• Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Swimming, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    3.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    800 Feet

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Swimming Hole

Hike along roaring river to a 150 ft waterfall. There are also several other trails and falls to explore...so be prepared for a great day.

Rainbow Falls is one of the most scenic waterfalls in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. The Horsepasture River swells in the rainy season, dumping a cascade of water 150 feet. The plume of mist at the bottom creates a distinct rainbow effect, giving the falls its name. Hike to Rainbow Falls and explore the surrounding area - Turtleback Falls, a 20 ft drop over a curved rock, is just .3 miles upriver along the trail. When the current is not too strong, this is a popular rock for sliding and swimming. If you hike another .5 miles past Turtleback Falls, staying left at the fork, you'll reach a beautiful 80 foot slide called Drift Falls. This is on private property just outside the park so be especially courteous.

Park at the Grassy Ridge Parking Area in Gorges State Park and look for the large signs and trail maps. The trailhead is right near these signs and will lead you all the way to the falls. To get here from Hendersonville, drive 38 miles west on US 64 until you reach the junction for NC 281 South in Hogback. Take the 281 South for 2.6 miles and turn left on Grassy Ridge Rd. The parking lot with the trailhead will be on the right hand side after 1.8 miles driving on Grassy Ridge Rd.

Pack List

  • Hiking shoes
  • Water
  • Camera
  • Swimming suit
  • Towel
  • Picnic
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Overall rating: 

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Love this hike! I'd say somewhat strenuous but over all a very fun rewarding hike for summer days! Hike past rainbow falls to turtleback falls and enjoy sliding down the mountain into safe deep water! Or jumping off a small ledge on rainbow falls (not at the very top)

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This place was great to hike down to and enjoy the view. Along with the sights you can get in and swim when it's hot outside making for an awesome place to bring lunch and chill out for a while. The hike back is mostly uphill but not too steep to handle. Although, I will agree in the afternoon it can get pretty crowded. But the large parking area, and multiple waterfalls/swimming holes make it very tolerable.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This is one of my favorite falls to hike to since there are several falls involved and there are places for swimming. It's perfect for the summer time. I would suggest even camping at Gorges State Park and get to the falls early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Also, there's a spot behind Turtleback Falls where you can swim to that has a rock ledge allowing you to sit and chill behind the falls. It's things like this that turn this place into a favorite for me.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

I loved taking day trips to the Rainbow Falls area when I lived in North Carolina. If you're feeling adventurous (and the water is high enough), there is an area just to the left of Rainbow Falls where you can scramble up the hill and jump off of a little cliff into the pool. Additionally, I always loved to see how far I could get down the river by boulder-hopping (feel free to call this game THE RIVER IS LAVA). The only downsides? -Crowded on summer weekends -Slightly steep hike out (which is only annoying because you've just spent the whole day chillin' out/ maxin' / relaxin' all cool)

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Edward Day Explorer

Explorer. I like going places with my camera.

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