Raven Rock State Park (5-7-17)
Raven Rock State Park is located in east-central North Carolina near the small town of Lillington, about an hours drive south of Raleigh. Encompassing around 4,700 acres the park sits astride the so-called 'fall line', the point at which the hard rocks of the piedmont give way in a dramatic drop to the softer soils of the neighboring coastal plain. At Raven Rock State Park this drop takes the form of a mile-long series of 150-foot cliffs lining the south shore of the Cape Fear River. These cliffs provide the park with its interesting name. The park boasts around 12-miles of hiking trails, most of which lead at some point down to the waters of the Cape Fear. The most popular trail by far, however, is the 2.5-mile loop out to the parks namesake. This is the path I'd be following on this particular afternoon.
I had intended to visit Raven Rock for quite some time now on one of my many trip to see family in the eastern part of the state. The park isn't located all that far off I-40 but still it has taken me a number of years to finally get there. With only a few late afternoon hours to burn I wouldn't have much chance to explore any variety of the parks trails but would rather focus on the Raven Rock Loop. After a quick stop at the fine visitor center I parked at one of the huge trailhead parking areas just adjacent to it. I would be hiking the loop in a counter-clockwise direction. From the parking lot the trail heads out into the woods in a slowly winding and fairly flat nature. The mixed forest of pines and hardwoods is typical for this part of the state. Its not altogether very scenic but the forest is still pleasant in its atmosphere. About a mile in the path reaches the top of the ridge above the river and the spur trail down to the base of Raven Rock continues north. The descent to the base of the cliffs is steep but its made a bit easier by a long series of stairs. Once at the bottom there's no official trail but a wide sandy path has been worn along the base of Raven Rock for a good quarter mile or so allowing for some impressive views of its towering, sometimes overhanging, face. After touring the rock I then climbed back up to the main loop and continued onward. Less than half a mile after the spur to Raven Rock the loop passes a small overlook of the Cape Fear River. Its not overwhelming in its beauty (trees have grown tall enough to obscure much of the view) but its still a nice place to look down over the surrounding woodlands and the Cape Fear River flowing silently by 150 feet below. From the overlook its another mile walk along a wide woodsy path back to the parking area.
Even though this was an all to brief stop I still feel like I got the opportunity to get a good taste of what Raven Rock State Park has to offer. Raven Rock itself is more than worthy of the easy walk to get to it and the paths are wide, well-maintained, and well-signed. This is an altogether enjoyable hike and one suitable for just about anyone. If you're ever in the are I would certainly recommend a quick stop to check things out! So, without further adieu I present to you Raven Rock State Park...as always, ENJOY!!!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.461875, -78.911723
Mileage Hiked: 2.6 miles Hike Duration: 1:00
Trailhead Temp: 70'F Trail Traffic: 25-50 people
Min. Elevation: 120' Max. Elevation: 350'
Total Vertical Gain: 300' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 115'
Trails Used (blaze color/shape): Raven Rock Loop (orange circles)