Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rainbow Falls hike

A couple Sundays ago we hiked out Rainbow Falls Trail in the Smokies. As many times as we've traveled along the Roaring Fork Road (which is a LOT), this was our first time out to the falls because we generally try to avoid crowds.
Already having visited Laurel Falls, Grotto Falls and Abrams Falls (along with various less popular Smokies falls) we decided to finally bag this busy one.
The distance is 2.6 miles from trailhead to falls, with an elevation gain of about 1500 feet.

We started early and enjoyed our typical hiking weather - cloudy with sporadic showers. At one point we broke out the ponchos but after about 5 minutes it slacked off.

The trail is very heavily traveled with many eroding 'shortcuts' at switchbacks along the way, probably caused mostly by kids.

Lots of neat things to see if you're as obsessed with observation as I am.... I kinda feel sad to see others plod along viewing mostly their feet the entire way. I'm not gonna name any names or claim that I LIVE with anybody like that. Uh-uh. (Uh-huh.)

The obligatory tree-beats-rock photo :-)

That's a big tree, right there!
I think the ones on Ramsey Cascades trail are larger but this one is quite impressive nonetheless.

We overtook several groups along the way including several people wearing flimsy footwear and most were carrying no water.

You're probably saying, "seen one log bridge, seen 'em all".... well look, here's another!

We reached the falls. The water was low due to a dry spell; just a couple days after a great deal of rain caused some flooding around the park - I'd imagine the falls were fairly strengthened then.

One other group had arrived just before us and we observed as they frolicked about the place (see them in the photo for scale). We decided to hike a little farther up the trail in hopes they'd leave and we could enjoy some quiet at the falls. With luck on our side it worked out perfectly and when we returned they were gone. I enjoyed 10 minutes of bliss exploring and photographing before the next hikers arrived.

And another video from underneath the falls.

On the return trip, many people we passed asked if we'd made it all the way to the falls and of course, the most-asked trail question ever: "How much farther is it?" A lot of the folks we talked to said everyone else they'd met coming down before us had turned back before they'd reached the falls..... much to our surprise, as we've built up to 8-mile round-trip hikes and we felt the 'shortness' of this one in comparison. Hey, for sure we huffed and puffed going up, too. After all, it is uphill all the way....

I counted: we passed 140 people while on the trail (+/- 5)

Upon return to the parking lot, there was commotion over a mother bear and 2 or 3 cubs foraging. We've seen bears within that same area (far end of the Rainbow Falls parking lot) on several occasions. People crowded around much too closely (IMO) and one teen boy had even fled to the roof of the family mini van after the mother bear hissed at him.... last year a young boy was attacked by a bear near the start of Rainbow Falls Trail. Park rangers shot and killed a bear there shortly thereafter.

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