Beautiful Rainbow Falls
Temperatures are finally out of the nineties and football has officially kicked off.  In my world this signifies the official start of Hiking Season. 

At any given moment we are less than an hour away from a casual stroll through the woods, a strenuous climb to a view of three or more counties, or my favorite destination – water succumbing to the power of gravity. The Upstate features more waterfalls than most dedicated weekend warriors can visit in a year and I am proud to say that over the years I have visited most of them. I believe I am finally ready to pick my favorite.

Rainbow Falls’ name was not picked out of a hat. If anything, its name falls short of doing this destination justice. Behind the 100 foot span of falling water is a rock face that looks like a thousand-layer-cake of colors and textures that are unlike anything I have ever seen. I have seen plenty of rainbows but I am certain that none of them have ever impressed me the way that Rainbow Falls has. 

To begin, the trail leading you to Rainbow Falls is everything I look for in a hike. The terrain, surroundings, views and ecosystems change dramatically over the course of two and half miles.  There are plenty of hiking trails within the Jones Gap network but Rainbow Falls really highlights the variety and range of the park.

Jones Gap State Park contains hundreds of miles of trails and countless waterfalls and scenic views.  Some of these trails are short and flat enough to bring a two year old on his first hike and some require extensive planning, equipment and fitness if you have any hope of enjoying your adventure.  The Rainbow Falls trail lies somewhere in between - it is accessible to almost anyone willing to put forth a bit of effort for a spectacular payoff. 

Most trail guides rate The Rainbow Falls trails as “strenuous” but I see this as a discouraging overstatement. If you break a sweat pushing your grocery cart or a broken television remote would ruin your weekend, then yes, this hike will be strenuous.  If you do not mind walking up a moderate hill for 1.6 miles (30-40 minutes) while gazing out on breathtaking views to your right along the way, then I think you will be just fine.

The entire trip to the falls is 2.4 miles so plan on less than five miles round trip unless you refuse to leave when you get there. The first .8 miles are as flat as an Olympic gymnast with the following 1.6 producing some sweat and the threat of heavy breathing. Your big gasp will not come from the hike, however. You will find it when reach the base of the falls.

I am not a geologist. Rocks are hard and come in different colors, shapes and sizes and that is really about all I know. Therefore, I cannot even begin to explain what is happening at Rainbow Falls but I know that it is amazing. 

Like any good waterfall hike, you hear the rumble of falling water as you get closer to your destination.  You pick up the pace a bit and soon turn a corner to find out why you left the couch that morning. At 100 feet tall, the water seems to fall from the heavens and the colors of the rock seem to tell a story in a language I just cannot read. 

Dan Showering in Rainbow Falls
If you have no soul or just lack an appreciation for Mother Nature, you may just turn around and enjoy the downhill stroll back to your car. Any normal person will be inclined to stay and enjoy the beauty of the falls for a bit. To this end, Rainbow Falls is very accommodating with plenty of areas to sit comfortably and take in the fall’s beauty from countless angles and distances. The most adventurous hikers can climb up into the falls themselves to explore the hidden universe behind the water-wall or even just take a much needed shower.

I have been to Rainbow Falls three or four times over the years and I never cease to be taken by its beauty the moment it comes into view.  The first time my wife and I visited the falls together was two weeks after a wild fire had blazed through that section of Jones Gap State Park. It was an interesting view of life’s resolve and determination as wildflowers poked their heads out of the charred ashes that bordered the trail. Beauty was bursting through tragedy and it was nothing short of inspiring.

The first time I visited Rainbow Falls, I traveled with my good friend Dan and his wife, Ann. His wife was a happy camper for the first mile or so but I admit that she used some foul language as the trail got a little steeper. She was not discouraged enough to turn back or succumb to the temptation to ask us for a break but she was annoyed enough to call me a few choice names for calling this hike “short and easy.” 

She took it all back when we reached the falls.

The return trip home was a little more challenging - after taking in the falls for an hour or so, we began our descent exactly two minutes before the sky opened up and poured rain like a faucet for the entire hike back to the trailhead. It was as if God was testing our appreciation of His gift because the storm began as soon as we started home and ended as soon as we stepped off the trail. Just for the record, rain had not been in the forecast that afternoon.

Our hike ended with each of us pouring water out of our boots and backpacks as if they were buckets. Despite Ann’s disapproval of my trail selection in the early part of the hike, however, I never heard one cross word at the end of it. Rain, discomfort, and potentially ruined cell phones and cameras possessed no powers of discouragement. 

Rainbow Falls is that impressive. Enjoy. 
Hey Chris, the falls are behind you!

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