Raven Rock Cliff is a spectacular rock formation that towers over 100 feet above the Wild & Scenic Chattooga River. The well-maintained Raven Rock Trail makes a moderate descent into the Chattooga River Gorge from the end of FS 511B, terminating right across from Raven Rock Cliff - one of the most beautiful spots along Section Four of the Chattooga River. An easy rock scramble upstream will bring you to Raven Chute, a Class IV rapid stretching across the river. In the warm season when the water is high enough, it is fun to watch kayakers negotiate the rapid. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 18th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along Raven Rock Trail to the Raven Rock Cliff.
R/T Length of Trail: 1.6 Miles
Duration of Hike: 0:55 (plus a 40-minute stop at the cliff)
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 4 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 534 Feet
Pros: The trail is well-graded and maintained, making it a doable hike for nearly everyone
Points of Interest: Raven Rock Cliff; Raven Chute Rapid
Trail Blaze Colors: Raven Rock Trail - Green
Best Seasons to Hike: Fall
Beginning Point: End of FS 511B
Directions from Tallulah Falls, GA: From the Tallulah Gorge/Tallulah Falls Lake Dam Bridge on US 23/441 in Tallulah Falls, follow US 23/441 North for 2.9 miles. Then, turn right onto Camp Creek Road. In 1.4 miles, turn left onto Watergauge Road - sometimes referred to as Camp Creek Road as well - which shortly turns into unpaved Forest Road 511. From the turn-off, continue for 2.7 miles, and then, turn left onto FS 511B. Follow FS 511B for 1.0 miles to a turnaround at the end of the road.
Click the link below to download a .GPX file with a track of this hike.
Both on the Georgia and South Carolina side of the Chattooga River, there are many short trails that access scenic parts of this Wild and Scenic River. The Raven Rock Trail is one such access trail that leads 0.8 miles from FS 511B to the Chattooga River. What you'll find at the terminus of this inconspicuous trail is the Raven Rock Cliff that towers over 100 feet above the Chattooga River. The size of the Raven Rock Cliff makes it a special unique spot along the river, as few cliffs this long and high are located on the river. Just upstream from the Raven Rock Cliff, the Raven Chute Rapid makes for a nice bonus to the hike - especially if you can catch a glimpse of kayakers going over the Class IV Rapid.
From the turnaround at the end of FS 511B, the Raven Rock Trail begins around the gate down an old forest road. A carsonite stake is located near the start of the trail. After a gradual switchback, the forest road follows a ridge where it is nearly level or descending at a slight grade. At the time of my hike, there were two recent significant blowdowns across this part of the trail, but I expect that they will get cleared in due time. At 0.45 miles, the Raven Rock Trail leaves the forest road, as it bears left and embarks on a narrower path that descends into the Chattooga River Gorge proper. There is a carsonite stake just before the turn that specifies the trail is designated for hikers only and another carsonite stake at the turn with an arrow pointing the way. Still, the turn is easy to miss.
Past the turn, the Raven Rock Trail begins swiftly descending into the gorge. After an initial steep stretch, the descent becomes more gradual. There are a few winter views of the river far below. The trail makes 3 switchbacks on its moderate descent, twice approaching the small cascading Daniel Creek. At 0.75 miles, the official Raven Rock Trail ends in a flat with a great campsite just above the Chattooga River. Across the river, Raven Rock Cliff is visible through the trees. To reach the river itself, look for a distinct path leaving the right-hand end of the campsite. The path ends at the Chattooga River directly across from Raven Rock Cliff (on the other side of the river) at 0.8 miles.
The deep blue-green pool in the river makes Raven Rock Cliff an even more attractive destination in the summer. Feel free to do some exploring along the river once you reach the end of the trail. Depending on the water level, you can make a deep wade across the river and follow a faint goat path to the top of Raven Rock Cliff. Just downstream from the cliff is a boulder field along the river. If you wish to see Raven Chute Rapid, you simply have to hop about 200 feet up the boulders along the riverbank. The frothing rapid stretches across the whole river but is only around 10 feet high. From Raven Rock Cliff, simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead at FS 511B, concluding the hike at 1.6 miles. Keep in mind that the return trip will be slower due to the moderate 500-foot ascent out of the gorge.
0.0 - FS 511B
0.45 - Leave forest road
0.75 - End of official trail
0.8 - Raven Rock Cliff
1.6 - FS 51B
Two other hikes begin along nearby FS 511. One of them is the Watergauge Trail, which also reaches the Chattooga River at Camp Creek and provides access to the legendary Five Falls of the Chattooga River - a series of powerful rapids in one of the river's most rugged segments. A second hike off FS 511 is a relatively easy off-trail bushwhack down to Cliff Creek Falls, a rarely-visited very scenic waterfall about 40 feet high.
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Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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