Summary: The first segment of this hike to Rainbow Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park year round but the crowds thin out past the falls and the Bullhead Trail is seldom used. Rainbow Falls Trail is rocky and this hike is best suited as described, as coming down Bullhead Trail is a better trail and more sure footed. The climb will be long and gradual is most spots and after you have hiked 6 mil you will come to the Bullhead Trail intersection. Continue for 0.5 mi to Mt LeConte Lodge and a recommended side trip to Cliff Tops for a great lunch spot. It will be a 0.3 mi hike out and then 0.3 hike back to this intersection before returning. You will take the Rainbow Falls Trail for 0.5 mi to the Bullhead Trail intersection and follow the Bullhead Trail for 5.9 mi until you reach the Old Sugarlands Trail then turn right to the Rainbow Falls parking area. In less than a 1/2 mi you will be back to your car.
Trailhead: I-40 Exit 407 follow Hwy 66 South 8 miles to 441 South to Gatlinburg;turn left at traffic light #8, take Historic Nature Trail Dr. The road becomes one-way, turn right into Rainbow Falls Parking area. The trailhead is a path a few yards south into the woods, oppisite the paved road. (Lat:35.67575 Lon:-83.4869)
Trail Guides for Mt LeConte via Rainbow Falls & Bullhead Trails:
Day Hikes in GSMNP
by Johnny Molloy ()
Day & Overnight hikes in GSMNP
by Johhny Malloy (Menasha Ridge Press)
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers,
Ranger Contact: GSMNP 865-436-1200
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Bobby Trotter, who has posted 74 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews Submit your own review
Reviewed by Nate on 4/24/2012
Hiked on rainy day. First real hike and really enjoyed ourselves. Was a little worn down at the end.
Reviewed by CHL on 1/2/2012
Two friends and I hiked this trail on Saturday (12/31/2011) to bring in the new year. We began with Rainbow Falls and finished it up with Bullhead. We are not in the best of shape and when we approached the top, we did begin to completely wear down. The trails were fairly icy as we approached the top and some spills were taken. Although we had a hard trek up the mountain, the challenge provided great fun and enjoyment. The falls and views were incredble, especially down bullhead. We started at 9:30 and finish around 6. Saw quite a few people throughout the hike. Will definitely hike again once the weather warms up and my stamina is better.
Reviewed by jkr on 12/19/2011
Hiked this Saturday(12/17/11). Got an early start and saw no one up to Leconte. Only saw one person on Leconte and one person back down Bullhead. Was a great day hiking and listening to Christmas songs on my Ipod. Got back to the parking lot by 2:30. Will definitely hike this one again!
Reviewed by KRW on 10/25/2010
Went up Rainbow falls. About 1 hour 15 min to falls and 3 hours 25 min (total) to cliff tops (worth the extra .2 miles!). Last .6 up (where bull head meets rainbow) is kinda tough since it is like walking a dry creek bed up hill. Opted to take Bullhead down and it is a lot easier but add .5 miles. 2.5 hours to descend. "restrooms" available at the "lodge" at the top. This was a very challenging hike. Wife and I are in good shape but this one kicked our butts! :) Very sore the next day but it'll heal. How long would the pain last if you give up?
Reviewed by Viewer on 7/13/2009
We went up bullhead and down rainbow. if you are looking for a good workout on the way to leconte, either one of these trails will do the trick! everything was fogged in on bullhead, but on the way down, rainbow falls were beautiful!
Reviewed by Moose Tacks on 6/15/2009
We went up Rainbow spent the night in the LeConte lodge. Came down Bullhead. I can mark these trails off my bucket list. Only 820 miles of trails to go, in the Smokies..
Reviewed by SV on 2/12/2009
We went up Rainbow Falls and down Bullhead. More than half of the hike was through snow/slush. It was a tremendous amount of exercise. I enjoyed it and would probably do it again, once I recoop.
Reviewed by Cherie on 2/4/2009
We took Bullhead trail back from Mt. LeConte. Hikers beware,,,,,I found this trail to be very strenuous due to the very steep down grade that continues for six miles and then some. The footing on the trail is very tricky in spots because of the rocks and inconsistent footing. Make sure you have poles for support and appropriate footwear. Very, very hard on the knees even for the younger hikers. Wouldn't take this trail again.
Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
Keys: Tennessee Hiking, Tennessee Trails, Tennessee Hikes, Sevier County Hiking, Sevier County Trails, Sevier County Hikes