Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls Trail

MODERATE 284 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

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.

Really awesome hike! Falls are incredible! Highly recommended!

walking
10 days ago

Great hike awesome falls!

11 days ago

Beautiful falls! Great hike.

hiking
13 days 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.

1 month 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
1 month 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.

1 month ago

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

hiking
1 month 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.

1 month ago

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

hiking
1 month 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!

1 month 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.

2 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.

hiking
2 months ago

Nice trail, lots of up hill & steps, but pretty waterfalls at the end. ~4 miles, 1.5 hours

hiking
3 months ago

Had a fantastic time here. We hiked all the way to the end of the trail seeing all 3 waterfalls. It was Thursday so very few people were on the trail. Had lunch at the top if rainbow falls. It was an amazing view.

hiking
3 months ago

Nice trail. Not too strenuous. Tracked it at 6 miles total. There were plenty of children doing this trail with no problem. There are places where I would not have a dog with no leash. The views at the end are well worth the trip.

Our first hike on this trail. The waterfall is beautiful and worth the hike.

hiking
3 months ago

First time hiking out here and enjoyed it a lot. It may have been raining, not too hard but enough to keep us wet but well worth it.

4 months ago

It was awesome!! When hiking you will come to a path to your left... I saved that for last. It was Stairway Falls... Beautiful. So I kept going to right ... First Fall was Rainbow... keep going you will come to Turtleback... keep going you will come to Drift Falls!! All worth the hike!!

hiking
4 months ago

A great hike, especially in the morning! There were a few people on the trail but not many until I was heading back. Right now there is a lot of mud around the falls so wear the right shoes or you may get stuck or slide. There were a few areas that looked like other trail paths but I didn’t explore them. If you use the map from this app it’ll take you in the right direction.

hiking
7 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.

7 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
7 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.

7 months ago

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

hiking
8 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.

8 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
8 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
8 months ago

Great hike with multiple waterfall views.

hiking
8 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
8 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
9 months ago

Light to moderate. Good for kids and dogs.

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