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"If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." --- Yogi Berra

LeConte 2006 01

Mt. LeConte Via Rainbow Falls

  • Distance: 5.4 Miles One Way
  • Elevation Gain: 1685 Feet
  • Difficulty:  Strenuous

Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. After driving 0.7 miles veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you’ll enter into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After driving another 2.2 miles you’ll enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop Road. After driving roughly 0.6 miles on the loop, the Rainbow Falls Trailhead will be located on your right (if this parking lot is full, there’s an auxiliary parking area about a tenth-of-a-mile further down the road).

The first two-thirds of a mile along the Rainbow Falls Trail is a steady climb through a large boulder field. As you proceed through this area LeConte Creek will cascade down the mountain on your right. Hikers will find many opportunities for some great picnic sites along this section of trail.

As you continue up the LeConte Creek valley hikers will cross over two footbridges along the way; one at 1.7 miles, and the other just as you reach the 80-foot high waterfall, located roughly 2.7 miles from the trailhead.

Rainbow Falls has the distinction of being the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies. The name for the waterfall comes from the rainbow that’s produced by mist on sunny afternoons. During extended cold periods an impressive ice formation builds around the waterfall.

The falls are best viewed after long periods of rain. If you wish to go home with some great photos I highly recommend starting your hike first thing in morning, or in the later afternoon. During the late morning and early afternoon time period the sun will be directly over the waterfall, which will make photographing a challenge.

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  • November 8, 2006

    LeConte Via Rainbow Falls Trail Distance: 5.4 Miles One Way Elevation Gain: 1685 Feet Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. After driving 0.7 miles veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you’ll enter into Great Smoky …

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