Raven Cliff Parking Lot
7.5 - 8.5 mile hike/bushwhack
A recent hike on the land that Asbury Hills Camp and Retreat Center owns off Burgess Road in Greenville county SC got me studying topo maps of the surrounding area, and I realized that, at least theoretically, one should be able to hike from the area around Raven Cliff waterfall down to this area, a drop of 2000 feet in elevation.
Topo maps show two different old trails that head south towards Burgess road from the Raven Cliff area; what I've found in my explorations of the area is that portions of those two trails ARE still present. However, portions of those trails that are shown on the map are NOT there on the ground (primarily in the upper elevation sections of the trails), and in addition, there are at least several ADDITIONAL old roads that are on the ground but are not on the map.
A review of the GIS landownership data showed that South Carolina Wildlife Marine Resources Department owns the land in the northern portions of this area, with Asbury Hills and Naturaland Trust owning most of the area south of the Raven Cliff Ridgeline down to Burgess road. There are also some parcels of land owned by individuals interspersed through this area.
Asbury Hills is to be commended for their commitment to purchasing and preserving the large amount of land around their camp and conference center. They have been an important force in protecting this land from development. And, they are very open to having hikers use their property when their camp is not in session. All they ask is that you call and ask first: 864-458-2071.
This hike takes you through land they own, but it is a good distance west from their actual camp and retreat center. The area is open to hunting, as depicted by the WMA signs.
Click for larger image
GPX data for download (zip file which includes both GPX format, as well as GDB format for Garmin users):
Raven Cliff to Burgess Road.
First and foremost ... this is a hike for experienced off-trail hikers ONLY. Unless you have a GPS AND KNOW HOW TO USE IT, and/or have excellent map reading/compass using skills, do not attempt this hike. There are areas of thick, thick undergrowth where you can't see much farther than the next bush, with no trail in sight. Additionally, in other areas, there are multiple old forest roads that go every which way. I did this hike twice, a week apart, and on the second hike was quite sure I was on the same old forest road I had been on a week earlier, only to find that I wasn't, and that I was heading totally away from the area I needed to be in.
Also, this is a shuttle hike (or a very, VERY long and tough out and back hike !! ). Car shuttle distance is 11.5 miles. Total mileage for the hike will range between seven to eight or eight and a half miles, depending upon how much wandering around you do, how far out onto the ridge you go, etc. My mileage in the GPS track posted here is 7.5 miles, and that included getting onto the "wrong" forest road, hiking down some other forest roads to check out where they went, etc.
This hike presents a delightful, and varied terrain for exploring. You hike along the upper rim of both the north and south side of the deep gorge that Matthews Creek flows through after its tumble down the 400+ foot Raven Cliff Falls, seeing the opposite side from each perspective. You hike all along the narrow Raven Cliff Ridgeline which lies south southeast of Raven Cliff falls. Most of your trekking is through open forest, but you get plenty of thick, tangled rhodos and mountain laurel to deal with as well. Several creek crossings, one of which will probably require some wet feet.
Much of this hike goes through wide open forest
Click on any of the images on this page for full size/full resolution pic.
One of several old forest roads that takes you south towards Burgess Rd.
Begin your hike at the Raven Cliff Parking lot on US276, a mile north of Caesar's Head State Park. Follow the main trail (Raven Cliff Falls Trail - Trail #11) which begins on the opposite side of the highway. When you come to the intersection with Gum Gap Trail (trail #13), bear right to follow that trail (going to the left will take you to the overlook which gives you a view from across the gorge of Raven Cliff Falls)
From Raven Cliff Falls Trail, you will be able to see (across the gorge to your left) the Raven Cliff Ridgeline. You'll be over there in a few hours!!
View of Raven Cliff Ridgeline
2.8 miles from the parking area, you will come to the intersection of Naturaland Trust Trail (trail #14). Turn left here. As you descend down this trail, you will have some great wintertime views of Caesar's Head cliff, 2 miles away, due east across the gorge.
Zoomed in view of Caesars Head Cliff
As Naturaland Trust Trail descends down to Julian Creek, it makes a sharp left hand turn. It is at this spot that your adventure begins. Where Naturaland Trust turns left, you'll see an old trail to your right. Turn onto it.
From this point on, you'll need to utilize your map reading skills. Once you turn onto this old trail, you'll see several other old trails branch off from it. One heads to the right and remains on the north side of Julian Creek, one bears SW and crosses the creek, and another bears SE and comes to and crosses Julian Creek. It is this latter "trail" that you want to take.
Crossing Julian Creek will either take some fancy rock hopping, or just wade across.
Once on the other side, you'll have a very obvious trail to follow, but it is anything but clear. LOTS of rhodos to go under, over, and around!!
Part of the trail on the other side of Julian Creek
This too, is the "trail" !!
About 0.3 mile from where you crossed the creek, this "trail" will sort of disappear, and you'll find yourself in a wide, flat area. You'll want to begin heading south and east at this point, making your way to the small gap that is due west of the Raven Cliff Ridgeline. This area is definitely "trail-less", and also has thick, dense growth of mountain laurel. The first time I did this hike, I came out almost right at the gap, but fought mountain laurel thickets the entire way. On my second hike, I bore further west, had much fewer mountain laurel fights, and ended up on an old forest road that took me to a ridgeline and open forest that let me clearly see Raven Cliff's ridgeline, allowing me to hike directly towards it from there.
Once you find the gap that lies due west of the ridge, getting to the ridgeline is very easy. The forest is very open, and at least in the winter (when I did these hikes), provides great long range views. I also found another old forest road that seemed to follow along just below the ridge line itself. I followed it for a ways to the SE, before filing that tidbit away for future exploration.
Old Forest Road that winds around the south side of Raven Cliff's Ridgeline.
As you head towards the ridgeline, you'll note that parts of it are covered in mountain laurel and rhododendron, some areas quite thickly, others not so much. Some hardwoods are mixed in as well. This is definitely a winter hike, since I doubt you'd have much of a view in the summer, since all your viewing from the top of the ridge will be through these trees.
Make your way up to the ridgeline, and, as the topo shows, you'll note it is a very narrow, strip of land running due east-west. To the north, you've got a great view of the NC/SC escarpment, which Raven Cliff Falls trail runs along. Your hike began WAY over there!!
View of NC/SC Escarpment from Raven Cliff Ridgeline
To the southwest, you have some wonderful views of Table Rock and its reservoir.
View of Table Rock and Table Rock Lake from Raven Cliff Ridgeline
I attempted to follow the ridgeline all the way to its "point" at its furthest easternmost edge, but I was found myself running into more and more briars and other undergrowth. The GPS track shows how far I was able to get.
One of the neatest things from up on this ridge is that, although you cannot see them, you can hear Raven Cliff Falls absolutely ROARING!!
When you're ready to leave the ridgeline and proceed with your hike, drop down off the ridge, pick up that old forest road, taking it west.
On my first hike, I just walked through this open forest heading south and west until I picked up the eastern most of the two old trails that topo maps show running south towards Burgess Road.
On my second hike, when I was able to pick up the old forest road much further to the north, I decided to just head back to that road where I'd emerged up from the Julian Creek bushwhack.
Object lesson of why you need to know how to use a map/compass/GPS!! As I was following this road, after about 0.3 mile or so of hiking along it, I realized its general direction was southwest, and it was heading away from the area I needed to be in at a good 90 degree tangent or so, and therefore was NOT the same forest road I had been on a week earlier. I was only about 1/4 mile west of where I needed to be, so I dropped off the forest road, and began bushwhacking towards where I wanted to be.
I soon ended up in some of the thickest mountain laurel anywhere!! That quarter mile took me almost 30 minutes to navigate and traverse!
But, just like walking through a door into another room, as I climbed a short uphill section, I emerged from the mountain laurel mush and entered back into the wide open hardwood forest. The forest road I was looking for was right in front of me!
From this point on, the forest road is quite easy to follow, and winds on down the mountain in a more or less due south direction. You cross a couple small creeks, and in fact, with the second crossing, the forest road makes a sharp right, but you also note another old road turning to the left and heading steeply uphill. I'm curious if this connects up with the forest road that was winding itself south of Raven Cliff Ridgeline. See the two waypoints marked on my map above.
Around the 1440 foot elevation point, you cross a small rocky crevice and you can hear water running below you (although there is no visible creek). This is "Secret Falls", and if you drop off the trail to your right and head for the area below you, you come to a very delightful little waterfall that cascades off a rock face. There's just enough room behind the waterfall for a person to kneel down under the rock cliff.
As for access to Burgess road, the two times I've done this hike, I have left the trail when I noticed the roof of a barn off to my right and went past it (elevation point around 1250 feet). You come out onto the road adjacent to a small pond, on a strip of land that lies between the pond and the barn.
You emerge from the trail in the strip of land between this pond and the barn in the background. Burgess Road is immediately to the left in this photo.
0.2 mile up Burgess Road (to the right, or west) is another, larger pond. This area of the road provides an adequate place to leave a second vehicle or rendezvous with someone for a pickup and ride back to Raven Cliff parking area. The map below shows where Burgess Road is in relation to US276 (click for larger image).
How to get to Burgess road
More photos in my SmugMug gallery.