Accessibility – Moderate+ or Hard+ (depends on the route)
Height – 20′
Distance – 8.8 miles (out and back) or 8.0 miles (loop)
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 5
Solitude – 4
GPS Info: LAT 35.10443 LONG -82.66127
Last Visited – 06-23-2021
Last Updated – 01-19-2023
Upper Raven Cliff Falls is the little visited upstream partner of Raven Cliff Falls, which you can get a lousy view of from an observation deck acorss the gorge. The view is so crappy that you can’t even see the awesome suspension bridge over the creek above the top of the falls. The loop is by far the hard way to do this one, the out and back is longer but with much less elevation. I’ll give you both routes and you can decide how much suffering you want to take on.
The trailhead parking is the same as for Raven Cliff Falls. It is in a small lot on US276, which will be full if you get there after 10 a.m.. At that point, it’s an every man for themselves parking fiasco along US276. The parking lot is here: 35.11599, -82.63872. There is a good chance your car wil be parked elsewhere. There is a fee to park in the lot.
The hike: Three trails leave from the parking lot and you don’t want any of them. Walk across US276. This is where the Raven Cliff Falls Trail starts. Regardless of your intended route, the hike starts here. There are other ways to do this but I can only speak to the two I have done. The initial segment of the trail is pretty easy with modest changes in elevation. At 1.4 miles, the trail comes to a T junction. The Raven Cliff Falls Trail continues to the left. The Gum Gap Trail goes right. Making a right is the easier route.
Via Gum Gap Trail: From the T junction it is 1.5 miles on the Gum Gap Trail (approx 2.9 miles into the hike) to the next junction. The Gum Gap trail continues straight and the Naturealand Trust Trail goes to your left. Take the Naturaland Trust Trail. It will head into a long left switchback before coming alongside Matthews Creek. It is 0.6 from the junction to the side trail to the falls. There is an obvious path on yoru right that leads to an open area below the upper falls. Since you’re here, you can continue on the Naturaland Trust Trail a short distance and cross the suspension bridge just to check it off. There is no view of Raven Cliff Falls other than the creek falling out of view. If you’re doing a loop, I would not do it in this direction. But that’s just me.
Via Raven Cliff Falls Trail: From the T junction make a left. It is just over 0.3 of a mile to the next intersection. The Raven Cliff Falls Trail goes to the right and leads to a crappy view from the deck. The suffering follows the left branch. There are several warning signs about carrying enough water and food. This is the welcome to the Dismal Trail. Over the next 1.3 miles the trail goes straight down to Matthews Creek, shedding 1200 feet in elevation, whiech means the fun has only just begun. The Dismal Trail ends at the Naturaland Trust Trail. Make a right, and start the climb. FYI, if you made a left you could hike down to Moonshine Falls but that would require a shuttle hike. The pink-blazed trail is going to start climbing immediately. It is rocky and steep. There are several ladders to negotiate, one that climbs from an open rockface. This one is about eight feet high. From the end of the Dismal Trail to the suspension bridge is 1.3 miles and climbs 1000 feet. Once you cross the bridge the falls will be on your left a short distance upstream. To get back to your car, continue on the Naturaland Trust Trail for another 0.6 miles and bear right onto the Gum Gap Trail. It’s 1.5 miles on Gum Gap to get to the intersection with the Raven Cliff Falls Loop. Make a left, unless you wanna do it again. You’re 1.4 miles from your car at this point.