Next up was Rainbow Falls. I am so glad that I did a little checking online before we went on this trip. You see there are two ways to get to this falls. The first is a long relatively flat trail that ends with a steep climb up to the falls. The second is a much shorter decent from above the falls. It is equally, if not more, steep but it is quite short. I’ll let you guess which one we picked.
Taking the short trail Rainbow Falls requires some advance planning. It is outside the park, there aren’t good maps for it and it is unmarked. Because it is on private property, it requires permission to hike on it. You can contact the YMCA’s Camp Greenville at 864-836-3291 to find out what they want you to do.
To get there we left the Raven Cliff Falls parking area and continued north on 276. Almost immediately after leaving the park and very close to the North Carolina/South Carolina border, we turned right on Solomon Jones Rd (also called CR 15 and YMCA Camp Rd). There is a Camp Greenville sign at this location. Continue down the road to the east for 4.6 miles to the small unmarked gravel parking area on your right. The trailhead is back down the road the way you came just a few feet.
The trail itself is easy to find and follow but it is obviously less used. Even in the middle of the day we were running into cobwebs and scaring small critters off the trail. As I mentioned before it is quite steep almost the entire way but there are numerous hand holds, roots and ropes so it is quite manageable. As long as you are comfortable lifting your legs up to your waist you will do fine. As mentioned before, it is a short hike too. I’d estimate about 20 minutes going down and 30 minutes coming back up. I’ve read that it is about half a mile long, but it’s really hard to tell with all the switchbacks. There really is nothing to see along the trail itself. Just a bunch of dense woods.
We almost didn’t do this hike in favor of more famous/popular falls, and that would have been a tragedy. Melanie and I quickly agreed that this was our favorite falls of the entire trip. It is so neat! Even though it’s only about 100’ tall (1/4 the height of Raven Cliff) you can get right up on it and that makes all the difference. As you near the falls you turn a corner and suddenly you hear it. You walk a little further into a stone amphitheatre and right in the middle is a tightly packed shaft of water that seems to punch a hole through the canopy of trees above and splashes down on the rocks below. I really wish that I had a nice camera again so I could have better captured the feel of this place. The pictures I took don’t even come close.
After climbing our way back up the side of the mountain, on a lark, we continued down the road to an overlook called Pretty Place. Magnificent! The view was about as good as any I’ve seen in the Smokies and the chapel that surrounds it is quite nice too. Melanie and I agreed that if we weren’t already married, this would be high on the list. It was surprisingly large. Normally when we visit places like this they seat 10-50 people. I’d bet this facility would seat 100 and it had a couple of bathrooms. Not exactly the Four Seasons but good enough that I made a point of finding the camp staff before we left and inquiring about cabin rentals for a future men’s retreat.