Mount LeConte and Rainbow Falls via The Bullhead Trail

HARD 80 reviews

Mount LeConte and Rainbow Falls via The Bullhead Trail is a 12.9 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Gatlinburg, Tennessee that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November.

DISTANCE
12.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
3,881 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

backpacking

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

old growth

no dogs

The Bullhead Trail is an American hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. the trail ascends Mount Le Conter and offers outstanding views. The Bullhead Trail is the least traveled route to the summit of Mount Le Conte. The beginning of the Bullhead Trail is, for all intents and purposes, actually the trailhead to the Rainbow Falls Trail. Both trails are designated the same parking area, and because of their proximity (the two paths are separated only by a 0.3-mile (0.48 km) spur trail) many hikers choose to ascend one trail (usually the Rainbow Falls Trail) and descend the other. Given this, however, the trail is still the least popular route along Mount Le Conte, probably because of its isolation (in the woods, near to but away from its crowded neighbor trail) and that it contains no spectacular landmarks along its path. But it is this isolation that makes the trail so desirable to those who favor solitude when hiking.

1 month ago

Great trail. Once you reach lodge at the top, be sure to take the short .2 mile spur to the Cliff Overlook!

3 months ago

Very beautiful! quite the hike

5 months ago

The views were spectacular and the climb wasn’t as bad as I thought. I lucked out with perfect weather (65 and sunny)! Pretty slow burn with some short steep sections nearing the top. About 4 up and 3 down. Watch those knees on the decent! 100% worth it

6 months ago

I love this Trail it starts out with a Babbling Brook for the first mile or so then it gets sort of steep and the views get beautiful lots of switchbacks several beautiful small waterfalls and one absolutely incredible waterfall at the end changes by the season hike to Mount LeConte was challenging with steady inclines and climb very beautiful the scenery changes frequently we went through the burning Forest still smells a little like smoke we crossed over lots of icy patches made for a very adventurous hike we finally got to the top had a lovely picnic overlooking the Smoky Mountains ended with the sun on our faces and a smiling our heart The Descent was challenging yet silly as we slid down on our bottoms through the icy Trail finally when the darkness came the moon came up and lit the way for the last 2 hours of our hike a magical experience legs are very sore hips a little sore but all worth it in the end I would highly recommended trail for avid hikers to beginners give yourself plenty of time to enjoy relax and breathe in all that fresh air and beauty. pre medicate hahaha...

hiking
9 months ago

My boyfriend and I did the short trail up to Rainbow Falls yesterday and it was beautiful! We got there at the perfect time as there was close to nobody going up the trail at the same time as us! (We went up at about 8:30) we saw multiple deer and an entire flock of turkeys on our way up. It was an incredible hike!

hiking
11 months ago

The best hike I've ever done. Even during a touristy time of the year, the trail was extremely quiet. I didn't see many people at all during my hike after the falls. The falls make for a nice resting point. At the top of the mountain, there is a lodge along the Appalachian Trail. What a cool place to stay if you're doing the AT. There is also a mess hall with some food. The treat to me was the path up to an overlook. I was the only person at the overlook for about an hour and a half. So peaceful and spiritual looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The best part is that the only way to this peak is to hike it (unlike Clingman's Dome or Mt. Mitchell which are both accessible by car). The only downside to the trail is that there weren't many lookouts on the way up, but I hike fast for the workout so that didn't really bother me. Getting to the top and enjoying that view was the goal and holy cow was it amazing. I will go back to Mount LeConte many times. There are a few other ways up. I think I'll try the Alum Caves trail next. The only reason I'd label this trail as "hard" is because of the distance. The terrain is moderate.

hiking
11 months ago

Hard! But, beautiful.

hiking
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

At LeConte Lodge today. This trail is currently closed for renovation and repair between Mt. LeConte and Rainbow Falls! Check with Park Service before heading out.

hiking
Sunday, July 09, 2017

Hiking in the snow is never as much fun, the trail was trafficked enough that the snow was packed and slippery bu not trafficked enough that it was easily passable. The falls were a little disappointing but the climb after was exponentially better. Much less traffic, awesome views, and not terribly strenuous. I would suggest this trail later in the season though, it was very windy and cold on the exposed side of the mountain.

hiking
Monday, May 22, 2017

This is actually the Rainbow Falls and Bullhead loop trail. I have done this a few times. There are little to no views along Rainbow. The falls are a joke. I have visited them in snow, sun and rain and it has never been Impressive. There are several really nice views coming down Bullhead and I definitely recommend going up Rainbow and down Bullhead.

hiking
Friday, May 05, 2017

I've hiked all but one Trail up to LeConte, and this is by far my favorite!!! The views are outstanding!!!

hiking
Sunday, April 23, 2017

Loved this trail. Great day hike. The plants and trees around the mountain are incredible.

hiking
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bull Head trail is closed due to fire damage. The ranger said it will be closed for the foreseeable future. Check before you go!

hiking
Sunday, February 26, 2017

Nice hike would recommend crampons it will help with the ice.

hiking
Tuesday, November 15, 2016

This was our longest hike to date - we are late 50's/early 60's. We did the Rainbow Falls hike and on to Mt LeConte then down Bulls Head trail. 7 hours and it was 14.4 miles total. We hiked up above the smokey haze that was covering the valley due to forest fires in nearby counties. Beautiful Christmas trees at the summit. Lots of boulders and rocks and a nice thicket onBulls Head. Rainbow Falls was a trickle due to lack of rainfall. These trails were a challenge and our joints were sore from the steady ascent on rock paths to the top and then the fast moving - toes-hurting descent to the parking lot! But that's what the nice hot tub back at our chalet is for...we would do this hike again someday , but not any time soon. Lol

hiking
Monday, November 14, 2016

I still remember this one. It was a leg burner.

hiking
Monday, November 14, 2016

We did this years ago, combining it with the Rainbow Falls Trail. If you love the woods, this is the trail.

hiking
Monday, August 29, 2016

*Facilities in the parking lot of the Rainbow Falls trail head*

Took Bullhead trail down from Mt. LeConte, and went up via Rainbow Falls trail to make a round trip of 13 to 14 miles/ 5 hours up-4 hours down (including the small jaunt on Sugarlands trail back to our cars).
Total miles from LeConte summit is 6.5 miles one way. We took our time, and captured lots of photos...but for those who want to hike faster, it will obviously not take that long.
This trail is challenging, not only for the steep grade, but also due to the amount of dropped branches/foliage covering 3/4 or more of the entire trail from trail maintenance cutting back branches and leaving a ton of the crap left on the trail. So much of it is hiding rocks and tree roots...be very cautious when making your trek up or down.
There were a few views of the surrounding mountains, from the trail, but it's August so much was still hidden. I would imagine this trail would be amazing in the fall or winter, when all the leaves are gone. HUGE rock/boulder formations line the lower half of the trail, and in the upper elevations, there were many special flowers that are rare to see, growing only in the most perfect conditions.
It's long, steep, rocky, tree rooted and challenging....so just be sure to keep that in mind.....my personal opinion is if you are going to do this trail, take it down from LeConte...not up. But, I would imagine that others would have a different take on it.

hiking
Thursday, August 04, 2016

Great views

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Great trail, with some stunning views overlooking Gatlinburg.

hiking
Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Went up via Rainbow Falls and down via Bullhead. Although Bullhead's slightly longer and slightly less tree-covered, it's a better trail IMHO: better views and a little smoother. As for Mt LeConte itself, it's as awesome as advertised: can see for miles and the scenery at the very top is breathtaking! As long as you're well-prepared and in good shape, you have to do this trail!

hiking
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

We hiked this trail in early May and took Rainbow Falls up to Mt LeConte and Bullhead trail down. The round trip took us 6.5 hours, but we went pretty much straight through, only stopping for 5 min rest breaks once in a while. One thing that is important to realize about LeConte is that when you get to the Lodge, you can continue on to the official summit, its an extra .6 miles. Its not much to see, but it is an easy .6 miles so it was worth it just to say you summited it. Otherwise, you get the great views when you take the small trail .2 miles that was called Cliff Tops if I am remembering correctly.

Bullhead trail itself wasn't much for views or scenery, the descent was pretty steep and can be hard on the knees. Rainbow Falls trail, however, has the waterfall and is generally a pretty hike.

hiking
Thursday, March 17, 2016

Difficult and hardest thing I have done in my life.

hiking
Monday, October 26, 2015

Realizing I'm in the minority, there's a reason this is the least traveled route to Mount Le Conte. To be fair, we didn't go all the way up to Mount Le Conte... and it's because I was ungodly bored. Give me something - anything - interesting to look at! This was just an ascent with no sights to see, no good foliage, no view. Ugh. My husband still teases me, years after we hiked this trail, about how miserable I was. And I enjoy hiking! Skip this and go with Alum Cave if you need a way up to Le Conte.

hiking
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Beautiful & challenging trail through the woods, a couple stunning views of mountains. The summit, of course, is a paradise. Wouldn't feel too good about doing this trail in the summer, however. The sun hits the trail pretty harshly in the afternoon and it gets hot- even in the middle of October.

hiking
Friday, August 21, 2015

This was wonderful! Definitely challenging but so worth it! Came down Bullhead after staying at the lodge at Mt Leconte. Went up the Boulevard. I loved it!

hiking
Saturday, July 18, 2015

A good way to go up or come down from Mt. LeConte if you don't want a crowd.

hiking
Thursday, July 02, 2015

Challenging but worth it! Great views!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A nice trail we took down from our stay at LeConte Lodge. It was somewhat foggy with intermittent views on the descent, so we only got some good views of Gatlinburg, but enough to be enjoyed.

hiking
Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Had an amazing trip with a group scouts on New Years Day 2015. Although cold and windy (with a little ice) at the top overall it was a beautiful day. Now for the trail, this is a great track to the top of Mt LaConte. A fairly gentle grade makes this a good route for beginners.

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