Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls Trail

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Gorges State Park

Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls Trail is a 3.9 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Sapphire, North Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and mountain biking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length3.9 miElevation gain770 ftRoute typeOut & back
Dogs on leashKid friendlyHikingMountain bikingNature tripsForestRiverViewsWaterfallWildlife
Description
Waypoints (2)
Contact
Getting There

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. About a mile and a half 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. At the 1.25 mile mark is a very nice clearing for tenting. After about 1/2 mile you can hear the rushing water of Turtleback Falls. This is a great place for a summer swim. Just downstream is Stair Step Falls. Backtrack back to the parking lot.

Highlands Ranger District, 1828-526-3765

Approximately 10 miles east of Cashiers, NC, turn right (south) on US-64 and NC-281 at Sapphire. Turn left into the access to the Gorges State Park Visitor Center. The parking area is part of the Gorges State Park and is clearly designated. The trail leaves the visitor center headed upstream.

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Reviews (1,524)
Photos (1,390)
Activities (1,342)
Completed (3,178)
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Randy Bergfield
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Hiking

Fairly severe elevation change, muddy in some spots, but trail is very easy to follow and the falls are majestic. Well worth the effort. Approx 2 hour hike out and back plus photo time.

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rick Rote
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Hiking

Really outstanding water fall hike. 3 water falls on a very doable hike. The hike is tiring, but not otherwise challenging. Do it, you'll be glad you did.

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Afton Lorenz
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HikingGreat!

Good hike, make sure you've got waterproof boots on as you'll cross a couple water paths. I'm 4 weeks post c-section and was able to do it carrying my newborn in a boba. Took a couple breaks though.

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Lance Carroll
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Hiking

A little up and down, but worth the walk/hike.

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Emma Coltoff
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Hiking

Nice trail! Markings could be a bit clearer and there was definitely some erosion in places, but the views overall were great! It was pouring for 80% of our hike though, which was miserable!

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Jarrod Skeggs
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Hiking

Awesome.

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Jody Priest
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Hiking

Nice trail. Wide and gravel half way. A couple small creek crossings. The falls are impressive.

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Jodi Bearden
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Walking

Fun hike with family. Beautiful day!!

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Blake Creasy
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Hiking

Perfect day for a hike to beautiful falls!

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Jimmy Riggs
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HikingGreat!

A good solid hike. Once you reach the “main fall” keep going! Parking was a challenge, but be patient. Took 2 dogs on the hike and they had a great time! Nice mist from the waterfall once you reach it!

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Laura Camacho
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HikingGreat!Muddy
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David Ward
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HikingGreat!

Well worth the effort. I would rate it a 4.75 difficulty but a solid 8 on scenery and view. Once you get to turtle back - which is only about 200 yards past rainbow, keep going! There is yet another beautiful waterfall at the very end of the trailhead!!

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Julie Efremoff
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Hiking

gorgeous trail, can get muddy / worth the hiking shoes.

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Kelsey Mase
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HikingGreat!MuddyRocky

Stunning waterfalls! A few muddy and rocky spots - we went all the way to the end of the trail. Highly recommend!

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Sean Mullin
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HikingGreat!

Fairly easy but fun hike where there are several small streams to cross and the falls were amazing!

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Scott Ballard
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Hiking

Beautiful! Recent heavy rain really made Rainbow Falls incredible. Trail gets soggy in spots, but simple boots can handle.

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Darren Reagan
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Perfect hike!

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Anthony Munaco
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Hiking

Great!

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Kt Lai
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Hiking

SPECTACULARRR!!! Make sure to come after the rain. Fuller falls and well worthy be uphill hikes!

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Jessica Bennett
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Hiking
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Marisa Leva
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Hiking
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Faith Anderson
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Hiking

Awesome hike !!! 4 beautiful falls !!!

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Diane Herbert
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Hiking

Stairway Falls is a side unmarked trail, and the trail is less developed, but still worth it. The other 3 falls are on the main trail. Great hike!

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S F
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Hiking

Moderate. Narrow trails so would be crowded on nice warm days.

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Doug Thomas
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Hiking
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Manny Facio
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Hiking

Nicely marked trail, but if you are novice hiker (and old, we are in our 60s), the hike back can be steep and strenuous. Recommend walking poles and waterproof footwear (a couple of small streams to cross). The falls are beautiful and the cascades picturesque.

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Von Duncan
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Hiking

Absolutely loved it! The waterfalls were amazing! Enjoyed the serenity and disconnected time.

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