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Hiking South Carolina
by John Clark & John Dantzler (Falcon Guides)
A rugged day-long-hike from the top of Caesar's Head through a cove forest, looping around to cross Raven Cliff Falls on a swinging footbridge. The Naturaland Trust Trail and its access trails make almost a complete circle from the summit of Caesars Head, along the way passing beneath a rock formation called the Cathedral and over a bridge across roaring Raven Cliff Falls. The Naturaland Trust Trail is named for the Naturaland Trust, a Greenville land trust responsible for the preservation of much of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area and for the construction of many of the trails here, including this one. To hike the Naturaland Trust Trail from Caesars Head State Park, cross the highway and follow the purple-blazed Frank Coggins Trail. Only 0.8 mile long, this trail ends at Cliff Falls and the junction with the Naturaland Trust and Rim of the Gap trails.
I hiked this with two other "middle aged" women hikers (ages 42 to 50) and it kicked our butts. Pay close attention to your trail map, as the loop combines 3 or 4 different trail pieces. We hiked to the falls (skipping the overlook spur), crossed over the beautiful high bridge, and then looped on around down to the stream below. This descent is very steep at points, and hard on the knees, with steep steps (roots, rocks) that sometimes required our hands to steady us. At the stream below, we found that we had to cross via two wires strung across it. Fun! After this crossing, there is a pretty grueling ascent back up the the top of the trail loop. Some switchbacks but some plain-old steep trail. As I recall, this was about a 6-mile loop. Certainly one I would do again. UPDATE: Hiked this again this weekend (June 2006) with my husband and our 3 teenage boys. They are big hikers, and they loved the challenge of this loop. The wire crossing wasn't as thrilling because the water level was low enough this week to rock-jump your way across. The rugged down-hike from the falls is just plain difficult: some ladders are embedded into the trail, and some places are very treacherous if you lost your footing. There is a great dripping "hanging rock" along the way too, for a cool-off. This one will wear you out. I wouldn't enjoy it with a big backpack on, but it's a great day hike. Take plenty of water and trail mix.
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