The 2.4-mile hike begins in Jones Gap State Park. Start off on the Jones Gap Trail, a pleasant walk along the Middle Saluda River. At about the three-quarter-mile mark, you’ll hit the junction to the Rainbow Falls Trail. Cross the sturdy footbridge over the river and you’re on your way.
You’ll traverse the river several more times using a variety of makeshift spans from a flat-top log with a handrail to a narrow granite block to large river rocks. From there on, the pleasant walk turns into a relentless climb up granite and wooden steps, steep hills and rocky slopes. In a distance of 1.6 miles you will ascend approximately 1,000 feet.
Not to worry. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to catch your breath when you get to the end of the trail and gaze upon the beautiful Rainbow Falls. The water drops 100 feet over steep walls streaked with layers of amphibolites gneiss, granite gneiss and mica schist. A rocky ledge near the bottom of the falls creates another picturesque cascade as it continues its descent down the mountain.