“A challenging climb leads to a rewarding view below Rainbow Falls.”
— Mark P...
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife
This has a great waterfall view but kind of a steep climb up a well maintained trail, so rest stops may be needed for some.
This trail is open daily from 9-9 during daylight savings and otherwise from 9-6. In general, expect the trails to close roughly an hour before dark. Be sure to register at the trailhead, as it's important info in the case of a rescue. If there's an emergency, there's an emergency phone located at the ranger station.
This trail starts from the Jones Gap Trail
. Rainbow Falls Trail
#4 is marked Red Blaze, rated as Very Strenuous by the Ranger Station, 1.5 miles one way with a recommended 2 hour out and back time.
Within the first part of the trail, there will be 3 bridges to cross. The first and third will be wider-style foot bridges where the second is a narrow log bridge with a railing. Afterwards, the incline will begin in earnest as the trail switchbacks its way into the hillside to a set of slide falls on your left below you.
At 0.8 miles, the trail will switch back by a set of slide falls, which is a nice resting spot before continuing the climb.
From 0.8-1.2 miles, the trail leaves the falls to continue on a narrow, rocky, steep trail up the mountainside and pass a small stream of water down the granite slab next to the trail. Near the end of this section, there will be a side trail on your right that is private and goes up to the YMCA camp on top of the mountain. From here, continue straight to reach Rainbow Falls
(80-100 feet high), which has two sections: you'll have to cross the lower section on rocks in order to reach the trail that goes up to the upper section where the higher falls live.
Be careful climbing around, as wet rocks become very slippery and this is not an easy place for help to retrieve you. After a break visiting the falls, head back down to the junction with the Jones Gap Trail
Flora & Fauna
Hardwood trees such as oak and hickory grow here. Otherwise, some shorter trees, like flowering dogwood, rhododendron but not thick. Maybe see ferns, flowers, and mosses at ground level.
Animals in the area include black bears, white-tailed deer, reptiles, amphibians, wild turkey, woodpeckers, warblers, eastern blue bird, and spring migratory songbird to name a few.