Classified as “moderately strenuous,” this up-and-back trail is perfect for families with younger children, visitors traveling with dogs and hikers who want to take a picturesque and pleasant walk through the woods without breaking a sweat.
The reward for hiking the trail is a fantastic view of one of the highest and most scenic cascades in the eastern United States—the 420-foot Raven Cliff Falls.
The hike starts at a trailhead one mile north of the Caesars Head State Park Visitor Center on US 276. The parking lot is on the opposite side of the road, so if you’re hiking with small children, keep them close as you cross the two-lane highway.
Follow the red-blazed trail down a gently sloping wide, gravel path. After a bit, it turns into a traditional single-track hiking trail with all the usual roots and rocks to watch out for. The first quarter-mile is downhill, which means you’ll be doing some climbing at the end of your hike.
Most of the trail is pretty flat with a few ups and downs along the way. The final descent comes about three-quarters of a mile from the overlook. There’s a big shelter just before the observation platform where you can rest up and eat a snack.
But you’ll want to check out the view from the overlook first. It’s awesome, although slightly distant. Across the densely forested gorge, Matthews Creek plunges off Raven Cliff into the cove below. The total height of all the tiers of the waterfall is close to 1,000 feet.
A swinging suspension bridge above the falls offers a very different perspective of the cascades. But you’ll have to hike an additional two miles to get there. About 1.4 miles from the trailhead you’ll get to a “T” intersection. Instead of taking a left to the overlook, turn right and continue on the Gum Gap and Foothills Trail for 1.6 miles to the junction with the Naturaland Trust Trail. The bridge is .4 miles farther along the trail. Be advised, when the falls are flowing full force, you may feel a spray from the cascading water.
Whichever hike you choose, you won’t be disappointed. Raven Cliff Falls more than lives up to its picture-postcard reputation.