How to Great Smoky Mountains National Park Rainbow Falls
Day hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a pastime many people enjoy when visiting the parks. Small trails abound in this National Park providing access for nearly anyone who wishes to enjoy the natural surroundings and scenic views. The park also offers backpacking trails, backcountry hiking, and longer day hikes. Part of the Appalachian Trail also passes through the Smoky Mountains.
Many of the trails in the park lead to summits, camping areas, or other natural formations, but adding a waterfall as the destination can entice even young hikers to take on a challenge. Eleven trails lead to waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (distance roundtrip, difficulty level): Abrams Falls (5 miles, moderate), Grotto Falls (3 miles, moderate), Hen Wallow Falls (4.4 miles, moderate), Indian Creek Falls and Tom Brach Falls (1.6 miles, easy for both), Juney Whank Falls (0.8 miles moderate), Laurel Falls (2.6 miles moderate, but paved), Mingo Falls (0.4 miles, moderate), Mouse Creek Falls (4 miles, moderate), Rainbow Falls (5.4 miles, moderate), and Ramsey Cascades (8 miles, strenuous). Each trail is given a difficulty level rating of easy, moderate, or strenuous, but personal physical condition will determine the true difficulty rating. Be sure to play it safe when hiking in the woods or in remote locations and follow all park safety guidelines to avoid injury or death.
Each waterfall has its own unique characteristics. Rainbow Falls Trail leads to an 80-foot high waterfall that has a rainbow over it appearing on sunny days. The rainbow is formed when mist from the falls hits the sunlight and refracts it creating the rainbow.
The trail is considered moderate, but it is advisable to pack a light weight jacket, water, and snacks. The chance for rain during many parts of the year is extremely high, so be prepared.
The trail leads up the mountain and gains about 1,500 feet in elevation. Taking small breaks will help less adapt hikers acclimate to the atmospheric changes with the increase in the elevation. Many scenic areas make great spots to rest. The falls creek is visible for much of the hike an provides a peaceful setting for bird watching, picnicking, or wildlife viewing. Please remember to pack out what you pack in to include candy wrappers, beverage containers, and cigarette butts.
Rainbow Falls Trailhead
Visitors to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park can pick up trail maps at the Surgarlands visitor center.
The trailhead for Rainbow Falls can be accessed from “the parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Continue past the Noah “Bud” Ogle home site to the clearly signed Rainbow Falls parking area,” (GSMNP Waterfalls, 2011).
Recommendations for Hiking Rainbow Falls
This trail is accessible in early spring through late autumn and is even open during the winter months. Be sure to understand the different risk at various times of year and be prepared when on the trails. Over 1500 bears live in the state park along with other wildlife. Precaution should be used if wildlife is spotted while hiking. Carrying a small pack with basic essentials such as water, medical supplies, extra clothing, and food is advisable even for day hikes. Stay on marked trails and keep a trail map and compass with you to guide you as you hike. Also plan to carry two flashlights or headlamps in-case darkness falls before you get off the trail. Plan accordingly and follow weather advisories for the park. Weather can be drastically different from the trail head to the falls and temperatures can rise and fall with the elevation. Be prepared and have fun.
Hiking to Rainbow Falls in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was exciting and fun. The time spent with family or friends will build many lasting memories and provide natural experiences in this ever changing world. Enjoy!
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