While the Smoky Mountains are host to a number of hidden treasures and gems, we certainly are biased to a few of the more unsuspecting treasures. Rainbow Falls Cave is one of those unique finds. With a waterfall depositing directly into the cave itself, the site is unsurprisingly difficult to find. But we’re here to help!
The trickiest thing about Rainbow Falls Cave is that you have to go off official park trails in order to get to it. With this being said, this hike probably isn’t the best for new hikers. Be sure to pack a map, compass, water, a flashlight, and whatever else you feel comfortable taking with you. Just remember the golden rule: No Trace Left Behind. Whatever you bring in, make sure you bring out.
The excursion to Rainbow Falls Cave begins with the Schoolhouse Gap Trail. This trail is a peaceful and relatively easy start through the woods with a clearly marked and trafficked path. You’ll follow the Schoolhouse Gap Trail for a mile before veering off path to the Whiteoak Sinks area. Once on the footpath, you’ll walk for around .3 miles before reaching a sort of fork, where you’ll want to take the left path across the wet boggy/creek area. You’ll continue your hike for about half a mile before a steep descent into the Whiteoaks Sinks area. This area was once home to subsistence homesteads, evidence of which you can see all around the site and exciting to see in their own right. Once in the basin, the path forks again, with the right path leading you to your destination- Rainbow Falls Cave!
Be conscious that the path isn’t as wide or well beaten as some of the main trails- so be sure to pay attention! And of course, after a day of exploring, hiking, discovering new areas, and seeing a hidden treasure only a handful of visitors even know about, be sure to kick back and relax at one of our Alpine Mountain Chalets, complete with amenities and views to amp up the whole experience.