While the trail to this 100ft waterfall is rightly rated strenuous, it is a must see South Carolina waterfall.
High up on a ridge in Jones Gap State park is the stunning Rainbow Falls. Rainbow Falls plummets Camp Creek 100ft over a free fall rock face making this falls a spectacular sight. It is a breathtaking waterfall and should be on everyone’s list of must-see waterfalls; however be prepared as it is a strenuous 2.3 mile uphill hike to reach the falls, it’s absolutely worth the trek, but you will work for this view.
Jones Gap State Park is located at 303 Jones Gap Road in Marietta South Carolina. From the South you approach via highway 276 or, from the North, you approach via highway 25. Jones Gap is about 45 minutes from Greenville South Carolina or about 1 hour from Asheville North Carolina. There are restroom facilities available at the visitors center.
There is very limited parking available at Jones Gap which unfortunately can lead to delays when entering the park. This is a very popular spot and your best bet is to arrive early. There is also an admission fee for entering the park. As of mid-2016 when this episode was produced the fees were $5 for adults, $3.25 for seniors, $3.00 for children aged 6-15 and children 5 and were free. There is a fee station present at the parking lot or you can pay at the visitors center.
The trailhead to Rainbow Falls starts just past the visitors center on the other side of the Middle Saluda River. From the parking lot follow the signs to the visitors center and then follow the signs to Jones Gap Trail. To get to Rainbow falls you will initially follow the blue blazed Jones Gap Trail for about 3/4’s of a mile. Make sure you register at the sign board before starting your hike.
Make no mistake that this is a strenuous hike. You can do this but allocate plenty of time and make sure you pack lots of water, especially during the warmer summer months.
The hike initially is very pleasant as you parallel the beautiful and scenic Middle Saluda River. After about 3/4’s of a mile, the trail to rainbow falls splits off from the Jones Gap Trail going straight following the red blazes. After a short distance you cross over the river and after a few minor creek crossings, you start the climb up the ridge. The trail is nice and has steps sometimes to help with the climb but you will climb over 1,000 feet to reach the falls so pace yourself accordingly. There are some spots with nice views that you can use to take a breather if you need to.
When you cross a stone bridge, climb some stairs and turn back towards camp creek, you are on your final assent up and across the ridge. Keep going and eventually you will see Camp Creek with Rainbow Falls just a little further up the creek.
You will need to walk across Camp Creek and get to the other side for the best views of the falls. This will put you on the left side of the falls with plenty of space to sit down, relax and enjoy the amazing Rainbow Falls. You definitely earned this one.
It is possible to climb up and stand directly beneath the falls if you want to. if there are other people there with you at the falls, the odds are that someone will be under the falls cooling off.
This is an out-and-back hike so when you are well rested, enjoy the downhill hike back to the visitors center.