Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls Trail

MODERATE 227 reviews
#1 of 74 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

no dogs

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
2 months ago

Moderate to strenuous trail. The Falls made it well worth the trip!! We relaxed on the rocks for well over an hour before heading back out. Crossing the two small streams was fun as well.

2 months ago

Gorgeous trail and stunning falls. I definitely wouldn’t rate this as an easy trail but well worth the effort. I refer to this as a Walmart trail because there were more people on it than in Walmart on Christmas Eve. Disappointed with an abundance of trash and toilet paper along the trail. We visited the two falls above rainbow and they we beautiful as well. I would definitely do this trail again. It’s a great place to bring a picnic and sit on a big ole rock and watch the river go by.

hiking
2 months ago

I visited on probably the busiest day ever at Gorges State Park (solar eclipse day...8/21/17). Ironically, with a dawn start and most everyone camped out near the visitor center or picnic area, I only encountered a few people on this popular trail. Because of the festivities, I actually had to extend my hike on the main road to get to and from the trailhead. Rainbow Falls was roaring with recent rain. It was a beautiful sight as the early morning light was just starting to illuminate the area around the large waterfall. Be sure to continue on a short distance further to see Turtleback Falls as well.

3 months ago

Beautiful falls and a great hike with the dogs!! Great little pool for them to get in and cool down!!

hiking
3 months ago

The parking lot for this hike is fairly large and I had no trouble finding a spot. Everything is paved including the road to the parking lot and the lot itself. The actual trailhead for this hike is the Grassy Ridge Trailhead that leads to the Rainbow Falls Trail (you'll make a right to follow this trail) about .5-.75 miles in. Soon after you veer right onto Rainbow Falls Trail you will see a sign that says you're leaving Gorges State Park. Up until this sign, the hike (to me) seemed almost like a multi-use, everyday person kind of trail as opposed to a more rugged/deep in the woods feel. Not sure I really cared for that. But after leaving the State Park that changed and eventually the trail became moderately challenging upon approaching the Falls and I actually felt I was in the forest. The trail can be muddy and slick in some areas and someone did get seriously injured this day.

The first Falls is Rainbow Falls. Beautiful!! you can feel the mist from the raging waters.There are a few areas you can closer to the Falls but these "spurs" are slick.

Just up from the Rainbow Falls overlook is a fork in trail. Taking the higher trail will take you another half mile or so to Turtleback Falls (the lower trail takes you closer to Rainbow). While Turtleback is smaller, it's a really neat waterfall. So I def recommend seeing both. Again there are areas to boulder hop towards the Falls a bit but slick spots are still around. I turned back after this point back to the Grassy Ridge Trail, though looks like you could go a little farther.

Only 15 min away is the Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company located within a local golf course. GO! Great wood-fired pizza and local craft beer on tap.

3 months ago

Moderate hike- seemed on short side but I forgot to time. Maybe 3 hours including stopping for lunch? Falls very pretty , but Rainbow Falls most impressive. Lots of folks out on a pretty October Saturday. Didn't know to look for Stairstep Falls. About a mile hike from visitor center is another one, Bearwallow Falls, pretty but partly obscured by brush. You also walk by a nice overlook to see Lakes Keeowee and Jocassee.

hiking
3 months ago

A nice little trail that runs along the Horsepasture River. Mostly a gradual descent on the way to the waterfall, until you are within a quarter mile or so. Have some energy on the way back, since you will be hiking uphill.

hiking
3 months ago

Great hike with multiple waterfall views.

hiking
3 months ago

Incredible view of the falls without too much work to get there. I highly suggest going to Turtleback falls a little further past the falls.

hiking
3 months ago

Absolutely stunning scenery! The entire trail was lush and green. A majority of the trail is next to the rushing river and offers a few places to stop and swim. The waterfall itself is huge! And the area surrounding it is fun to explore. I will definitely return to this trail!

hiking
4 months ago

Light to moderate. Good for kids and dogs.

hiking
4 months ago

Such a magical place to visit during the warmer times of year! Beautiful wooded trail with two spectacular waterfalls at the end. Rainbow Falls is magnificent and Turtleback Falls is a great spot for a day of swimming and sliding into the water. Very trafficked trail while I was out there but highly recommended.

hiking
4 months ago

Double the fun with turtleback falls just upriver by two more clicks. Another falls (Drift falls) is further up by another few clicks on private property but visible.

hiking
4 months ago

It's beautiful. The beauty of it all took my breath away. Pictures can't do it justice. Thanks to fellow hikers, we went to the top of the falls and there is 2 waterfalls in one trip. Great day spent!!

hiking
4 months ago

Great trail. Suitable for all ages. Both sets of falls are gorgeous. Bring your suit...lots of swimming opportunities both adventuresome and mild.

hiking
5 months ago

Distance is reported wrong. It's 1.5 to Rainbow Falls and another .2 to Turlteback Falls. Total round trip is 3.4 not 4.1 like this is saying.

hiking
5 months ago

5 months ago

Both the Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls are beautiful and worth the hike. The fishing was great. My husband was able to catch multiple smallmouth bass, a Roanoke bass, many sun fish, carp and brim. It was a fun variety. The park ranger was not aware the Roanoke Bass had made its way downstate this far. Watch out for dog poop at the beginning of the trail. We went multiple days and it seemed to be an ongoing issue. We are dog owners so it was annoying dealing with poop on your shoes, knowing it's not hard to clean up after your dog. Other than that, the trail is excellent.

hiking
5 months ago

The Gorges visitor center is well worth a visit before doing any of the hikes in the park. Very informative and well thought out facilities. The falls and cascades are beautiful and worth the hike. If you want to take a swim, you can do that too. The more adventurous folks slide down the falls. Be careful and enjoy!!

hiking
5 months ago

Fairly family friendly and very pet friendly moderate hike in Gorges State Park. We hiked 4.5 miles today and the trail was very busy for an early Sunday morning. If you don't mind small crowds and their trash, you can view three beautiful waterfalls. It's sad that people throw their plastic bottles on the ground, we carried some out. About 1.5 miles in, the first stop, is Rainbow Falls. Past that is Turtleback Falls where the daring can slide over. (Just my opinion but not appropriate for young children). Finally, Drift Falls is on private property, but you can view it downstream. Hiking in isn't too bad because it's mostly down hill. You'll work a little to get back to the car.

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