Falls Trail (within Jones Gap National Recreation Trail)
21. Jones Gap State Park: Rainbow Falls Trail
22. Lake Conestee Nature Park: Heron Trail
23. Paris Mountain: Brissy Ridge Trail
24. Swamp Rabbit Trail
Spartanburg & Cherokee Counties
25. Cowpens Battlefield Trail
26. Croft State Park Nature Trail
27. Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve: Cottonwood Trail
28. Kings Mountain: Clark’s Creek Trail
29. Musgrove Mill Trails: British Camp & Battlefield Trails
30. Pacolet River Heritage Trust Preserve: Lawson’s Fork Trail
Appendixes & Index
Appendix A: Outdoor Retailers
Appendix B: Hiking Clubs
About the Author