Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Rainbow Falls

Waterfall aficionados: This challenging 5.2-mile route traces a tumbling creek, then passes under an old-growth forest to one of the park's highest cascades.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

-Mapped by Stephen Wilkinson

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 4.2



Location: 35.6755409240723, -83.4854507446289

Go WSW from Cherokee Orchard onto one of the earliest-known trails leading to Mt. Le Conte (6,593 ft.)


Location: 35.6724510192871, -83.4840774536133

Meet up Rainbow Falls Trail along Le Conte Creek, once called Mill Creek because of the grist mills that operated along its inhabited banks


Location: 35.6703491210938, -83.4824066162109

Slowly stride through a shady stand of hemlocks and mixed hardwoods


Location: 35.6685447692871, -83.4794311523438

Trail twists away from creek on tight switchbacks to an exposed ridge below the steep gully formation of Scratch Britches


Location: 35.6669960021973, -83.4768600463867

Hit 3,400-ft. contour and continue climbing on N side of ravine


Location: 35.6637191772461, -83.4716720581055

Cross log footbridge


Location: 35.6639518737793, -83.4698715209961

Another footbridge; trail dips back into creekbed, then rises sharply


Location: 35.6610374450684, -83.4711685180664

Hear rumble of falls on last uphill push. Falls and cliff face come into view rounding a bend in the mountain


Location: 35.6607093811035, -83.4680709838867

Rainbow Falls drops 80 ft. over a series of ledges into crystal blue pools. Camera trick: Position yourself between the sun and the misty falls at a 40-degree angle and a small rainbow will likely appear for your photos. Return to trailhead