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Rainbow Falls

Trail Features: Waterfalls, Old growth forests rainbow-falls
Trail Location: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Roundtrip Length: 5.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1685 Feet
Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 624 Feet
Highest Elevation: 4285 Feet
Trail Difficulty Rating: 8.77 (moderate)
Parking Lot Latitude 35.67582
Parking Lot Longitude -83.48527

Directions to Trailhead:

Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. At 0.7 miles, veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you'll enter into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After driving another 2.2 miles you'll enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop. After driving another 0.6 miles on the loop, the Rainbow Falls trailhead will be on your right (if this parking lot is full there's an auxiliary parking area about a tenth-of-a-mile further down the road).

Trail Description:

The first two-thirds of a mile on the Rainbow Falls Trail is a steady climb through a large boulder field. As you pass through this area, LeConte Creek will be cascading down the mountain on your right. You'll find many opportunities around here for some great picnic sites along this section of trail.

rainbow-fallsAs you proceed up the northeastern slopes of Mount LeConte, hikers will cross over two footbridges along the way; one at 1.7 miles and the other at 2.4 miles, before reaching the 80-foot high waterfall, roughly 2.7 miles from the trailhead.

Rainbow Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies.

The name given for these waterfalls is a result of the rainbow that's produced by mist and becomes visible on sunny afternoons. During extended cold spells an impressive ice formation builds around the falls. You may notice a little bit of ice just to the right of the falls in the photo on the right.

The rocks around the falls area are quite slippery due to mist and algae. The park warns visitors not to climb on rocks near any waterfall as several people have fallen to their deaths, and many others have suffered serious injuries over the years.

From here the trail continues onto Mt. LeConte. If you still have the energy you can continue on for another 4.2 miles to reach the summit of the third highest mountain in the Smokies.

rainbow-falls map rainbow-falls elevation profile