Woman with baby in hiking carrier standing in front of Rainbow Falls in North Carolina.


Rainbow Falls, NC: BEST Waterfall Hike Near Asheville

Located just a little over an hour from Asheville, in western North Carolina, is the MOST beautiful waterfall in the state. This 150 foot waterfall pours out of the Horsepasture River and is sure to make your jaw drop when you see it (I know mine did!!).

The sun & the mist from the waterfall work together to create an incredible rainbow, hence the name 😉. The rainbow is MOST impressive with the morning light and after a good rain!

Rainbow Falls Trailhead is located within Gorges State Park, one of the newest state parks in North Carolina. So don’t forget to stop by the newly built visitor center for a sticker and a great view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Complete Guide to Hiking the Rainbow Falls Trail in Gorges State Park

Rainbow Falls Hike Overview

🥾Length: 3.9 miles

🗺Type: Out & Back

⛰Elevation gain: 770 feet

🟡Difficulty: Moderate

🌲Time: ~2 hours

🐻Traffic: Heavy

🐾Dogs: Yes

💰Fees: None

⛺️Camping: Tent & RV Sites

💩Facilities: Located at visitor’s center

Rainbow Falls Trail Map

Map of Rainbow Falls hiking trail in North Carolina.

You can locate the trailhead for Rainbow Falls at the Grassy Ridge Parking lot within the Gorges State Park. You will notice that there is another waterfall just past Rainbow Falls, called Turtleback Falls.

Turtleback Falls is a great addition to your Rainbow Falls hike. However, I wouldn’t say that it is a “must-see” so if you’re tired and want to skip out on that then you aren’t missing anything special.

Visit AllTrails for detailed directions to the trailhead.

Camping Near Rainbow Falls, NC

There are so many great camping options near Rainbow Falls, NC. However, the most convenient of all of them is the campground located within Gorges State Park.

Gorges State Park just recently opened up a their campground in October of 2022. It is equipped with tent sites, RV sites and even cabins. All of the RV sites have electrical hook-up’s. Unfortunately, the tent sites do not.

Tent sites are approximately $23/night and RV sites are around $33/night. You can book one of these sites via Reserve America or you can contact the park directly.

What to Expect on the Rainbow Falls Trail

Rainbow Falls has a fairly large parking area but don’t let that fool you, it will fill up FAST. Especially on a beautiful weekend day. So I recommend getting there as early as possible and even go during a week day, if you can swing it.

Once you start the trail, you will follow the orange circle trail markers. The trail is very well marked so you shouldn’t run into any issues there. However, you will notice that going to the waterfall there is a lot of downhill so be prepared for a climb on the way out.

Along the trail there are also a few “detours” you can take that will take you to Stairway Falls and Hidden Falls. I wouldn’t call these ‘waterfalls’ but if you want to explore then that is definitely an option. These are not marked though so always take precautions when going off trail.

Once you arrive at the waterfall, you will notice that it gets a bit muddy due to the mist off of the waterfall. If the water is low, there are lots of rocks toward the base of the waterfall that you can climb down to. These are extremely slippery though so be SMART!

Best Time to Hike Rainbow Falls Trail

We hiked to Rainbow Falls just after we had gotten a TON of rain and let me tell you, that was a great decision! The waterfall was flowing so strong and it was gorgeous. I highly recommend waiting for a good rain before checking out this waterfall.

Summer is also a great time to hike to Rainbow Falls because of all of the swimming opportunities. Hidden Falls is a nice swimming hole and Turtleback Falls is like a natural waterslide. However, I do NOT recommend swimming at Rainbow Falls!

What to Pack for Hiking to Rainbow Falls (Essentials)

I recommend wearing some sort of waterproof shoe, whether that be Chacos or hiking boots because there are multiple water crossings. And one of those water crossings is fairly large. Rocks are strategically laid out so that you can hop across them but just in case.

You should also bring along your swimsuit in the summer because like I mentioned, there are some great spots to cool off. Summer in western North Carolina is NO JOKE!

I would also recommend bringing a rain jacket or poncho of some kind due to the amount of mist coming off of the waterfall. Especially in colder months or after a rain because that mist can be pretty chilly.

Other Waterfall Hikes Near Rainbow Falls, NC

Upper Bearwallow Falls, NC

Also, convienently located within Gorges State Park is Upper Bearwallow Falls. This is a short 0.5 mile hike and is great for the kids. However, just a heads up, you can’t get up close to the waterfall.

Upper Whitewater Falls, NC

Upper Whitewater Falls is part of the highest waterfall in eastern USA. It’s ~8 miles from Gorges State Park and is also a great family-friendly addition to your Rainbow Falls hike.

King Creek Falls, SC

Located just 30 min down the road is King Creek Falls, and is a great addition to your Rainbow Falls hike. It is extremely family-friendly and beautiful. Check out my blog post on King Creek Falls >> HERE <<.

Please remember to follow ♻️ LEAVE NO TRACE ♻️ principles when recreating!




I'm a micro-wedding and elopement photographer in Upstate, South Carolina. My style is documentary—I love capturing the in-between, unposed moments between you and your love. I strive to know you and capture you at your most authentic.