Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls Trail is a 4.1 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Lake Toxaway, North Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, birding, and mountain biking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
4.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
895 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

birding

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

forest

river

views

waterfall

wildlife

This short hike along the Horsepasture River features outstanding views of 4 large waterfalls and good camping. Start the trail by descending on a moderate grade downhill. After about 1/2 mile you can hear the rushing water of Turtleback Falls, before proceeding to this waterfall, go right, down a rhododendron enshrouded side trail. This side trail is a 1/4 mile and dead ends at a US Forest Service blockade. This is private property, but the 40 foot Bust-yo-butt Falls (?) can be viewed from this point. Backtrack and continue on to Turtleback Falls and the thundering Rainbow Falls. Turtleback Falls is a great place for a summer swim, Just a few hundred yards down stream is the impressive Rainbow Falls. When viewing the falls from the top, extreme caution should be used, as every year or so, someone is seriously hurt or killed in this area. Continue down the river trail. The trail is not marked, but as long as you keep the river on your right, you're ok. At the 1.25 mile mark is a very nice clearing for tenting. Just downstream is Stair Step Falls. Backtrack back to the parking lot.

12 days ago

Very strenuous .Beautiful.

hiking
14 days ago

Loved this trail, lots of great waterfalls to see. Not being in best shape I would still consider this trail somewhat moderate but absolutely worth it!

hiking
15 days ago

This trail is a moderate to easy trail! The views are beautiful and the water is cold but feels so good to swim in! It took around 45-50 mins up at a normal pace and a little less than 40 mins down!

16 days ago

A MUST!!!!
BEAUTIFUL waterfalls (way bigger than I imagined) and stream along the hike. Really an ideal hike- little over 1.5 mile one way, areas of steep climb, enough to get your heart rate up. Well-marked trail in orange.
Took us ~ 1 hr 15 min driving from DT GVL.

1 month ago

best waterfall trails in the state...two great falls on this trail....bring your shorts so you can get a swim in at turtleback

1 month ago

Wonderful trail! Very rocky and wet in places, but I had fun!

hiking
1 month ago

We wanted to camp and swim but it rained almost the whole time we were there. The gates close at 8:30, so if you changed your mind about camping after that (because of rain) you can’t get out. Also, all but one campsite had been reserved- the vacant one had had bear sightings! The actual trail tho is very well marked and maintained. There are lots of cool mushrooms and flowers along the way and the river/falls are some of the best I’ve seen! There are signs posted that say swimming is prohibited due to dangerous currents- we even saw a memorial to a dog who’d been swept away! There are small pools to wade in, however. I want to go again when it’s not raining!

1 month ago

Awesome hike — I recommend going to the top of the falls and walking out on some of the bigger rocks that approach the edge. We picnicked up there and it was great! Don’t forget to bring a bathing suit for once you get to the falls, too.

1 month ago

easily the best hike to waterfalls in the state of NC....

2 months ago

Nice forest, well marked trails and two waterfalls

hiking
2 months ago

Absolutely fabulous hike! Not really difficult, but can be a little muddy and slippery at parts. I highly suggest going all the way to the turtleback waterfall. Also, try going on the rocks (dry ones) that are a little bit off-path to get really good shots. We were warned about copperheads, but did not encounter any.

hiking
2 months ago

Went after a heavy rain and waterfalls was amazing!!

hiking
2 months ago

This trail starts in Gorges State Park (but eventually leaves the park property). Drive past the Visitors Center and down the hill to the large, paved parking lot. Downhill from the trailhead the trail splits - left is the Raymond Fisher Trail and right is the Rainbow Falls Trail. Go right. On the trail there are two creek crossings. The first is a shallow and easy two stepper but the second is a deeper six stepper. I made it across without poles. Rainbow Falls has two nice viewing areas (one farther away to take in the full view and one up close to feel the mist). Turtleback Falls is where all of the swimmers go to slide down the falls. There is no formal viewing area there but the large boulders are easy to climb and navigate and afford great views. The waterfalls are particularly picturesque.

hiking
2 months ago

This trail starts in Gorges State Park (but eventually leaves the park property). Drive past the Visitors Center and down the hill to the large, paved parking lot. Downhill from the trailhead the trail splits - left is the Raymond Fisher Trail and right is the Rainbow Falls Trail. Go right. On the trail there are two creek crossings. The first is a shallow and easy two stepper but the second is a deeper six stepper. I made it across without poles. Rainbow Falls has two nice viewing areas (one farther away to take in the full view and one up close to feel the mist). Turtleback Falls is where all of the swimmers go to slide down the falls. There is no formal viewing area there but the large boulders are easy to climb and navigate and afford great views. Both waterfalls are particularly picturesque.

2 months ago

One of my favorite hikes. Busy in the summertime, but well worth it for how short it is!

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike to see two amazing waterfalls, Rainbow Falls and Turtelback Falls. Moderate to strenuous 3.9 mile trail beginning at Gorges State Park. Rainbow Falls is a super beautiful fall and incredible to see, while Turtelback is a great swimming hole area and water slide for the adventurous.

hiking
2 months ago

Great family hike! Moderate difficulty - mostly downhill to the falls so more difficult on the return. Bring water shoes if you plan to take a dip at the base of either falls . We slid off turtleback falls (which is not for the faint of heart) - and we swam at the base of rainbow falls. Lots of hikers and swimmers today.

hiking
2 months ago

The Rainbow falls trail was amazing. Plenty of waterfalls to be seen, a few are found off the main trail. The actual trail is wide enough to hike in groups. There are a ton of swim holes, as long as you are down from Rainbow. The main attraction is a great waterfall with a large cliff and high walls next to it. Trees appear to have been cut down to block the trail to the top of the falls, and signs are posted for safety. Over all a great day of hiking, swimming, and picture taking.

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked this trail this morning with my husband. It is somewhat strenuous especially as one gets closer to Rainbow Falls. We didn’t go on to Turtle Falls. The trail is a bit slick in a few spots on steep inclines so make sure to wear proper footwear. Bring a suit if you’re brave enough to go off the main trail down into the water at the foot of the falls. It’s beautiful and even if you don’t take a dip you can still feel the mist from the falls on the main trail.

Beautiful falls, great hike!

3 months ago

Great walk. Make sure you take plenty of water!

hiking
3 months ago

Great hike. Kinda busy on a hot day but I wouldn’t have considered it crowded at any time. Falls were impressive. I definitely went over the falls for a nice refreshing 55 degree cooldown lol.
Tons of places to peel off and just sit by the rapids and find your inner zen.

hiking
3 months ago

Excellent trail well worth the hike. Go during the week. Early morning is best. If not be prepared for large crowds of swimmers. Hiked it in about 2.5 hrs and that was with stopping for some pics. Make sure to hit both falls as the 2nd one is only a short hike from rainbow.

hiking
3 months ago

Great afternoon hike with a spectacular view of the falls. There are a few stop offs on the way to the base that are excellent for swimming.

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful waterfalls! Lots of people...

hiking
3 months ago

This trail starts with a bit of a muddy and rocky decline, but soon you’ll start to hear the rapids before you come upon the AMAZING rainbow falls. Wow. What a force of nature. Go to the viewing platform to get a good misting before continuing on to Turtleback falls. These falls are also beautiful and can be fun to play in but beware! Unfortunately people have been swept away doing this. I would like to note that this is a HIKE to waterfalls. Please bring water and appropriate footwear. I saw many people without supplies and wearing flip flops on this trail and they were struggling.

3 months ago

Easy to moderate. Great views.

3 months ago

Love this hike. I have been on this hike numerous times. Many things to look at along the way. Took it with a group from our church. Love the falls and the water. It was great for hanging out for the day in the ENO.

hiking
3 months ago

On our way back to Pittsburgh from Atlanta we stopped to go hiking and swim at the falls! It was really hilly but definitely a good work out and not difficult. Sliding down the falls was so fun and the people there hiking were all so nice. The views of both falls were amazing and definitely worth the walk! Bring your bathing suit!!!

hiking
3 months ago

Surprisingly popular hike given the remote and rugged location. Parking lot is large, but it regularly fills on a nice summer day. Hike starts in the state park but ends in adjacent Pisgah National Forest. On the harder side of moderate due to steep areas and the almost complete absence of flat areas. Features two major waterfalls on the Horsepasture River: Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls. Rainbow Falls by far the more impressive of the two; it emits a nice mist that feels great on a hot summer day. Turtleback Falls is more of a water slide, and it is a favorite hangout for young people who like to slide down the waterfall and dive into the plunge pool. Overall, nice but challenging hike.

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