My wife and I, our two dogs, our friends and their two dogs followed The Herald’s advice this past Sunday and celebrated Memorial Day within 30 miles of Sanford by going to Raven Rock State Park, located off 421 about 6-7 miles before Lillington.
We’d been to Raven Rock once before, last year before the leaves started growing and the weather was a little cooler during the fall, we made the trip and did the 2.5-mile hike to the giant rock (“the” Raven Rock) and back. It was a scenic, beautiful hike with lots of hills and the cool giant rock.
But this time, we took the Campbell Creek trail, a 5.5-mile windy, rocky, creeky trail that was enough to make my legs quiver when it was all said and done.
But was it fun? Will I go again?
Raven Rock State Park
Location: Just west of Lillington on U.S. 421
Distance from Sanford: 17-20 miles, less than half an hour
Closest big city: Fayetteville
Number of hiking trails: 10 total, some are suited for horseback riding
Other amenities: Picnic tables-a-plenty, bathrooms, canoe rental and river access to Cape Fear River, primitive tent camping, fishing spots, tubing (bring your own)
Pet friendly: Yes, pets on a leash
Web site: www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/raro/main.php
Like I said earlier, the actual Raven Rock trail is the medium-length trail, a 2.6-mile loop with lots of hills and some very steep stairs once you reach the rock, which stands 150-feet tall from the river. It’s a moderately difficult hike, even though it is short, but the payoffs are the great scenic views of the river and lots of little creeks.
This week, we took the Campbell Creek loop, which is 5 miles total, but more if you detour to see Lanier Falls or some of the campgrounds. While this trail has a few ups and downs, it’s mostly level and if you veer left at the first fork, then the second half of your trail hike will be along Campbell Creek, which has several entry points to allow your dog to get wet or to let the kids go in knee deep. We didn’t see any snakes, though we think our dog saw one (a funny moment where our dog Miles hopped through the creek after seeing something move).
The last .7 miles of the trail is uphill, which is killer after you’ve already almost gone 5 miles … but you feel good when it’s all said and done.
The Lanier Falls portion of the trail was a bit of a disappointment because you really couldn’t stick your feet in the river (and it’s barely “falls,” it’s more of a little stretch of white water … which looked fun for tubing). The creek was by far the most interesting part of this hike.
The con: It was the end of May and we had a wet spring, so of course, there were tons of ticks. We wore bug repellant, but even that wasn’t enough to keep them off of us, as my wife and I both found one or two on us when we were done. Our dogs — which wear Frontline tick and flea repellant — weren’t so lucky. Miles, which had a Frontline treatment done earlier that day, faired better with just 3 or 4 ticks, but our little dog Honey must have had 20 altogether. They ranged in size from the big ones with the yellow dot on their back to the tiny ones between her toes. We think we got them all, but it will certainly make us reconsider Raven Rock this time of year.
I know there are few state parks now where there aren’t ticks, but this was a little ridiculous.
Overall, we like Raven Rock because of its proximity and all it has to offer. As it gets hotter, that 5-mile hike will get tougher for some, but we may make it out again this summer if only to try the canoeing .. possibly get in a camping trip. Who knows.
Grade: 3 out of 5 stars
Morrow Mountain State Park: ***