Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
5.40 mi (8.69 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The 2.7-mile (one-way) hike to Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is almost entirely uphill. The trail gains close to 1,700 feet in under 3 miles. However, the trek to Rainbow Falls is well worth the effort, especially since the overall mileage is rather low.

On the way to Rainbow Falls, LeConte Creek cascades along the right side of the trail for almost the entire duration of the hike. There are two creek crossings on the way, as well as plenty of great picnic sites to stop hiking, relax, and have a snack.  

Rainbow Falls are the highest single-drop waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you're lucky, you will visit on a day when the mist created by the waterfall interacts with the sunlight shining through the trees. This effect creates the frequent rainbows seen by the falls and is the reason the falls were given its name. The falls are best viewed during or after long periods of rain because this is when the waterfall displays its most powerful flows.

If hiking to Rainbow Falls itself isn't enough, the trail continues for another 4.2 miles to the famous summit of Mount LeConte, the third-highest peak in the Smoky Mountains.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Old-growth forest. Large waterfall. Short hike.

Cons

Crowded parking area.

Trailhead Elevation

2,600.00 ft (792.48 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,685.00 ft (513.59 m)

Features

Waterfalls
Bird watching
Wildlife
Old-growth forest
Wildflowers

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Comments

09/23/2018
Additional photos of the Rainbow Falls trail to Rainbow Falls, as well as photos from the LeConte Lodge - located at the top of the Rainbow Falls Trail. An excellent hike option in the Smokies is to hike up Trillium Gap trail, under Grotto Falls, up to LeConte and then come back down the Rainbow Falls Trail. It's one hike that gives you the option of seeing two trails and two of the park's waterfalls - but allows you to use only one car, thanks to the trailheads being close to each other.
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