Slippery trail near falls. The water is so strong that you must exercise extreme caution when getting closer: the rocks are slippery. These are two beautiful waterfalls on the Horsepasture River in Pisgah National Forest. Start the trail by descending on a moderate grade downhill. This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Rainbow Falls is just over 1.5 miles in, and Turtleback Falls is less than half a mile beyond that. Joanne O’Sullivan lived and traveled on three continents before settling in Asheville. Camp only in spots that have clearly been used before, and try to leave it better than you found it. Southern Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina. The Horsepasture River thunders down a 125-foot drop spraying up a mist that creates rainbows that sparkle in the sunlight. All rights reserved. Hike to Rainbow Falls and explore the surrounding area - Turtleback Falls, a 20 ft drop … You will likely be standing in the spray as you view the falls, even though the trail is nearly 200 yards away. Take it for 16 miles to Highway 64. We believe good things come from people spending time outside. The trail, rated moderate to difficult, has a roundtrip length of 5.4 miles and an elevation gain of 1,500 feet. Rainbow Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfall settings in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The trail accesses the Horse Pasture River and follows it upstream. We will be hiking through Rainbow Falls and going swimming at Turtleback Falls in Gorges State Park. We hiked down the trail and of course had to stop at the beautiful Rainbow Falls. Rainbow Falls NC: the hike. Cross the creek and hike another 0.45 mile to Rainbow Falls on the left. Eastatoe Falls is a beautiful 60-foot cascade on private property, practically in someone's back yard. It’s about more than standing on the mountain top. The Rainbow Falls Trail is approximately the same as the route taken by Paul Adams as he led the first Park Commission trip to LeConte, which helped lead to the formation of the national park. The Grassy Ridge Access is .7 mile on the left. At 0.99 mile from the trailhead, a brown carsonite steak marks the side trail on the left for Stairway Falls. Ask nswieder about Gorges State Park. This 150-ft. tall waterfall is impressive, especially after rainy weather that swells the Horsepasture River. You will know right away when you are close. Call or text Reed McKenzie ... Mark - according to the best GPS data I have, it's 1.379km or 0.85mi from the trailhead parking to the park boundary, and 2.492km or 1.55mi all the way from the trailhead parking area to the overlook for the falls. The marked trail ends at Rainbow Falls, however hikers can continue upstream about 1/4 mile to Turtleback Falls. It faces mostly south and it gets a lot of sun, and when rays hit the droplets you'll see a rainbow framing the falls. She served as the Asheville correspondent for …, Cookies are used for measurement, ads and optimization. It’s about protecting what sustains us. © 2020 Outdoor Project. The hike to Rainbow Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains begins from the Rainbow Falls Trailhead, located just outside of Gatlinburg. As such, this hike is quite popular, and Turtleback Falls is a popular swimming and diving spot for area youth on warm summer days. It’s about nourishment and learning. The 7,500-acre park in Lake Toxaway is known for long-distance trail hiking, biking, and horseback riding along the Horsepasture River. The five acres are developed with a parking area, trail head, covered kiosk with historical and geological interpretive information, picnic benches and tables, a 0.15 mile trail from the parking area to the Falls, secondary trails along Fountain Creek, and viewing overlooks. Rainbow Falls and nearby Turtleback Falls are featured on this hike, which is probably the best dayhike at Gorges State Park. After the rockhouse, you will ascend a series of steps next to Turtleback Falls. With a few creek crossings here, prepare to get your feet wet. Here, there is a good side view of Turtleback Falls, as well as the 90-degree turn in the river. The jouney to reach them begins from Gorges State Park at the Grassy Ridge Trailhead and then follows a well-marked and heavily trafficked trail. Date of experience: June 2016. The falls combine a slide and short free fall into a 20-foot drop and a deep splash pool. The Best Winter Adventures in North America. Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment? Just past the popular North Carolina waterfall, Rainbow Falls, is the unique Turtleback Falls that is a popular waterslide and swimming hole.While there is a 3.5 mile round trip hike required to access Turtleback Falls, during the warm Carolina Summer months expect this … Take exit 40 and make a right onto Hwy 280. These proud falls drop 150 feet over slick granite and throw chilly spray surprisingly far. To round out the day, go the extra distance to Turtleback Falls, a less impressive but uniquely pretty cascade less than a half-mile farther up river. ... Turtleback Falls. Retrace back and continue on to Turtleback Falls and the thundering Rainbow Falls. Rainbow Falls is popular in the summer because of the cooling mist, but the fall color here is also beautiful. You know, as long as you don't float down and over Rainbow Falls and die. Continuing on the trail barely a couple hundred yards or so was Turtleback Falls (whose profile could also be seen from the top of Rainbow Falls). A swimmer jumping off Turtleback Falls this morning. Also, you can see the start of the dropoff at Rainbow Falls. Access the Rainbow Falls trailhead off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This is an out and back hike so when you have finished enjoying Rainbow Falls, hike safely back to the parking area. Continue down the river trail. In another 0.11 mile, come to a creek crossing. The flow shown in pictures above is much, much too high to get in the water at Turtleback. Turtleback Falls is another quarter mile up the trail from Rainbow Falls. While it doesn’t affect your hike, you should know that the trail switches from Gorges State Park to Pisgah National Forest about 20 minutes after you leave the parking lot. The waterfalls must be barely more than a trickle to even consider swimming near them because recirculating hydraulics beneath are deceptively strong and deadly. Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Hike Details Difficulty: Moderate Length: 1.5 miles each way to Rainbow Falls, an additional 1 mile round-trip to Turtleback Falls Region: Duration of hike: 30 minutes each way (add an extra 10 each way for Turtleback) Elevation gain: 800 Feet Type: Out & Back Blazes: Orange Circles Facilities & Parking: Parking lot, portable toilet The trail levels to reach Turtleback Falls at 1.65 miles, where the Horsepasture River cascades 25 feet over a large, curved rock outcrop into a pool below. The constant, heavy mist is what gives this waterfall its name. To reach the Grassy Ridge Access Area (the west side of the park), turn south on NC 281 in Sapphire. So we headed back to the car and drove to the Rainbow Falls trailhead parking area. Be careful because surfaces are always muddy and slick in the spray zone. Don't forget to take your Swimming suits! By continuing to use our site you agree to our, Fall Forecast and Weekly Fall Color Report, Request a Website Listing & Partner Account. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the directions and location prior to leaving as many trailhead locations do not have cell service. A small rainbow was visible right at the base, but it was too late in the day for a better rainbow. Gorges State Park is 3:00 hours from Charlotte An 8:45 AM meetup at the trailhead would allow hiking by 9:00. “Rainbow Falls & Turtleback Trailhead” location is available in Google Maps & Waze. Turtleback Falls and the brink of Rainbow Falls. Here the river drops over a curved cliffband that resembles the side of a turtle's shell. When viewing rainbow falls from the top, extreme caution should be used, this is not a safe place to be on top of! After driving 0.7 miles veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you'll enter into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This primitive campground is about a mile down its own trail that begins from the same trailhead as Rainbow Falls. 2 Thank nswieder . Although it may be tempting to try to get photos from the top of the falls, don’t do it: it’s too dangerous. From the Grassy Ridge parking lot, the Rainbow Falls trail starts out as gravel, but then starts to descend toward the Horsepasture River. At roughly the 1-mile mark there is small side trail leading to Stairway Falls, which you can take for your first glimpse of the river. Even wading can be dangerous. Outdoor Project may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers. Join Gorges State Park Superintendent Steve Pagano for a roundtrip hike to the 150-foot Rainbow Falls and 20-foot Turtleback Falls. From downtown Asheville, take 1-240 to I-26. In all, Casey said, there are 11 warning signs from the park to Rainbow Falls, and then a short hike upstream to Turtleback Falls, where there have been fatalities in past years. We've hiked quite a few falls in NC, but Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls rank at or near the top. Rainbow Falls Trail located in Gorges State Park, NC is a rally nice deep woods hike, that begins in Gorges State Park and ends in Pisgah National Forest at either Rainbow Falls or Turtleback Falls. This trail goes by a spur trail leading to Stairway Falls. The Horsepasture River swells in the rainy season, dumping a cascade of water 150 feet. This was our turnaround point, but like I said earlier, there were more waterfalls further upstream (including Drift Falls). This hike is beautiful at all times of year, While you’ll probably want to linger for a while, you can also continue up the trail for around 10 more minutes to Turtleback Falls, a low waterfall over a curved rock that resembles a turtle shell. The trail above the falls continues to Turtleback Falls but you will have to watch another episode to learn more about this unique destination. This phenomenon can be seen almost any day when the sun is out, but higher flows heighten the effect. Pools in the Horsepasture look inviting during the heat of summer, but use extreme caution because rocks are slippery and the currents in this steep river are always swift. Meet at the Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Trailhead at Ipm. Turtleback Falls is another .25 miles up the trail. Rainbow Falls sits on the Horsepasture River on U.S. Forest Service property, but the entrance to the 1.5-mile trail to the waterfalls starts in Gorges State Park. Staying at Raymond Fisher Campsites in the state park is another great overnight option. You can get closer, however, by following side trails downhill to a viewing platform or to river level. To access the Turtleback, visitors access Gorges State Park off of NC Hwy 281 and park near the trailhead for Rainbow Falls. The hike is open in the winter, when the mist has been known to turn to ice. However, the trail to Rainbow Falls isn’t long distance and makes for… Turn west on US 64 and travel toward Sapphire. Follow the marked path upstream to Rainbow Falls, which is approx 1.5 miles in length (uphill in many areas). Hydraulics below can be strong, though, so swimming is only safe if the waterfall is a thin curtain of water. Several signs at the trailhead warn against swimming, but there are a few safe spots to take a dip if you exercise caution and common sense. The marked trail ends here, but you continue north about .25 miles to Turtleback Falls. This magical sight can be seen at Rainbow Falls in Gorges State Park, one of the best Western North Carolina waterfall hikes. There is a nice swimming hole at the base of the falls for those adventurous visitors looking for a place to cool off. Continue on the trail for 0.16 mile to Turtleback Falls on the left. Continuing past Rainbow Falls to Turtleback Falls. The trail begins with a long descent down into the river gorge. After … Rainbow Falls is owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service and is currently only accessible through Gorges State Park. People slide down these falls and swim in the swimming hole beneath them, but the currents can be extremely strong so, again, be cautious. At the 1.5 mile mark, you pass an overlook to the gorgeous Rainbow Falls. The best feature of Rainbow Falls is the ability for visitors to experience the falls from the front, bottom, side and top! Just a The hike is rated strenuous, not due to the length, but due to the hilly nature of the trail itself. While it’s certainly not safe to swim on or near Rainbow Falls, many people use Turtleback Falls as a natural waterslide and swimming area. After Turtleback Falls, the trail continues close to the Horsepasture River, but there is not much more ascent. You'll hear the echoing crash of water just before you round a corner to see it. The going is mostly easy, but a few sections can be rugged or wet. Rainbow Falls is just over 1.5 miles in, and Turtleback Falls is less than half a mile beyond that. The hike begins at the trailhead for Rainbow Falls and descends steeply to Horsepasture River. A post shared by Chad Chandler (@chad.chandler) on Aug 6, 2016 at 9:20am PDT The trailhead is located inside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, off Cherokee Orchard Road, 3.4 miles (5.5 km) from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Can be crowded. As you continue on, you'll soon come to Rainbow Falls, which is big and powerful. Most continue past this intersection, though, and find the river a little farther up at Hidden Falls. Higher levels are dangerous. The trail gets narrower as you pass through a hardwood forest, but you’ll follow along the side of the river most of the way to the falls. This popular trail is jointly maintained by Gorges State Park and the Pisgah Ranger District. Only 5 years ago the hike to these falls was a strenuous all-day event involving a combination of overgrown trails and bushwhacking. Continue past this overlook area, and follow the trail that continues up. The trail to Rainbow Falls is a good example of this. This provides access to the swimming hole area of Turtleback Falls. #hiking #waterfalls. After driving another 2.2 miles you'll enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop Road. The jouney to reach them begins from Gorges State Park at the Grassy Ridge Trailhead and then follows a well-marked and heavily trafficked trail. When you arrive at the falls, you’ll feel it: a cool mist will soak you. Rainbow Hike & Turtleback Waterfall Swim Pavilion Alumni Fellowship Event Saturday, August 26, 2017 1 - 5pm Join us for fun and fellowship. A few obvious campsites exist along the main trail, and another is located on the side trail to Stairway Falls. Rainbow Falls is an incredible 150-foot waterfall that’s located in the Pisgah National Forest but visitors reach the trailhead through Gorges State Park. We promise not to annoy you, but if you wish, you may unsubscribe at any time. The plume of mist at the bottom creates a distinct rainbow effect, giving the falls its name. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure. Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. It’s about building relationships with the outdoors and each other. The Rainbow Falls Historic Site consists of the namesake Rainbow Falls and a small series of waterfalls downstream. This is a moderate one way trail to Rainbow Falls in Pisgah National Forest. Once the trail leaves Gorges State Park and enters the National Forest, camping is allowed anywhere along the trail. You must self register at the parking area, but there is no fee. Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter packed with the best adventure guides, travel ideas, news, and articles. You’ll see a small trail going down as you come to the falls. Continue up the trail to get to Turtleback Falls. On sunny afternoons, visitors to the falls are treated to a stunning rainbow created by the water’s mist. Too high to get to Turtleback Falls is owned and managed by the U.S. Forest service is. Grassy Ridge access is.7 mile on the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina closer: the rocks slippery!, or just want to leave a comment reach Rainbow Falls in State. 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