Stairway, Rainbow, Turtleback Falls

MODERATE 13 reviews
#3 of 6 trails in

Stairway, Rainbow, Turtleback Falls is a 4.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Bear Wallow Hollow, North Carolina that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October.

4.3 miles
941 feet
Out & Back



nature trips

trail running




wild flowers


8 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. The waterfalls are particularly picturesque.

16 days ago

Hiked this trail this morning with my husband. It is somewhat strenuous especially as one gets closer to Rainbow Falls. We didn’t go on to Turtle Falls. The trail is a bit slick in a few spots on steep inclines so make sure to wear proper footwear. Bring a suit if you’re brave enough to go off the main trail down into the water at the foot of the falls. It’s beautiful and even if you don’t take a dip you can still feel the mist from the falls on the main trail.

26 days ago

Great walk. Make sure you take plenty of water!

1 month ago

Surprisingly popular hike given the remote and rugged location. Parking lot is large, but it regularly fills on a nice summer day. Hike starts in the state park but ends in adjacent Pisgah National Forest. On the harder side of moderate due to steep areas and the almost complete absence of flat areas. Features two major waterfalls on the Horsepasture River: Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls. Rainbow Falls by far the more impressive of the two; it emits a nice mist that feels great on a hot summer day. Turtleback Falls is more of a water slide, and it is a favorite hangout for young people who like to slide down the waterfall and dive into the plunge pool. Overall, nice but challenging hike.

2 months ago

The hike up is pretty tiring, but the falls are great for swimming. I’ve jumped off of Rainbow Falls & it is terrifying but definitely worth it - once you’re up there, the only way down is to jump. Only do this if the water level is high. There is a small trail up the left side of the falls (within the trees) & a climbing rope to get you to midway up the falls. You will have to climb some rocks along the bottom to get there.

4 months ago

Difficult hike but definitely worth it. Gorgeous waterfalls.

5 months ago

One of our favorites. Easy hike with a lot of gorgeous falls.

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