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Rainbow Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Kurt Repanshek
Friday, August 8, 2008

The Rainbow Falls Trail is a long-time favorite in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, it's thought to be the first route that led to the top of Mount LeConte. Found off the Cherokee Orchard Road just beyond downtown Gatlinburg, the Rainbow Falls Trail follows, and occasional hopscotches, LeConte Creek on the way to the 80-foot waterfall.

While the entire trail runs about 6.6 miles to the Alum Cave Trail and a spur that leads off to LeConte Lodge, the hike to Rainbow Falls is less than 3 miles one way. The hike to the falls isn't terribly strenuous, and you run the chance of seeing deer browsing in the forest of rhododendron, hemlocks, fir, and mountain ash. Hit the trail at the right season and you also will enjoy showy crimson bee balm, yellow coreopsis, purple asters, and other wildflowers.

Due to the heavy humidity that can hang in the air throughout the summer, moss covers just about everything that lies in one place too long. On hot summer days, the pools that form along LeConte Creek are mighty inviting.

This photo was taken during the week of August 3, 2008. Earlier in the summer the flows would be much greater.

For a view of this waterfall in action, check out this short video by "Canonfather."

Wow! Waterfall! It's been so dry around here lately, I didn't realize there was anything other than a trickle! Thanks, Kurt.

I like that this view of Rainbow Falls has only a sheeting rivulet going over the lip!

The exposed strata & bedrock, and the alternation of durable & weak layers of rock is interesting.

Are the formations visible in this photograph characteristic of the geology in the general region, and are they commonly on display?

... Well, a brief Google-search uncovers an embarrassment of riches. ;-)

There is a large page on the USGS geology website, detailing the Mount Le Conte trails, geology and Rainbow Falls. Many illustrative photographs, maps, and extensive discussion.

Wikipedia offers further background on Mount Le Conte, and has links to separate articles for 5 of the hiking trails in the area. (pick the Tennessee version..)

Finally, for those really into their geology, there is a no-doubt large PDF file of a technical USGS geology map that can be downloaded: Surficial Geologic Map of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Region, Tennessee and North Carolina (you may wish to Right-Click, Save-As - then view in Acrobat).

This map-file contains considerable text, which can be viewed separately without the map-graphics (and saved..) using Google's View as HTML option.

I did the search using "rainbow falls" smokey geology.

Wow - what a treat to see my YouTube video posted here. If you're interested, I have a number of stills of the Smokies at my Great Smoky Mountains National Park album, link as follows: There's also another album that focuses primarily on the wildflowers of the park. Both albums are selectable from - you're always invited!

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