Rainbow Falls Trail (Mt. LeConte)Difficult

Cherokee Orchard / Gatlinburg, TN

Difficult
Rainbow Falls Trail (Mt. LeConte)

Distance (One Way)

6.6 miles

Elevation Gain

3,993 feet

Trailhead

Cherokee Orchard

Location

Gatlinburg, TN

Trail Description

Rainbow Falls Trail is one of the 6 trails leading to Mount LeConte; it's also one of the most popular. The waterfall is located about 2.7 miles from the trailhead. The falls hike is very popular by itself, but for the more adventurous, passing the beautiful falls and continuing on to the summit of Mt. LeConte is also a possibility.

The hike to Rainbow Falls is rated moderate to hard. The trailhead begins 2.4 miles up Cherokee Orchard Road. This is accessible from Historic Nature Trail/Airport Road (light #8) in Gatlinburg. Rainbow Falls is at 4,000 feet in elevation and if your timing is right, mist from Roaring Fork Creek’s spill over the 80 foot ledge creates a rainbow in the early afternoon.

The entirety of Rainbow Falls Trail extends 6.5 miles all the way to Mount LeConte. At 5.9 miles it intersects with Bull Head Trail, then Alum Cave Trail at 6.4 miles, and Trillium Gap at its very end.

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#waterfall
#wildflowers
#difficult
#gatlinburg tn

Rainbow Falls Trail (Mt. LeConte) Elevation Profile

Rainbow Falls Trail (Mt. LeConte) Elevation Profile

Mt. LeConte Trails

Other ways to reach Mt. LeConte: Alum Cave Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5 m) Boulevard Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5.4 m) Brushy Mountain Trail (Mt. LeConte) (4.9 m) Bullhead Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5.9 m) Trillium Gap Trail (Grotto Falls, Mt. LeConte) (8.9 m)

Mount LeConte's 6 Trails

Alum Cave

Route Info: 1 trail, 5 miles total

Trailhead: Newfound Gap Road [Map]

Starting Elevation: 3878'

Pros: shortest & easiest route, incredible views throughout including Alum Cave Bluffs, Inspiration Point, and a distant Clingman's Dome on a clear day

Pros: the busiest of all 6 trails and one of the most trekked in the entire park

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The Boulevard

Route Info: 2 trails, 8.1 miles total

Trailhead: Newfound Gap [Map]

Starting Elevation: 5039'

Pros: a high starting point makes for the only LeConte hike that isn't a relentlessly steep climb, incredible views throughout

Pros: first 2.7 miles on the AT can get fairly crowded; elevation changes make it a tougher one to go back down

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Bullhead

Route Info: 3 trails, 6.9 miles total

Trailhead: Cherokee Orchard [Map]

Starting Elevation: 2602'

Pros: potential loop hike, The Pulpit, wide open views for most of the trail after the 2016 Gatlinburg fires, least traveled route

Pros: some of the roughest terrain out of the 6 trails, very steep, many consider it very difficult

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Rainbow Falls

Route Info: 1 trail, 6.5 miles total

Trailhead: Cherokee Orchard [Map]

Starting Elevation: 2602'

Pros: waterfall at the 2.7 mile marker, potential loop hike

Pros: the short waterfall hike makes the first portion of this trail a very crowded spot if you don't start early enough

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Trillium Gap

Route Info: 1 trail, 8.9 miles total

Trailhead: Cherokee Orchard [Map]

Starting Elevation: 2602'

Pros: most gentle incline of the 6, potential loop hike, the LeConte llama train, Grotto Falls early on in the trail

Pros: the longest single trail to LeConte, the last 3.6 miles can feel pretty brutal

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Brushy Mountain

Route Info: 3 trails, 9.1 miles total

Trailhead: Greenbrier Cove [Map]

Starting Elevation: 1696'

Pros: the roundabout way of reaching the lodge makes it an unpopular option, beautiful views of Mt LeConte from the trail & summit of Brushy Mountain

Pros: the longest route possible, includes the last 3.6 miles of Trillium Gap; most of the trail gets overgrown in the spring & summer

More Info
Alum Cave Trail (5 m)Arch Rock (1.4 m)Arch RockAlum Cave Bluffs (2.3 m)Alum Cave Bluffs (4.1 m)Vantage PointInspiration Point (2 m)Inspiration PointAppalachian Trail (2.7 m)Boulevard Trail (5.4 m)The Jumpoff (2.8 m)The JumpoffAnakeesta KnobAnakeesta KnobVantage Point (6.9 m)Vantage PointMyrtle Point (7.4 m)Myrtle PointHigh TopHigh TopOld Sugarlands Trail (0.4 m)Bullhead Trail (5.9 m)Rainbow Falls Trail (0.6 m)The PulpitThe PulpitFire Damage (2.1 m)Fire DamageIntersection with Rainbow FallsIntersection with Rainbow FallsRainbow Falls Trail (6.5 m)Rainbow FallsRainbow FallsFire Damage (3.7 m)Fire DamageTrillium Gap Trail (8.9 m)Grotto FallsGrotto FallsBrushy MountainBrushy MountainPorters Creek Trail (1 m)Brushy Mountain Trail (4.5 m)Trillium Gap Trail (3.6 m)Summit of Brushy MountainSummit of Brushy Mountain12345678925003500450055006500

Trail Difficulty Scales Explained

Elevation Grade

11%

Very Steep

Paul Petzoldt Scale

14.6

Strenuous

5

10

15

Shenandoah Scale

230

Very Strenuous

50

100

150

Photo Gallery (13)

Trail Map

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More Hikes

The above list of hiking trails in the Smokies is incomplete and constantly being updated. If you have information or photos you would like to contribute, please contact caroline@pigeonforge.com.

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