Rainbow Falls on Horsepasture River Transylvania County
I struck out by myself today. Nicole was still getting over the bronchitis I gave her while we were on vacation in Florida. It was really strange I got up this morning and open the waterfall book that we bought at the outdoors shop in Brevard last time, and I just flipped open the book to a page randomly, and the description of Rainbow Falls outside of Brevard NC was on the page. So I read some about it both in the book and online and all the descriptions I read were saying that if they had to pick one waterfall in North Carolina that was the most beautiful they would pick this one! So once I determined that it was only about 20 minutes further than cathedral falls and right off hwy 64, I knew that was where I was going!
Drove out there and found the parking area for the Gorges National Park. I asked a guy with a fishing pole if he knew which way the falls were, and he said he was looking for the same place, so we read a few excerpts out of the Kevin Adams book and finally determined the correct route to get to the falls. I started off before him and made my way out of the parking lot left on a trail following the road and then past a closed gate with a sign indicating that this road should not be accessed and that people have died on these trails.
Nothing like a warm welcome from the park rangers! I continued down the trail for about a half mile or so and then descended a steep embankment (completely missing where there was a trail off to my right) which eventually came out at the top of the first falls called Turtleback Falls. The trail actually led out onto the bedrock of the river at this point and you walked around an outcropping of trees on the rock until you got back on the dirt trail.
At the opening of the trail onto the river I met a little old lady that had stayed behind while her daughters had gone ahead and trekked down to Rainbow Falls. We chatted briefly and as we did the man that I had spoke with in the parking area came up behind us and continued on down the path. I parted ways with the lady after giving her my printed information about the falls and telling her about the ncwaterfalls.com website. I took a few shots with the Sony at the top of Turtleback before moving on down the trail across a small bridge and the onto a small rock outcropping that offered me a decent front on view of the falls.
Wishing I had a wider angle lens than 18-55mm I snapped some shots with my neutral density filter on and quickly realised that on sunny days like this one I was going to need a darker ND filter. I packed the camera back into my new specially made camera hiking backpack and moved on down the trail stopping at one or two other easily accessible areas.
Finally after about another half mile I came to the top of Rainbow Falls. It was breathtaking. the dry exposed bedrock allowed me to get right to the very dangerous edge of the top of the falls and also stand on some rocks in the middle of the river and snap a few shots.
What an amazing feeling, looking out over the top of this 120' high falls. I could see two people far below be at the bottom of the falls sitting on some rocks. I stood for a minute there just watching the roaring water rush around me and taking in the amazing view of the explosion of water at the top of the falls and the trees and mountains in the distance. Again I packed my things and made my way down the trail to an area that looked to go down to the base of Rainbow Falls. Climbing down involved stepping very carefully and holding on the rocks and any tree limbs I could find. Finally I made it to the base just as the couple that I saw above sitting on the rocks were leaving. I took a few (unsuccessful) shots of the waterfall through the trees and then broke tree cover and stepped out onto the giant rocks below the falls. I stared in wonder at this massive falls for a few minutes and then walked around without my pack to find a good place that I could safely take the camera and still get a decent shot. I found a spot and rattled off a bunch of shots, some of which turned out very nice.
I spent a good 20 minutes at the base of the falls before moving on. After pulling myself back up the steep embankment I was thoroughly exhausted and after sitting for a moment decided to go a little further down. Along the way I met a couple with a pretty white dog who they said was not theirs. They said the dog which they had dubbed "Snowdrift" had found them and walked with them all day. The dog had a tag that said: "I live in the Gorges Park area, I am not lost, I will find my way home." The couple told me that there were more falls further down and many more trails. I started on down but did not get too far before I figured the hike back was long enough as it was. I finally turned around and started the very long hike back. After about an hour I made it back to the car and all but passed out. I had a great day and found an incredible location that I plan on going back to visit very soon!
Below is a short vidoe of the falls along the river.