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Any info on Mt. LeConte via Rainbow Falls & Bullhead Trails in Tennessee
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Zachary Crane
(zcrane) - F

Locale: Midwest, USA
Any info on Mt. LeConte via Rainbow Falls & Bullhead Trails in Tennessee on 05/17/2011 20:33:11 MDT Print View

I'm still looking for a nice trip to take while driving through Tennessee and came across this seemingly interesting route:

Does anyone have any info or experience on this climb or the trails involved? It seems like the hike can be done in a day, but I'll be ready to crash afterwards. Any thoughts on a good camping spot, or should I grab a hotel room?

Basically, any and all help is appreciated. Thanks!

Jonathan Duckett
(Thunderhead) - F

Locale: Great Smoky Mountains
LeConte on 05/17/2011 21:01:59 MDT Print View

I've done that exact loop before. Rainbow Falls is beautiful and a popular day hike. You'd have the trail practically to yourself once you continue past the falls. To get thefull Leconte experience I'd suggest staying at the AT style shelter that is on the summit. Cliff Tops, one of Leconte's peaks, is a great spot to sit and watch the sunset. Likewise, Myrtle Point is the spot to watch the sunrise in the morning. You'd need to make a reservation to stay in the shelter. This is the only option as far as camping goes. You can reach the backcountry reservation office at 8654361231. You can call 30 days prior to your desired date. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Zachary Crane
(zcrane) - F

Locale: Midwest, USA
RE: Info on 05/17/2011 21:21:21 MDT Print View

Jonathan, Thanks for the speedy reply!

If you don't mind sharing your email address with me, shoot me a message to and I'll reply from my personal email (so I don't have to post it for the world to see here :P ). I do have quite a few questions regarding this route and the area in general, so a few emails back-and-forth would be greatly appreciated!

James McDaniel
Any info on Mt. LeConte via Rainbow Falls & Bullhead Trails in Tennessee on 05/17/2011 21:22:13 MDT Print View

We took Rainbow falls to Mt. LeConte lodge years ago. Spent the night at the Lodge. It was amazing. Started a week hike from the trailhead since we were going on to the AT and North.

I was loaded down more than I needed to be(unexperienced at the time). I'm in pretty good shape but the weight of the pack really wore me out. You are climbing a steep incline for a long time. At the time it seemed like it went forever;-> Think it took us about 6 hours.

One thing I wish I kept in mind. Since you hit the falls on the way up, you don't have to carry so much water to get to that point.

Great scenery all the way.

Keep in mind, the weather when you start the climb in will be nothing like when you hit LeConte.

It's pretty rocky once you get about half way up there. At one part the sun was beating down pretty hard and we could hear rattle snakes. We made sure we watched our step. We wanted to see one soo bad but it didn't happen.

It was the coolest thing I ever did in the smokies.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Any info on Mt. LeConte via Rainbow Falls & Bullhead Trails in Tennessee on 05/18/2011 21:17:31 MDT Print View

I just did a trip last weekend where I hiked both the Rainbow Falls and Bullhead Trail. I hiked the Rainbow Falls trail to LeConte, then took the Boulevard Trail over to the AT, then went downhill to Kephart Shelter via the Sweat Heifer Creek Trail. The next day I took the Grassy Branch Trail to the Dry Sluice Gap Trail which led me back to the AT and the Boulevard Trail back to LeConte. I then returned to my car via the Bullhead this time.

The Rainbow Falls trail climbs a little over 4000 feet in 6.7 to get to the top of LeConte, it’s not that bad though, it is just long and steady. I finished the climb in 2:26 and that was after getting behind a few slower dayhikers and stopping at the Falls for a snack. There are a couple of nice falls and cascades other than Rainbow Falls itself, but the downsides are the number of people that are on the trail and the fact you have to drive through part of Gatlinburg to get to the trailhead

I was really impressed with the Bullhead Trail, it had quite a few quasi views where you can barely see over the roto and mountain laurel. It shares a trailhead with Rainbow Falls so it sees a lot of traffic as well, though not nearly as much as Rainbow Falls itself. Jonathan is right and if you choose to stay at LeConte (call and get reservations ASAP (but no more than 30 days before the trip) as it fills up quick ) you can get a great sunset and sunrise view just a few tenths of a mile in either direction.

Here are my pics from my trip if you want to see what to expect: