Gorges State Park -- Rainbow Falls Trail (6-2-12)
Gorges State Park is North Carolina's westernmost State Park and home to some of the most rugged and variable scenery in the state. Some two dozen waterfalls cascade through its deep, rocky gorges and access to much of the park is difficult at best.
Located just south of Lake Toxaway, the park has seen a good number of upgrades to its infrastructure in recent years. The trail to Rainbow Falls is a good example of this. Only 5 years ago the hike to these falls was a strenuous all-day event involving a combination of overgrown trails and bushwhacking. Today, thanks to a new paved entrance road and an upgraded trail system the hike to Rainbow, Stairway, Hidden, and Turtleback Falls is now a pleasant 4-mile round trip down a wide, well-graded path. Unfortunately, however, with improved access this area has seen a marked increase in visitation so the wilderness feel (on this trail, at least) has diminished somewhat. Nonetheless, the opportunity to visit no less than four impressive waterfalls for only 4-miles of effort is one you shouldn't pass up. This is hike is a true gem of the mountains as you'll soon see...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.088811, -82.951810
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: MODERATE
Hike Length: 4.5 miles Hike Duration: 3:00
Trailhead Temp: 62'F Trail Traffic: 100+ people
Min. Elevation: 2,400' Max. Elevation: 2,950'
Total Vertical Gain: 850' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 189'
Trails Used (blaze color/shape): Rainbow Falls (orange circles), Stairway Falls (unblazed)