Explore this 80-foot high, hidden waterfall that produces a mist rainbow visible on sunny afternoons. This hike is located less than 10 miles from downtown Chattanooga and can provide easy access to Signal Point for sweeping views of the Tennessee River gorge.

Most Rainbow Lake Trail hikers have seen or heard the majestic Rainbow Falls, but fewer have ventured down the treacherous path to the falls themselves. Albeit a bit daunting, especially if there has been recent rain, the path from Rainbow Lake Trail down to Rainbow Falls is a rewarding trek for those capable.

The hike from the Rainbow Lake Trailhead to Rainbow Lake is casual and great for first time hikers. When arriving at the lake, you'll find an area to rest, eat lunch, take pictures, or explore the dam. In the summer, you'll find that many hikers swim in this area. If you decide to continue on your way to Rainbow Falls or Signal Point, you'll head down creek until you hit the Signal Mountain swinging bridge. Jump onto the bridge and grab those Instagram-worthy shots, but do not cross it! You are going to stay on the current side of the creek to follow the white trail blazes towards Signal Point for a little less than a mile.

Once you get to another small, rustic bridge (this time, you WILL cross it), you are just a few minutes walk away from the path to the falls. As of October 2015, the trail to the falls was marked by a green rope wrapped around a tree (but do not rely solely on this marker). There are multiple ways down to the falls, but the western-most path, or the one furthest from the trailhead, is the easiest of the bunch. But don't be mislead. Just because this is the easiest way down does not mean it is an easy trek, especially if the trail is muddy. It is a steep cliff and the trail is unmaintained, so each step must be taken with caution. Ropes have been set up between trees which are very helpful getting down to the falls.

Upon arriving at the falls, hang that hammock, bask in the refreshing mist coming off the falls, shoot some photos or enjoy a snack before heading back up to the trail.

Once back onto the main trail, you can continue west to Signal Point for beautiful views of the TN River or head back to Rainbow Lake trailhead. Whatever you do, be sure to grab some tasty BBQ from Shuford's Smokehouse on your way back!

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Water
  • Hiking boots (especially if hiking during the wet season)
  • Snack
  • Bathing suit (summer)
  • Hammock
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RT Distance 5.7 Miles
Elevation Gain 1500 Feet
Activities Chillin, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

No Green Rope Marker, But Rest Of Article Is Accurate

We descended the first trail on the right that veered off from the main. It's extremely steep and loose but there are a few ropes to help you down and back up. The waterfall is exactly as pictured and what you'd expect. I really enjoyed the swaying bridge on the way there. Altogether, definitely a solid must-do hike in the Chattanooga area.

Nice waterfall hangout spot

Went during the summer and loved the quiet spot with only a handful of other people there swimming and sun bathing on the large flat rocks. It was a little tricky getting down the rock scramble, but worth it.

May 2017 Green Rope Marker Removed, Bonus Waterfall

Gorgeous hike and falls. As of May 2017, the green rope marker mentioned in the article has been removed, though Rainbow Falls is still accessible. If you're up for a little bushwhacking, upstream of Rainbow Falls there's another cool little waterfall to see. I found it by leaving the main trail shortly after the second bridge and following the stream downstream to Rainbow Falls. If you go this way, be very careful making your way down the cliff at Rainbow Falls when you reach it, or head back to the main trail and take the usual way down to the falls.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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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