Rainbow Falls (NC)

Gorges State Park

The 150ft tall Rainbow Falls of North Carolina is a site to see.
(Video: 4 minutes 57 seconds)
+more (video transcript)
Just next to Gorges State Park in the Pisgah National Forest, is the impressive 150ft tall Rainbow Falls of North Carolina.  Named for the rainbow that sometimes appears from the abundant mist, this beauty is one of the most picturesque waterfalls  in the state and is easily reached via a 1.5 mile hike though a beautiful North Carolina Forest that starts in Gorges State Park and ends up in the Pisgah National Forest.

Gorges State Park is the western most state park of North Carolina and is 7,500 acres of beautiful waterfalls, rivers, rock walls, and rare plant species.  It supports a number of recreational activities including hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and horseback riding.  It also has a number of picnic grounds and shelters present for your enjoyment as well as a world-class visitor center that shouldn't be missed when you visit the park.

The trailhead to Rainbow falls begins inside Gorges State Park at the Grassy Ridge Parking Area; about 1.5 miles past the entrance on Grassy Ridge Road.  Gorges State Park is just off Highway 281 about 1 mile south of Highway 64 between Lake Toxaway and Sapphire North Carolina.  It is about 75 minutes from Asheville North Carolina or 90 minutes from Greenville South Carolina.  The parking area is very large so you should have no problem with finding a spot.

There are nice restroom facilities at the visitors center and porta-potties at the trailhead parking area.

The trail begins in the far corner of the lot by the informative sign boards and picnic tables.  The trail is very nicely constructed and maintained, and is marked with orange blazes until you leave Gorges State Park and enter the Pisgah National Forest.  After that the trail is easy to follow as you essentially parallel Horsepasture river.

Initially the trail gently ascends briefly then slowly descends.  When the Raymond Fisher trail breaks away to the left, continue down the trail to the right.  After a minor creek crossing you will leave Gorges State Park and enter into the Pisgah National Forest.  Depending on the amount of recent rainfall, the next creek crossing may require you to get your feet wet; after which the trail will start to ascend steeper than before as you follow Horsepasture River up to the falls.  The steeper portions of the trail have stairs present to help with the climb.  

After about 1/2 mile past the creek crossing,  as you walk around a curve, you reach the upper viewing area of the falls.  This is a great spot to stop and enjoy the view while you relax and admire Rainbow Falls.

From here you can continue along the fence to the lower observation area or even continue past that down to the base of the falls where there are numerous rocks and boulders to relax on while you listen to the waterfall roar in the background.

From the upper observation area, you can continue on the trail that veers off to the right to reach the top of the falls.  While the view is exceptional from the top, be very careful while you are directly above the falls.  The rocks are very slippery with moss and slime.  A slip into the water above the falls would likely have fatal consequences.  Unfortunately  this happens all too often.  Be careful!

The trail above the falls continues to Turtleback Falls but you will have to watch another episode to learn more about this unique destination.

This is an out and back hike so when you have finished enjoying Rainbow Falls, hike safely back to the parking area.
Rainbow Falls from the Trail
Rainbow Falls from the river.
Rainbow Falls with cascade
Address & GPS
Grassy Ridge Road
Sapphire, NC 28774
35.090737N, -82.965851W
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Weather Details & Forecast
65% Humidity
Partly cloudy
Partly cloudy
77% Humidity
Partly cloudy
Partly cloudy
67% Humidity
Partly cloudy
Partly cloudy
69% Humidity
Nearby Attractions
Turtleback Falls (0.1 mi.)
John's Jump Falls (2.8 mi.)
Whitewater Falls (5.2 mi.)
Schoolhouse Falls (5.5 mi.)
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