Rainbow Falls Hiking Trail

Rainbow Falls hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains is a perfectly picturesque path filled with natural architecture. Of course, the main attraction comes at the end when you reach the tallest waterfall in the Smokies. It gets its name from the stunning rainbow of colors the sun casts on the surrounding rock.

Tall, multi-tired Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Of course, each family has its own unique needs. You know your family best and are ultimately responsible for discerning the safety and appropriateness of this hike. Please read our full disclaimer here.

Rainbow Falls, Smoky Mountains National Park

Upon first entering the trail, you can immediately see that this is not going to be a leisurely hike. The path begins on a slight incline and continues uphill the entire 5.2 miles. The whole way. If you have ever longed for buns of steel, hike at Rainbow Falls and you shall receive.

Rainbow Falls trailhead sign

Not only will you be waking uphill the entire hike, but you will be climbing many sets of stairs. Each set seems to be 6 steps or less, but they are scattered all along the path. Like I said, buns of steel!

Related Read: 20 Best Family Friendly Hiking Trails In The Smokies

rock staircase along Rainbow Falls hiking trail

The other waterfall trails we have hiked, such as Grotto Falls, have not been this strenuous. If you have younger children, there are other waterfalls that will better meet your needs. That being said, you can still have a great experience with older children. This trail was crawling with kids while we were there.

We had our son in a close-fitting baby carrier and, due to the intensity of this trail, it got pretty sweaty. Since this hike, we’ve invested in a backpack carrier, specifically designed for hiking. It’s amazing!

Related Read: Discover The Smoky Mountain Heritage Center 

As for the walking children, I will caution that there is 1 part where you have to walk over a high log bridge that only has a railing on 1 side. Even I was a little nervous, but it really is just a very small portion of the trail.

Related Read: Discover Schoolhouse Gap Trail

As you hike, always keep an eye out for God’s awesome creepy crawlies, such as this little beauty below.

millipede on a weathered log with moss

Once, you get to the waterfall, it is simply stunning. We didn’t get to see many colors, due to the cloudiness that day, but the sheer height of the falls was awe-inspiring.

At the foot of the falls, there are lots of large, very assuming rocks and park signs that essentially state, “climb at your own risk.” Of course, everyone was climbing them. And you know what, a child fell.

Right in front of me, he tumbled off a slippery rock and the thud rang loudly as his body folded and disappeared between 2 large boulders. Thankfully, when his father was finally able to lift him out, he seemed to only have scraped his elbow. And, his ego.

He was very lucky, and I would suggest that you not climb the rocks. But again, you know your kids best and that decision is ultimately up to you.

Happy hiking!

Rainbow Falls is a tall waterfall cascading down multi-colored rocks
Photo of author
Written By
Erica Cardinal
Erica is a long-time resident of East TN and the founder of East TN Family Fun. She's also a sucker for a good adventure. Together with her hubs and kiddos, she spends her time exploring, homeschooling, and making memories.

3 thoughts on “Rainbow Falls Hiking Trail”

  1. I’m 72yrs young. My husband and I tackled the Rainbow Falls trail on a cold day. We made it three fourths of the way. It was beautiful walking along the way, but quite steep, a bit sweaty even at 35 degrees.

    • I’m so pleased to hear you were able to make it 3/4 of the way. I bet you could make it the whole way on a nice fall day, where the weather is nice. 🙂


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