Rainbow Falls is located in Jones Gap State Park at 303 Jones Gap Road in Marietta, SC. The hike is about 5 miles round trip and the falls is around 100 feet high. You can also access the falls hiking 1.8 miles round trip from Camp Greenville on YMCA Camp Road, Greenville, SC.
My wife and I decided to take a short trip without the kids. Since no kids equaled more possibilities I excitingly spent many hours contemplating and researching where to go. I looked at places from Oregon, Chicago, New York to the Caribbean only to end up back in Asheville. But with good food, lots of beer, and great waterfalls not to far away; I am always up for a trip to Asheville. Plus this time we were staying right downtown thanks to Priceline giving me the Sheraton for only 58 bucks a night. So we planned on eating, drinking, and walking around downtown for two days then heading to SC to hike Rainbow Falls and Falls Creek Falls the last day..
The Rainbow Falls hike begins just past the Jones Gap State Park Visitor Center on the Jones Gap Trail. The hike begins as an easy stroll along a level, rocky trail. Don't worry this all changes when you hit the Rainbow Falls junction. You cant miss it as the trail forks and the trees are marked with red paint. Once on the Rainbow Falls trail you will hike up, further up, and completely up the mountain. The entire trail is 2.3 miles uphill and moderate to strenuous. However, the many views of the cascading river and the very large rock wall make it a very interesting hike. This is a beautiful and fun hike except of course the day I experienced it.
Our hike was filled with rain; pouring rain. Rain that poured as I stepped out of the vehicle and continued four hours later when I climbed back in. It never let up once. The entire trail was puddles of water and mud. It was 40 degrees outside and I was soaked. Despite my big blue poncho, my hoodie was soaked, shirt soaked, pants soaked, and shoes and socks soaked. My hands, well I couldn't even feel them until I was driving back to Asheville. It was a cold and miserable time.
Even worse though was attempting to take pictures in the pouring rain. This was the part that really bummed me out. Every time I took the cap of the lens my camera was covered in rain. I took my poncho off and we tried to use it as a shield but the wind and rain was too strong. Every time I cleaned the lens more rain drenched it. Frustrated and angry I finally just gave up. I got a few shots from far away but none really to my liking. Trying to take pictures up near the main drop is something I can only laugh about now. Taking pictures was a hopeless task and I hated that it took away a lot of the enjoyment of seeing and standing in front of this beautiful waterfall.
In fact, most of our time at the waterfall was spent huddling under a big rock, trying to get dry and warm up. We ate lunch crammed up under the rock and continued to sit and wait, wondering if the rain would ever let up. The rest of the time at the falls I was also under this rock wiping and cleaning my wet camera. Here is a video I shot from under the rock:
Even after all this, sitting in the car, I asked my wife if she was ready to head up the road to Falls Creek Falls. This was the original plan, hike Rainbow then go see Falls Creek. I already knew her answer. But she did surprisingly say okay; as long as we go somewhere to buy her new dry clothes first. To me though that answer was the same as a no. I plan on coming back and hiking both next time I visit my brother in Clemson. This waterfall is awesome and I really want another chance to truly enjoy it.
Some quick shots I took in the rain with my small point and shoot camera.
This is on the trail heading back towards the car: