The Rainbow Falls Trail is one of several that will take you to the top of Mount Le Conte. The trail is quite challenging, but about 1/2 way up the trail offers a rest at the beautiful Rainbow Falls. From the fall up to Le Conte Lodge the trail is very challenging.
The trail ascends over 4000 feet in 6.7 miles, making it one of the more uniquely challenging climbs in the Smokies. To where it finally reaches a height of over 6000 feet near Mount Le Conte Lodge! Before taking on a hike of this magnitude please check with park rangers about weather and trail conditions.
Point of Departure
Cherokee Orchard Road – Turn at light #8 in Gatlinburg and go to the Airport Road just outside of Gatlinburg as you enter the Smoky Mountains National Park. Airport Road will turn into Cherokee Orchard Road. After 2.5 miles up Cherokee Orchard Road you will come to the Rainbow Falls parking area. The trail head for Rainbow falls trail starts here.
At the 2.8 mile mark you arrive at Rainbow Falls. At the 6.6 mile mark is the Alum Cave Trail junction take this to the left 0.1 mile to the LeConte Lodge
The Rainbow Falls Trail begins along the stream, and 1 mile from the beginning splits off across a ridge. You then return to the stream and start up a series of switch backs.
After you cross the stream a second time, you can spot the high cliff from which the falls descend.
LeConte Creek is fairly narrow at this point, and forces the water outward as it cascades down 82 feet into a heavy mist The mist creates the rainbow effect from which the falls their derive name.
When you cross the LeConte Creek for the third time, Rainbow Falls comes into complete view. For the experienced hiker, the trail continues beyond Rainbow Falls, becoming steeper and more challenging.Then it changes again to a more easy course on the way to the LeConte. The hiker should remember–as the trail moves up the mountain and into the cooler temperatures the change can be considerably and unprepared hikers might find themselves in surprisingly cool temperatures–especially if it’s raining.
The Rainbow Falls Trail is fairly challenging if completed all the way to Mt LeConte. Allow an hour and a half to Rainbow Falls and four hours to Mt LeConte. Hikers will gain nearly 4,000 feet in elevation by the time they get to Mt. LeConte.
Cover Image: By No author provided. Blinutne assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons