Rainbow Falls hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains is a perfectly picturesque path filled with natural architecture. Of course, the main attraction comes at the end when you reach the tallest waterfall in the Smokies. It gets it name from the stunning rainbow of colors the sun casts on the surrounding rock. Unfortunately, we went on a cloudy day. Darn!
(You know your limitations and the limitations of your children and family best. Although this trail was appropriate for my family, it may not be appropriate for you or your family. Please use your best judgement in deciding whether or not to hike this trail. Neither Mom Explores The Smokies nor the blog owner are responsible for any damage, mishap or injuries (physical, mental or otherwise) that may occur while you and/or your family/children are on this trail or anywhere in the Smoky Mountains. When in doubt, opt out of this trail.)
Rainbow Falls, Smoky Mountains National Park
Upon first entering the trail, you can immediately see that this is not going to be a leisurely hike. The path begins on a slight incline and continues uphill the entire 5.2 miles. The whole way. If you have ever longed for buns of steel, hike at Rainbow Falls and you shall receive.
Not only will you be waking up hill the entire hike, but you will be climbing many sets of stairs. Each set seems to be 6 steps or less, but they are scattered all along the path. Like I said, buns of steel!
Related Read: 15 Best Family Friendly Hiking Trails In The Smokies
The other water fall trails we have hiked, such as Grotto Falls, have not been this strenuous. If you have younger children, there are other waterfalls that will better meet your needs. That being said, it will be a great experience for slightly older children. Rainbow Falls trail was crawling with kids while we where there.
We had our son in the baby carrier and we saw several more babies along the way. Due to the intensity of the trail, if you have a close fitting carrier like an Ergo, Tula or Baby Bijorn the baby and your carrier will wind up soaked with sweat. All the parents were laughing about it. But honestly, my son didn’t even mind and none of the other babies were crying either.
But, now that you know, you can troubleshoot in advance by wearing some kind of rain gear or by bringing yourself and your baby several changes of clothes (just shirts for you) to swap out on the trail. Us unprepared folk had to strip our baby and wrap him in a poncho after we reached the falls.
Related Read: Kid Friendly Smokies: The Smoky Mountain Heritage Center (affiliate link below)
There was 1 dry baby on the trail that day and she was being carried in a back pack carrier, specifically designed for hiking. I’m definitely looking in to it. It seemed amazing!
As for the walking children, I will caution that there is 1 part where you have to walk over a high log bridge that only has a railing on 1 side. Even I was a little nervous, but it really is just a very small portion of the trail.
Related Read: Kid Friendly Smokies: Schoolhouse Gap Trail
As you hike, always keep an eye out for God’s awesome creepy crawlies, such as this little beauty below. Also, be sure to never leave trash on the ground that may attract bears. This is for the bears’ safety as much as your own.
Once, you get to the waterfall, it is simply stunning. We didn’t get to see many colors, due to the cloudiness that day, but the sheer height of the falls was awe inspiring.
At the foot of the falls, there are lots of large, very assuming rocks and park signs that essentially state, “climb at your own risk.” Of course everyone was climbing them. And you know what, a child fell. Right in front of me, he tumbled off of a slippery rock and the thud rang loudly as his body folded between 2 boulders. Thankfully, when his father was finally able to lift him out, he seemed to only have scraped his elbow. And, his ego. He was very lucky, and I would suggest that you not climb the rocks. But again, you know your kids best and that decision is ultimately up to you.
Please check out our other awesome kid-friendly adventures in the Smoky Mountains!