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Multi-trail in Caesar's Head area
This is a five-hour loop hike that combines sections of the Raven Cliff Falls, Dismal, Naturaland Trust, and Gum Gap Trails in the Caesar’s Head (SC) area.
Difficulty: Combines Easy, Moderate, and Strenuous sections.
Last hiked: 11/27/2003
The first section of this trail is easy, and runs approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead to a small shelter where the Raven Cliff Falls and Gum Gap trails intersect. You will return to this spot from the trail to your right, later.
At this shelter, bear left to continue along the Raven Cliff Falls Trail. You will see the turnoff for the Dismal Trail on your left at a curve in the trail a few hundred feet further on. If you have an extra half-hour or so, you can continue on the Raven Cliff Falls trail to the overlook and take in the view. Looking toward the top of the falls, you will see the suspension bridge you’ll be crossing later in the hike.
At the marker, turn onto the Dismal Trail. This section is a very steep downhill of about 1.5 miles. You’ll also lose about 1100’ in elevation. Go slow, and watch your step; a twisted ankle or blown knee at the bottom of this trail would be very bad news, as there is no easy get-out.
At the bottom of the hill, you’ll run into Matthews Creek. This marks the end of the Dismal Trail and a join to the Naturaland Trust Trail. If you go left, you’ll walk along the river past some campsites. If you want to overnight, this is your only “legal” camping option. You must reserve a site in advance at the Caesar’s Head Information Center; first-come, first-served.
Turn right at the bottom of the Dismal to continue this hike along the Naturaland Trust Trail.
About 100 feet up-river, you’ll come to a cable crossing. This 2-cable crossing is pretty easy. It slopes up a little in the direction you’re heading, and from the bank it’s hard to see how you’ll get down from the cables on the far side. Once across, though, you’ll see some large nails that can be used as hand and footholds.
Before you start off again, take a moment to re-adjust your pack-load. The next stretch of trail is strenuous, as you climb about 1000’ in less than a mile.
About halfway up this steep section you’ll pass beneath a stone cliff called “The Cathedral.” You might want to catch your breath here, as the trail gets even steeper now. From “The Cathedral” to the suspension bridge is a series of switchbacks, some of which go along a very precipitous region of the Matthews Creek Gorge. This section is not for those with vertigo, but it does offer some amazing views. Four or five of the switchbacks are steep enough that ladders have been put in place. With persistence, you’ll eventually come out onto the suspension bridge. This is a good place to rest, enjoy the view, and wave at anyone at the Raven Cliff Falls overlook, across the gorge.
Once across the bridge, bear left. You will be on the Naturaland Trust Trail for another .3 miles or so.
The trail levels out, bends sharply right (you’re on the Gum Gap Trail now), and passes through a nice section of ridgeline forest. It becomes an old logging road, the first section of which is a rocky wash.
You’ll see a trail marker leading you right about a mile from where you left the Naturaland Trust Trail. Follow this section of trail and you’ll find yourself back at the little shelter you passed on the first section of this hike. Bear left and follow the trail back to the parking lot.
Directions to Hike
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