At the visitor center they said that close encounters with bears on the trail is relatively rare… but apparently the parking lot of the Motel 6 is another story.
Ran into this guy getting ice for the cooler.
I got to the Trailhead about 7:30 AM. The parking lot was already full but I managed to get one of the first spots on the road next to the lot.
Even though the the parking lot was full, I didn’t see anyone as I started up the trail. I’ll admit I was a little nervous being alone in the woods my myself at first. The solitude was almost palpable.
The trail follows a nice flowing stream for a little bit at the start. There are some minor “water crossings” but the ones that could be remotely challenging have bridges.
This is not a HARD hike by any means but having never done any real hiking before and still about 20 lbs overweight, I was out of breath pretty quickly.
When I reached the falls, there were already a number of people there. I sat down to have a snack and chatted with some other hikers before heading back down. The decent went pretty quickly and I passed a lot of people making their way up to the falls. NOTE: Start hikes as EARLY as possible.
|Trail Length (Out-n-Back)|
5.1 mi (Map) | 5.73 mi (GPS)
1617 ft (Map) | 1572 ft (GPS)
7:30 AM – ~10:30 AM
Trillium Gap to Grotto Falls
After I made it back to the trailhead I had lunch and felt really good. It was still very early in the day, like only about noon, so I decided to had another hike.
Trillium Gap also starts at the Rainbow Fall trailhead and connects with the Grotto Falls trailhead before continuing on up to Mt. LeConte. Grotto Fall is also an “easy” trail popular with the casual tourists but the Trillium Gap section is not so I decided to do that.
The best part of the Trillium Gap was that I only saw a few other hikers. The downside is it runs parallel with the road so there some traffic noise. The trail is also overgrown in places but not too bad.
When the trail connected with Grotto Falls Trail, there were a LOT more people. I decided to continue on to the falls which were certainly pretty but I didn’t stay long because it was so crowded.
The hike back from Grotto Falls to the Rainbow Falls trailhead (about 3.5 miles of descending trail) is when things got interesting. As soon as I turned around and started going down hill I noticed some pain in my left ankle and right knee.
As I continued, the pain got worse and I started to worry not just about the rest of my trip but making it back to the car. I found loosening the laces on my boot helped with the ankle pain but not much.
I did manage to make it back to the car and get back into town before NOC (the local outfitter chain) closed. I thought maybe it was my boots so I talked to the guy in the footwear department. All he seemed interested in was selling me shoes. So, I bought and knee and ankle brace and called it a day.
I did manage to make it back to the car and get back into town before NOC (the local outfitter chain) closed. I thought maybe it was my boots so I talked to the guy in the footwear department. All he seemed interested in was selling me shoes.
I went upstairs and met a very nice salesman, I think his name was Bob. I told him about my day and what hurt and he immediately said: Hiking Poles.
He took a lot of time to show me how to size and use them correctly, particularly the wrist straps. He wasn’t event trying to sell poles that much. He seemed genuinely interested in helping and told me I could rent a pair of poles for $5. So I did.
|Trillium Gap to Grotto Falls|
Rainbow Falls Trailhead
|Trail Length (Out-n-Back)|
6.8 mi (Map) | 7.07 mi (GPS)
1243 ft (Map) | 1437 ft (GPS)
~12 PM – ~3:30 PM