Hiking the Rainbow Falls Trail in the Smoky Mountains

September 10, 2018

Every year thousand of visitors make the trek up park trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to find picture perfect waterfalls. The Rainbow Falls Trail in the Smoky Mountains in particular is a beautiful and rewarding hike to venture up! Below you’ll learn all about the trail and what to expect for your hike! 

Round Trip Length 5.4 Miles
Elevation Gain 624 Feet
Trail Highlights Waterfalls, old growth forest, wildflowers

Trailhead:footbridge to rainbow falls

From the Parkway in Gatlinburg at light #8 follow the Historic Nature Trail into the national park. Then continue past the Bud Ogle homesite. You will see clearly marked signs for the Rainbow Falls Trail. There are two marked parking areas, and often overflow will park along the sides of the road.

Trail Description:

The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 5.4 miles, and considered moderate in difficulty. You can expect the trail to be a majority of uphill climbing. The trail begins in a rocky boulder field, so be cautious of where you step.  LeConte Creek flows down the mountain on the right. There are some great photo opportunities here! As you continue up the trail you will pass over two footbridges before reaching the waterfall. 

Rainbow Falls is 80 feet tall, and is the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies! The best times to view the waterfall are after long periods of rain. If you catch the waterfall at the right time the mist from the cascading water and sunlight cause the famous “rainbow glare” effect. Beware of climbing on rocks around this waterfall as it can be very slippery!

Hikers can actually hike beyond Rainbow Falls and continue to Mt. LeConte. It is another 4.2 miles to the mountain’s summit.

Rainbow Falls Trail Map

Need help finding your way around this trail? Download our Rainbow Falls Trail map! You can bring the map with you to help you get to the trailhead!

Rainbow FallsNotes About the Trail:

  • The Rainbow Falls Trail is closed Monday through Thursdays for trail rehabilitation.
  • During springtime this trail is a wonderful option to view native wildflowers!
  • Bears have been spotted on the Rainbow Falls Trail, so be mindful of respecting wildlife and staying a safe distance away.
  • Make sure to bring plenty of water! While this trail is considered moderate, because of the rough terrain and elevation gain this hike can be considered strenuous for some hikers.

The hike up the Rainbow Falls Trail is a beautiful one! Throughout this trail you will follow the peaceful sounds of the river for a majority of the way! However, you can expect this trail to be a fun challenge with a gorgeous waterfall view at the end! To find more popular waterfall hikes, check out our list of “6 Best Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains with Waterfalls.”