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Mount LeConte via Rainbow Falls and Bull Head Professional Review and Guide
"The only way to hike to Mount LeConte and return to your car without backtracking or long road walking is by utilizing Rainbow Falls Trail and Bull Head Trail. The first 2.7 miles to Rainbow Falls is always crowded. Most people turn around at the falls, so the rest of the hike will be much less crowded. Begin on Rainbow Falls Trail at the western end of the main parking area. In a few hundred feet you cross Trillium Gap Trail and begin climbing alongside LeConte Creek on a rocky path. The steady ascent continues all the way to the falls, and so do the rocks. You might be tempted to rename this trail the “Rocky Falls Trail” before you finish. LeConte Creek keeps close company most of the way. Only at a few places does the trail get out of earshot of the creek."
--Kevin Adams, Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Falcon Guides).
Best trail I have ever hiked! This review is for the Rainbow Fall portion. I thoroughly enjoyed the views, nature and the photo opportunities. My wife and I hike every now and then but I think the enjoyment that we had on this trip will have us hiking much more often. We will come back to do this trail again along with others in the area.
This was my favorite trail in Gatlinburg. It's a long way to Rainbow Falls (about 2.7 miles) but it's well worth the trip. The terrain is moderate, but it's almost all upwards hiking
The numbers posted for this trail are obviously for the hike to Rainbow Falls and back. The Falls/Bullhead loop is around 13 miles, and the elevation gain is substantially more.
This hike is great. We went up the Rainbow Falls trail and didn't see a soul beyond the falls until we reached the lodge. The trail itself is void of most stair-stepping rocks and such, which makes for a pleasant push to the top.
The trip down Bullhead provided more scenic views than Rainbow Falls trail and, again, nobody was on this trail. This trail is loaded with ankle-twisters, quality boots are a must.
It's a fun loop.
The trail was fantastic and Rainbow Falls was beautiful. The cascades along the first half-mile are gorgeous if you catch it in the rainy season. My brother and I took Rainbow Falls Trail up to Mt. LeConte and back down so we didn't get to see Bull Head. The lodge has food available for purchase at the top. You can order dinner or a sack lunch (they take credit cards). They also sell sweet t-shirts that bear the name of the mountain. The road was closed when we went so we hiked an extra mile just to get to the trailhead. We ended up hiking somewhere around 14 miles for the entire trip. The trail is very clearly defined but be careful, there was a wasp nest about 2 miles into the hike. As we came around a bend, hikers were jumping up and down but by the time we realized that they were getting stung, we felt the pain, we received half a dozen stings each (that includes the stings on the way down... we tried outrunning them but those boogers are quick). Despite the stings, we had a blast! (The tempurature change was about 15 degrees from bottom to top)
I can't say enough good things about this hike. It took us approximately 4 hours each direction but we had perfect weather! All sun, no rain! There were some great views during the descent on Bull Head but I preferred the hike up on Rainbow Falls. The trek beside the creek was very pleasant. And the frequent crossings helped break up the journey. It was a steady climb but manageable with water and energy snacks and not as difficult as a I expected. Good shoes and socks are a must. The path is very rocky and uneven but that's what makes it so much more interesting! The views at the top are amazing! We will be returning next year with hopes of spending a few nights at the lodge. We did get to see the llama train, two black bears and one unidentified snake. We didn't hang around long enough to confirm or deny our Rattler suspicions. Definitely a must hike!! Doable in a day but next time I'll plan to stay up top.
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