Sunday Stroll - Raven Rock

A scenic overlook of the Cape Fear River, a rock wall that rises 150 above the river, and plenty of fun boulders to scramble over!

Raven Rock on a winter morning with the clouds so thick you can't find the sun is a monochrome monolith. The rock wall rises from the Cape Fear River and looms over the lazy waterway like Polyphemus gazing slothfully over his sheep while Odysseus and his crew scramble in the shadows.

Okay, so maybe Raven Rock isn't quite that poetic in winter, but it's a rare sight in the NC Piedmont. Rising more than 150 feet above the river, the distinct rock formation was a common landmark for river transportation. The elevation difference is a product of the fall zone where hard, resistant foothills rock meets softer sediment and coastal plain rock. The softer rock was worn away by water and other natural forces, leaving behind the harder towering rock that is now Raven Rock.

I picked Raven Rock for this particular weekend because it was almost exactly in the middle between Durham (where I live) and the Fayetteville area, where one of my best friends had just moved. Becky went with me on one of my first backpacking trips at Blood Mountain and I am so excited to have her back in the area for more frequent hiking and backpacking adventures!

Becky is a good sport and doesn't mind having her picture taken unlike SOME people I know (ahem, McCrae). I'm definitely planning on a spring or fall overnight trip in this state park to snag some good sunrise and sunset photography at the overlook area. You can see for miles down the Cape Fear River on an overlook platform with a stone wall and benches - handy for a brief rest, some water or snacks, or just to pause and catch up with old friends.

Raven Rock overlook - pretty drab in winter.

We just did the 2.6 mile Raven Rock Loop Trail which starts at the parking lot, follows along a creek, drops drastically down a twisting wooden staircase that will make you huff and puff on the way up no matter your fitness, and down to the riverbank where you can scramble along boulders and play in the cool shadow of the cliffs.

"Hey Liz! It's a huge rock and you do rock climbing...wanna climb this?!" (For the record you're not supposed to climb in this state park...let's plan a separate trip for that, eh?)

It was a short hike and not the most scenic with the dreary winter day, but the company made it wonderful. If you've been thinking about checking out a national, state, or local park, just grab a friend (with consent!), and go! You won't regret getting out to nature, no matter the weather. 

Hike It:

Get there: Raven Rock State Park is in Lillington, NC, which is about an hour south of Raleigh.

Distance:There are a variety of trails in the park ranging from 0.2 miles to over 6.5 miles, but you can loop together several trails to add up the mileage. Raven Rock Loop Trail (which is what we hiked) is 2.6 miles.

Difficulty: Moderate. It requires some effort coming up the staircase. Overall the trail is fairly easy - just watch your footing on the rocks.

Dog friendly? Yes, but dogs must be leashed.

Kid friendly? Yes. Kids will enjoy the overlook and playing on the rocks. Just make sure they've got the stamina for the stair climb.

Highlights: Overlook view of Cape Fear River and goofing around on rock formations along riverbanks.

What else can you do in the area? Paddling on the Cape Fear River makes for a great day. Check out Cape Fear River Adventures for guided trips including kayaking, canoeing, SUP-ing, river tubing, and even whitewater kayaking and scenic rafting. Prefer to pair your hikes with beer? Check out Fainting Goat Brewery (they don't serve food, but check their calendar to see if there will be a food truck). Looking for food options? Check out Tacos Oaxaca or Sweet Magnolias.

Park website:

Trail map:

Have you been to Raven Rock State Park? Are you planning to go soon? Let me know your favorite part of the park in the comments!


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