Great Smoky Mountains Rainbow Falls Trail Reopens. After two diligent work seasons, the Rainbow Falls Trail has reopened! From May through November in 2017 and 2018, the 6-mile trail that accesses popular Rainbow Falls and the summit of Mt. LeConte has been closed Monday through Thursday to accomplish much-needed rehabilitation. Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosted a ribbon-cutting event to thank the work crew, volunteers, park partners, and donors for their support of the project. The event recognized the National Park Service Trails Crew, the American Conservation Experience Youth Crew, Friends of the Smokies, and the Aslan Foundation.
“We are pleased to announce the completion of renovations to the popular Rainbow Falls trail,” said GSMNP Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan. “The improvements will be enjoyed today, tomorrow and next year by the park visitors, their children and grandchildren.”
In 2012, Friends of the Smokies established the Trails Forever endowment thanks to a matching gift from the Aslan Foundation in Knoxville. The $5 million endowment funds a full-time trail crew in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to reconstruct and rehabilitate some of the park’s most impacted trails.
The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for highly skilled trail crews to focus reconstruction efforts on high use and high priority trails in the park including Rainbow Falls Trail and the recently restored Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, and Forney Ridge Trails along with other projects across the park. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.
The Rainbow Falls Trail rehabilitation efforts focused on several targeted locations along the 6-mile trail to improve visitor safety and stabilize eroding trail sections, as well as to improve route finding issues along the lower section. The trail improvements enhance the safety of the trail and provide a durable trail corridor to limit visitation impacts on one of the most iconic trail destinations in the park. The thoughtful rehabilitation techniques used natural materials, the historic nature of the trail has been preserved allowing future visitors to enjoy trail for years to come.
The park trail crew rehabilitated targeted segments along the trail to improve visitor safety, stabilize eroding trail sections, and repair trail tread damaged by high winds and fire during the November 2016 wildfires. The crew installed over 350 steps through steep, narrow corridors, created nearly 600 feet of elevated trail surfaces, installed nearly 400 drainage elements, and placed over 1,000 native stones along the trail to create a durable, sustainable trail corridor. The much-needed rehabilitation also eliminated numerous, visitor-created side trails totaling over one mile in length that had resulted in eroded, off-trail paths creating confusion for hikers.