Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls Trail

MODERATE 335 reviews
#1 of 88 trails in

Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls Trail is a 3.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Lake Toxaway, North Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
3.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
813 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

birding

camping

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

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.

hiking
12 seconds 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
6 days ago

Went after a heavy rain and waterfalls was amazing!!

hiking
9 days 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.

12 days ago

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

hiking
14 days 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.

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
15 days 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.

Beautiful falls, great hike!

hiking
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month ago

Beautiful waterfalls! Lots of people...

hiking
1 month 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.

1 month ago

Easy to moderate. Great views.

1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month ago

Really great hike, beautiful view of falls

1 month ago

Loved it! Go early in the day on a weekday.

2 months ago

Really awesome hike! Falls are incredible! Highly recommended!

walking
2 months ago

Great hike awesome falls!

2 months ago

Beautiful falls! Great hike.

hiking
2 months ago

Marvelous
We hiked this trail days after a tremendous amount of rain fell in the area. There were several stream crossings but easily passable. Rainbow Falls was simply amazing with the enormous amount of water passing over the ledge. The spray from the falls was so thick I may as well been standing under the falls. Turtleback Falls is another can't miss. The trail is well maintained and the surroundings are unsurprisingly beautiful. Just go.

2 months ago

An incredible hike with an incredible view! Being from South Florida, the elevation was quite difficult to adjust to but the view was definitely worth it! Also totally recommend hiking up to slide down turtle back falls.

hiking
2 months ago

Super fun trail, with great views if you enjoy waterfalls, and natural streams! It had a good amount of hills to walk up so be advised young children (under like 6) could get tuckered out on the hike back. Overall 4 mile round trip.

3 months ago

Went a while back really enjoyed! A lot of people!

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful falls, especially after several days of heavy rain. Not a rough hike, but definitely merits a moderate rating. Great places to rest by the falls and take in the view from a well-placed hammock.

3 months ago

Was a beautiful and amazing hike. last 15 minutes got me but well worth the veiw!!!

hiking
3 months ago

Wow! The falls are so impressive. The hike was super easy — all downhill until you get to the area just before falls. It’s just a short climb that’s mostly fueled by the adrenaline you get from the sounds of rushing water and the anticipation of seeing the waterfall. I was worried that the return trip would be exhausting since it’s mostly uphill to the parking lot but the incline is gradual. Next time I would plan a trail run here!

3 months ago

We've done a good number of trails in the area and this one is still hands down our favorite. It's a bit of a harder hike if you're not in shape/prepared, but 100% worth it. These are still the coolest falls that we've seen in a long time and I would absolutely do this hike again in a heartbeat. This app also says you cannot take dogs on it, but we took our lab and ran into no issues with that. We even saw other dogs on the trail.

4 months ago

Rainbow and Turtleback are gorgeous. lots of stair climbing and elevation changes (103 floors per my fitbit) but its all worth it. My 8 year old and I enjoyed the trail, waterfalls and all the cool spots to walk out on the rocks in the river.

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