Rock Raven State Park: The Complete Guide

Cape Fear River
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Raven Rock State Park

Address
3009 Raven Rock Rd, Lillington, NC 27546, USA
Phone +1 910-893-4888

From pristine beaches along the Atlantic coast to calming lakes in the piedmont and sweeping vistas in the mountains, North Carolina is a great destination for outdoor lovers.

Raven Rock State Park is nestled along the banks of the Cape Fear River in Harnett County. Located about an hour southwest of Raleigh, the nearly 5,000-acre park has more than 50 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails with terrain varying from short, gentle paths along the creek to moderate treks through forest canopies and to the area's namesake rock, which towers at 150 feet high and stretches more than a mile wide.

In addition to hiking and mountain biking, Raven Rock has dedicated equestrian trails, fishing sites, and picnic shelters as well as campsites for RVs, campers, and backpackers. While there is no launch inside the park, its waters are part of the 56-mile Cape Fear Canoe Trail, ideal for those who want to explore the area by paddle.

Things to Do

An ideal day trip from nearby Raleigh or Winston-Salem, Raven Rock offers several outdoor activities for visitors of all skills and ages, whether you're seeking a gentle, family-friendly hike or an action-packed ride down the rapids . For those wishing to stay overnight, there are campsites and rustic cabins on the grounds as well as budget-friendly hotels in nearby towns.

The park has a large, shaded picnicking area on the river's south side, with 27 tables, eight grills, drinking water, restrooms, and a refreshment stand with snacks for purchase. There is one picnic shelter that can be reserved in advance or is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Horseback riding is permitted on designated equestrian trails. The four-mile East Loop Bridle Trail winds through deep forrest canopy on the north side of the river, while the equally distant West Loop Bridle Trail passes through creek crossings and scenic Jumping Fish Falls. Note these are shared paths, so be mindful of hikers. Riders must bring their own equipment.

Fishing is permitted for anglers with a state fish license. The park's two best spots are along the Cape Fear River at the mouth of Campbell Creek and at Fish Traps. Local fish include green sunfish, catfish, and largemouth bass.

Best Hikes & Trails

With more than 50 miles of hiking trails, the park offers some of the state's most scenic and accessible hiking.

  • Mountain Laurel Loop Trail: In the spring, spot colorful wildflowers and thickets of mountain laurel on the 6.6-mile Mountain Laurel Loop Trail. The main loop is long but an easy hike, although there are more strenuous trails that veer off the beginner loop for hikers who want a challenge. This trail is open to both hikers and mountain bikers.
  • Raven Rock Loop Trail: Year-round, the park's namesake 2.6-mile Raven Rock Loop Trail is a moderately paced option that winds through dense forest to a descending staircase under the rock, offering a waterfall, sunset views, and the occasional bald eagle dipping to the river for fish.
  • Fish Traps Trail: This easy hike is 1.2 miles roundtrip and named for the fishing baskets that settlers used in the 18th-century. Hikers can still fish in the river directly from this trail.
  • Little Creek Loop Trail: The easy 1.5-mile Little Creek Loop Trail is ideal for spotting local wildlife and watching river rapids, making it perfect for a pleasant stroll with gorgeous scenery.

Paddling

Paddling the 56-mile Cape Fear Canoe Trail via kayak or canoe is one of the top activities in Raven Rock State Park. There are no entry points into the river within the park itself, so you'll have to begin upriver outside of the park (many paddlers begin at the Deep River in the nearby town of Lockville).

The trail flows through the rapids of both Fish Traps and Lanier Falls, and paddlers must bring their own equipment and wear life vests at all times. Contact the park's main office before setting out, as occasional floods can make the rapids dangerous and unnavigable.

Where to Camp

Inside the park, there are tent, trailer, RV, backpacking, and paddle-in campgrounds as well as six cabins. You should make advance reservations for wherever you choose to stay since some of them only have a small handful of campsites available.

  • Moccasin Branch Campground: Located just shy of the park's main entrance, this is the most popular campground. The Moccasin Branch Campground has a communal bathhouse with toilets, hot showers, and water spigots as well as RV hook-ups and campsites outfitted with tent pads and campfire rings with grills. The campground also has six cabins with electric outlets and HVAC units. This is the only campground where you can drive right up to your campsite.
  • Family Wilderness Camp: The Family Wilderness Camp is for backpackers and requires hiking to get to. It offers five campsites along the Campbell Creek Loop Trail approximately 2.5 miles from the main park entrance, while there are also six campsites along the river at the Little Creek Loop Trail, all of which offer a vault toilet, fire ring, and grill. All vehicles must be registered with the visitor center.
  • Raven Rock's Canoe Camp: Visitors paddling down the Cape Fear Canoe Trail can break for a night at the Raven Rock's Canoe Camp, which is exclusively for campers arriving by water.

Where to Stay Nearby

Outside of the park, accommodations are available in several nearby towns. Raven Rock State Park is located almost directly between Fayetteville and Raleigh, both major cities that are about 45–60 minutes away by car. Lillington is much smaller and has fewer options, but it's the closest city to the park and just 7 miles away.

  • Microtel Inn & Suites: This hotel by Wyndham is one of the closest options for visiting Raven Rock. Located in the town of Lillington, the Microtel is just 10 minutes away from the park and located in the lush scenery of the Cape Fear River Valley.
  • The Mayton Inn: The Mayton Inn is located in the suburb of Cary just outside of Raleigh, and this boutique hotel blends early 20th-century architecture with modern sustainability. It's just 40 minutes from the Mayton to Raven Rock.
  • Candlewood Suites: The Candlewood Suites by IHG in Fayetteville provide convenient connections to downtown Fayetteville, nearby Fort Bragg, and Raven Rock State Park, which is just 45 minutes away.

How to Get There

The main entrance into the park and visitor center are located on the south side of the Cape Fear River, so travelers coming from Raleigh up north have to go around the park to reach the entrance. The journey from Raleigh, which is the state capital and biggest nearby city, takes about an hour. If you're coming from the Fayetteville area in the south or Fort Bragg, the trip is more direct and should only take about 45 minutes.

Note that there is a separate entrance for the Bridle Trails, which are on the north side of the Cape Fear River off River Road.

Accessibility

Most of the trails are rugged, steep, and rocky making them difficult to access for visitors with mobility challenges. The Longleaf Loop Trail is short—just 0.2 miles—but it is wheelchair accessible and includes educational information about the local flora and fauna. The Moccasin Branch Campground also includes a wheelchair-accessible picnic area, campsite, and cabin.

Tips for Your Visit

  • While there is no fee for the park, all campsites must be booked in advance and require a reservation fee.
  • The park is open year-round except for Christmas Day. The visitors center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist visitors with overnight accommodations, updates about river conditions, vehicle registrations, firewood and sundry purchases, and other important information related to your stay.
  • The park gates close at night, so make sure you are back inside the grounds at closing time, which varies by season.
  • The main trails can get crowded on weekends in the summer months, so ask one of the rangers for less frequented trails if you want to hike without the crowds.
  • Consider a trip to nearby Raleigh and its many attractions, including the North Carolina Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University as well as the city's many restaurants, shops, and breweries.
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Raven Rock State Park: The Complete Guide