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Hiking to Rainbow Falls in the Smokies

Updated on December 29, 2013
Where Rainbow Falls Trail Begins
Where Rainbow Falls Trail Begins | Source

If you are looking for a bit of a challenge and for some beautiful scenery, then you will enjoy hiking to see the Rainbow Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Great Smokies has an abundance of old growth forest to meander through. When you hit the trail from the first point, you will hike 2.7 miles up and 2.7 miles down.

Plan to take 3-5 hours for the entire hike. I would not recommend taking children younger than 12 unless they have experienced hiking in the hills. Because of the rocks and the elevation climb, I would say the trail is a moderate to difficult hike.

Directions to Rainbow Falls Trail

Start at Light 8 in Gatlinburg and turn on the Historic Nature Trail. Drive about a half mile and go right on Cherokee Orchard. You'll see the signs for the trail (there are two parking lots). Go early in the day to get the first one. There are bathrooms in the lot.

The hiking trail combines dirt, stones, sand, tree roots, a few shallow creeks, and a few log bridges. There are quite a few stones and tree roots in the path, so you need to walk carefully most of the way. You do not want to turn your ankle or trip and fall on a mountain. Especially, if there has been rain, the rocks and/or the sand can get pretty slippery. You need shoes with good grip and please watch your step.

Wear a backpack with first aid, water, snack, and bear pepper spray (just in case). This trail is not as apt for you to see a black bear as some of the other trails in the Smokies.

There is no entry fee for the National Park.

LeConte Creek


Babbling Brook

Within 15 minutes of your hike beginning, you will get the chance to see some wonderful babbling streams rushing down the hills. Take your camera along. Stop and look around. Almost every bend has a new sight to see.

Along the way, little trails go off down to spots that would be great for stopping for a picnic. Just remember that you are in black bear country.

Foot Log Bridge


Tennessee Nature Sightseeing

You will see many kinds of trees and plant life. Mushrooms, moss, wildflowers, etc., cover the forest floor or surprise you here and there.


Forest Animals

Animal life or traces of it may be found. Bear, deer, chipmunks, wild turkeys, snails, and salamanders could be seen.



Follow LeConte Creek

The mountain cold water from LeConte Creek provides some photo opportunities or some peaceful reflection. Some flowing water you can touch, sometimes it's on your right, and sometimes you get to cross the streams. They babble or roar at you as they flow over the boulders and rocks and fallen trees.

The trail is not well marked. You can tell where the trail is, but there are no signs along the way telling you how far you've gone or how far you have left to go.

Before you get to Rainbow Falls, you will cross a smaller falls that is about 8 feet high. The water is cold, the rocks can be slippery! You are maybe 15-20 minutes from Rainbow Falls.

Smaller Falls


Highest Fall in the Smokies

The Rainbow Falls is 80 feet high. When you reach them, you will have gone up 1685 ft. in elevation from the start of your hike. Another reason why the climb is challenging. If you are lucky to see the falls on a sunny day, you may be lucky enough to see a rainbow in the mist. You return back down the mountain on the same trail.

Or, the trail continues another 4.2 miles to the top of Mount LeConte. You can make reservations at the Lodge there to eat and even spend the night.

Rainbow Falls


Beautiful Scenery for the Soul

Hopefully, you are fit enough to go hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains often. I would recommend trying the Rainbow Falls Trail. Even if you only walk a 1/4 mile in, you will see some great scenery and hear the LeConte Creek sing to your heart!


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    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 4 years ago

      My boyfriend and I spend most weekends hiking and photographing places like this. I may take a trip here after reading this hub! :-)

    • farmloft profile image

      farmloft 5 years ago from Michigan

      And don't forget - you can hike the Smokies in the fall and winter, too!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      awesome... great pics. thanks

    • farmloft profile image

      farmloft 5 years ago from Michigan

      prasetio30, thanks for the follow. I like the beauty and the variety of the forest, too.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      This was beautiful place. Great combination between nature, water, and animal inside the mountain. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up :-)


    • farmloft profile image

      farmloft 6 years ago from Michigan

      The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has about 150 different hiking trails.

      backporch -Chimney Tops is being worked on this 2012 summer and is only open on the weekends.

    • backporchstories profile image

      backporchstories 6 years ago from Kentucky

      Excellent! Great pics too! I love the trail to the Chimney Tops. It can be a stressful climb, but the view is worth it.

    • Robertgillbert profile image

      Robertgillbert 6 years ago from UK

      Nice hub! Picture collection is awesome..

    • ercramer36 profile image

      Eric Cramer 6 years ago from Chicagoland

      Love your pictures! Great Hub!