Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls Trail

MODERATE 409 reviews
#1 of 6 trails in

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.

hiking
3 hours ago

The trail is relatively short and not too challenging, and has a lot of great views of the waterfall, which was much bigger in person than I expected. Be sure to keep an eye out for trail offshoots that lead closer to the falls for even better views (we found one that put us literally right next to it).

hiking
10 days ago

It was a bit rainy when we went but that just made the waterfall look even more spectacular. Great view of Rainbow Falls, didn't go all the way to Turtleback because we had the dogs with us and they weren't really behaving well that day but would love to go back!

trail running
11 days ago

Worth the visit. Very well kept and friendly folks around. Waterfalls are amazing. Would definitely come back for another run.

hiking
19 days ago

1Jan2019 - recent rains increased flows nicely...
Great family hike. Enjoyed rainbow as Sun break though...

19 days ago

Fun hike! Not hard.

19 days ago

Great hike. Rainbow Falls are amazing. It was well worth the additional hike to go on up to Turtleback Falls.

hiking
21 days ago

Warm Day in December. The trail was very busy so get started early on the weekend if you like to hike with little traffic. The falls were amazing after all the snow run off and rain. Very muddy and the mist at the falls got us all pretty wet. Great hike for newer hikers. Waterproof shoes helpful and be ready to get dirty!

hiking
26 days ago

I did this hike on probably the least likable day possible. 30 degrees with rain and ice but nonetheless, I still enjoyed myself. This hike was absolutely beautiful! Walking along the river is stunning and the waterfall is absolutely breathtaking. We only hiked to Rainbow Falls, which is the first fall along the trail. From start to finish, Rainbow is approximately 3.0 miles (BOTH WAYS). The trail is extremely well marked (no chance of getting loss, unless you leave the trail) but also extremely slippery due to the rain. It got a little scary along side the river and especially at the falls. This hike was not easy, there is a substantial amount of elevation fluctuations that make for a great workout but a strenuous experience. I can’t wait to do this hike again in good weather and the only reason I gave it four stars was because of the mud and water build up. Pictures do no justice and the falls are much bigger in person.

hiking
1 month ago

Wife and I hiked this one last Sunday and we will return. The sign at the trailhead says the trail is strenuous, but it is moderate at most so don't be deterred. I'm 69 and not in the greatest shape and I made it just fine. Lots of flow due to the recent rain and temps in the 60's so it was a great day to be on this trail.

hiking
1 month ago

great trail, awesome views

2 months ago

Great summer hike!

hiking
2 months ago

Well maintained trail and beautiful falls!

hiking
2 months ago

Beautiful! Hiked to all three falls Nov 10, 2018. Well maintained trail and gorgeous falls.

2 months ago

Fun, pretty hike. Not hard, I did it 6 months pregnant!

2 months ago

beautiful hike and impressive waterfall

hiking
2 months ago

This hike was actually further than I thought. I read 1.6 miles to the main falls but it actually seemed more than that. maybe is was all the elevation changes. Excellent walk. The trail actually goes outside of the State Park where it is not quite so well maintained so expect some dodgy bits. At some point in the trail follows the river with several smaller Rapids to view. The Falls themselves are spectacular. Well worth the trouble.

hiking
2 months ago

Such a great workout! The waterfall was breathtaking!

3 months ago

Very strenuous .Beautiful.

hiking
3 months 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
3 months 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!

3 months 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.

4 months 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

4 months ago

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

hiking
4 months 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!

4 months 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.

4 months ago

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

5 months ago

Nice forest, well marked trails and two waterfalls

hiking
5 months ago

Went after a heavy rain and waterfalls was amazing!!

hiking
5 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
5 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.

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