Turtleback Falls, North Carolina

Turtleback Falls is a bonus waterfall. If you’re in the area of Turtleback Falls, you’re likely visiting the much larger Rainbow Falls, which is on the same trail. Rainbow Falls clocks in at 125′, whereas Turtleback Falls is about 20′ tall, though it doesn’t look that tall because of the angle you’ll be viewing the falls.

The thing with waterfall explorers…I want to add Turtleback Falls to the list, so once I reach Rainbow Falls, I walk about 0.2 miles further to find Turtleback Falls. Now I’ve got another one to add to the list! Turtleback Falls is a pretty waterfall, and in another area of North Carolina even, it would be a worthwhile stop. But with Rainbow Falls downstream, it probably gets a bit lost on the radar of most people.

The hike to Rainbow and Turtleback Falls is not a quick one. It’s about 3 miles round-trip to Rainbow Falls, and then about 0.4 miles additional hiking to get to Turtleback Falls. I don’t distinctly remember the hike, but I’ve been trying to record “my” difficulty right after the hike, and I rated it as on the moderate to strenuous side. That means there was probably a consistent amount of uphill/downhill hiking.


  1. On US-64 between Lake Toxaway and Cashiers, you’ll find a road to Gorges State Park.
  2. If you’re heading west from Lake Toxaway, you’re not far from the park. Turn left from US-64 onto NC-281 (also known as Whitewater Road) heading south.
  3. After a mile on NC-281, turn left onto Grassy Ridge Road, which should lead into Gorges State Park.
  4. You’re looking for the Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Trailhead, which is about as far as you can go on Grassy Ridge Road before you start looping back toward the other roads.

Accessibility: 4/10 (moderate/strenuous)
Height: 20′
Distance of Hike: 3.4 miles round-trip

Turtleback Falls in March 2017

Where in the World is Turtleback Falls?


Pe’epe’e Falls, Hawaii

On the Wailuku River, there are a number of impressive waterfalls. Rainbow Falls is definitely the most popular on the river, and you’ll see many other people there. If you continue driving along the road that runs adjacent to the river, you’ll arrive at two other waterfalls. Wai’ale Falls is easy to view, and is also pretty impressive.

Pe’epe’e Falls is an impressive waterfall, but you can only see it from a distance. There is a designated area for a geological feature known as the Boiling Pots, which I didn’t find to be particularly interesting. And from this viewing area, you can also get a glimpse of Pe’epe’e Falls. Now, there are signs that clearly indicate that you should not go beyond the fence because it’s dangerous. And I decided to heed the warnings on those signs, and I am suggesting that you follow those signs too. I would never want to hear that somebody got hurt while deciding to do something possibly dangerous because a website indicated it might be ok. So you might be able to get a better view, but realize it can start raining at any time, and it can rain intensely, and the river conditions can change dramatically. So while it looks ok now, it might not be 15 minutes from now. Use common sense, people!


  1. The main road, Highway 11, “starts” in Hilo (though it encircles most of the island).  At mile marker 0, you begin heading west and then northwest for a ways.  Stay on the main road, which will also be called Mamalahoa Highway.
  2. After just a few miles or less, you will come to the junction of Highway 200 on your left.  Turn left onto Highway 200, also known as Waianuenue Avenue.
  3. Follow the signs to Rainbow Falls.  After stopping there, continue along Waianuenue Avenue. You’ll pass by a hospital along the way, and then enter a residential area.
  4. You’ll come to Pe’epe’e Falls Road, and turn right onto this road. This will lead directly into the parking area to view the Boiling Pots and the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (Don’t go over the fence!)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: negligible

Pe’epe’e Falls in March 2013

Where in the World is Pe’epe’e Falls?

Rainbow Falls, Hawaii

Rainbow Falls in 2013

Rainbow Falls is the first waterfall of 2013! The Big Island of Hawaii is a study in contrasts. Part of the island is very dry, and there’s no real use hunting for waterfalls. The eastern part of the island has a number of waterfalls. Some of the waterfalls are not that easy to visit, as part of the gorges and canyons are fairly steep and inaccessible. In other cases, the waterfalls are just off the road, but there aren’t easy places to pull off. On the other hand, a few major waterfalls on the island are extremely easy to visit. Those seven or eight end up being main attractions.

Rainbow Falls is probably one of the most visited, along with ‘Akaka Falls. Within the city limits of Hilo, the drive to the falls is relatively short (if you’re already in Hilo). You may be able to find a tour company that will take you to the falls. Even though Hilo doesn’t have many super-fancy hotels, I would still suggest staying in the city, as there is a significant amount of interesting stuff nearby.

At about 80’ tall, the falls are pretty impressive. The ease of access is really what makes them worthwhile. There is also no cost to visit them, and there are two other waterfalls further upstream. If you have the chance to visit the Big Island, definitely make sure to visit Rainbow Falls.


  1. The main road, Highway 11, “starts” in Hilo (though it encircles most of the island). At mile marker 0, you begin heading west and then northwest for a ways. Stay on the main road, which will also be called Mamalahoa Highway.
  2. After just a few miles or less, you will come to the junction of Highway 200 on your left. Turn left onto Highway 200, also known as Waianuenue Avenue.
  3. Follow the signs to Rainbow Falls. At one point, you will veer somewhat quickly to the right, continuing on Waianuenue Avenue. The parking lot is not difficult to find. The falls are right there!

Accessibility: 10/10 (I believe even handicapped accessible)
Height: 80′
Length of Hike: not applicable

Where in the World is Rainbow Falls?

Rainbow Falls, Ontario

I took a short weekend trip to Thunder Bay at the end of April, and one of my goals was to try and hit a number of waterfalls along the Trans-Canada Highway. Many of the interesting waterfalls are found along or near the main highway. Rainbow Falls is some distance west of the Schreiber/Terrace Bay area, and on my initial journey east, I actually passed the park the falls are located in, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. The signs seemed to indicate that it was a campground entrance, but in reality it was the entrance to the park.

It ended up that I turned and started driving back west the same day. I then turned into the signs I had originally passed. Since it was the end of April, the park was actually “closed”, to my surprise. You could turn onto the main road in the park, and park your car in a small area near the main gate…But the gate was actually closed to prevent anyone from driving further into the park.

In this case, I just decided to start hiking along the main road. Normally, you would be able to drive down this road, and get much closer to the falls. The hike along the main road doesn’t add a considerable amount of time to your journey, and it is relatively enjoyable. Once you get to the parking area designated for the falls, you can begin exploring. There are numerous parts to the falls, though the whole set of drops cannot be photographed easily.

Stairs lead you up and down near the falls. This is very nice, but may also limit your ability to explore portions of the falls. In late April, this specific falls seemed to be flowing pretty well, and so that may have been a very good thing that visitors were unable to deviate. The falls are interesting, but in the end, you may be frustrated by the inability to capture the “whole” falls, or really the complexity of the falls.


  1. The falls are relatively easy to find, as they are right off of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 17). They are not too far west of Schreiber, which is a small town. They are a more significant drive from Thunder Bay.
  2. If you are headed west on the Trans-Canada Highway, the entrance to the park will be on your right. As I said, I think the sign also indicates a campground.
  3. Depending on the time of year, the gate to the road leading closer to the falls may or may not be open. There may be a fee to enter, though there was no gate attendant and I don’t remember there being a self-pay station.

(Note:  I support state and provincial parks, and have no problem paying for entry into parks. Ontario, though, often does not have gate agents, and instead has self-pay kiosks. Entry into many of the parks in Ontario is at least $5.50 for an hour or two, and the kiosks I’ve visited only accept coins…Therefore, plan on bringing a lot of change! It’s a slight annoyance, I guess.)

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy, stairs!)
Height: ~80′ (don’t quote me on this one)
Hike: 1 mile round-trip (approximately, depends on how far you go along trails)

The lower portion of Rainbow Falls in April 2012, with some barely-visible portions of the falls.

The uppermost portion of the falls.

Where in the World is Rainbow Falls?

Rainbow Falls, British Columbia

An upper portion of Rainbow Falls (August 2010)

Rainbow Falls is a beautiful set of waterfalls on the outsets of Whistler. As usual, the most difficult part seems to be finding the trail that leads to the falls. The directions I was following listed a different trail name than what I saw, and that definitely confused me. I actually took a picture of the sign just so that I could remember what the trail was named!

Each of the drops, while not extremely tall, have distinct personalities in a beautiful forest setting. I guess the only negative is that it is somewhat difficult to get photographs of some portions of the falls, but even the trees in the area add to the scenery. I really did enjoy this hike.


  1. Heading south from Whistler, turn right onto Alta Lake Road.
  2. Head down Alta Lake Road for 6.8 km to the trailhead. The trailhead is the “Rainbow Trail”, and the sign indicates the total hike would be about 16 km, which is nowhere near how long you’ll hike.
  3. From the parking area, take the path on the left (the west side of the river). Take the trail for a little less than a mile.
  4. I have to admit I can’t remember if this is the hike where it can suddenly become deceiving. There may be a sign indicating the direction to the falls, but I also have the feeling that there wasn’t. I think the trail splits off at that point, and you should head to the right.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: ~50′ (?)
Length of Hike: 0.9 miles round-trip

Lower portion of Rainbow Falls (August 2010)

Where in the World is Rainbow Falls?

Rainbow Falls, Michigan

Rainbow Falls in August 2011

As I may have mentioned before, the Black River has one of the best groups of waterfalls to be found in Michigan. If I had to recommend just one group of waterfalls to view in Michigan, I would suggest going and seeing these 5 waterfalls. Sometimes waterfalls on the same river can have a tendency to look very similar. The Black River does not fall into that category. The five major waterfalls are extremely distinct and unique, at least compared to the others on the same river.

Rainbow Falls is one of my favorites, though it is hard to explain why. There are few other waterfalls that I have seen that have the same “drop” pattern found at Rainbow Falls. Instead of just a simple vertical drop or even a cascade, the water jettisons from the crest of the falls, which is very narrow. The water then crashes into a rock wall, takes an actual 90 degree turn, and falls into a cavernous region below. The actual view is extremely hard to explain in words. After the water pools, there is another drop, and possibly more hidden below.

The other four waterfalls are most easily accessed from their designated parking areas, but NOT Rainbow Falls. There is a parking area for Rainbow Falls, but if you follow this designated trail, it leads to one of the most unspectacular views of a waterfall I could ever imagine. At first, I was extremely disappointed, as I had just walked some distance only to have a waterfall almost completely blocked from my view.

There are two ways to remedy this situation:

  1. The river, which at some points is a hundred or more feet wide, narrows down to about three feet wide. I actually jumped over the river, which was not as easy as it sounds, since the water is moving so quickly. One poor step, and you could be pulled in.
  2. After doing this, I learned of a more sane way to get to the much, much better viewpoint. Instead of starting from the Rainbow Falls parking area, start at the Black River Harbor parking area. I guess you can cross a footbridge over the river there, and take the trail on the east side of the river instead. It might be a 3/4 to 1 mile hike one-way, but that may be the same distance hiking the other trail.

Either way, both options lead to the much better viewpoint, which is where I took the photo. It might be better to arrive earlier in the day, as I was there later in the day when the sun was almost directly behind the falls, complicating attempts to take pictures. By that point, any picture would do, since for a period of time, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to see the falls at all.


  1. From US-2, turn north onto Gogebic County Road 513.
  2. Head north on CR-513 for about 15 miles to the end of the road to the parking area for the Black River Harbor.
  3. From here, you should be able to cross the river, and access the trail on the east side of the river, as described above.

Accessibility: 7/10 (from west side of river)
Height: 45′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles or 1.5 miles round-trip

The falls in August 2008

Where in the World is Rainbow Falls?

Rainbow Falls, New York

Rainbow Falls in May 2009

When we visited Watkins Glen State Park in early May, we were only partly lucky. The first third of the Gorge Trail was open, so we did see many interesting waterfalls. Unluckily, that meant we couldn’t see Rainbow Falls and a few other falls from the Gorge Trail. The view of Rainbow Falls that we got from the Rim Trail wasn’t bad at all, but I’m under the impression that the cool part about Rainbow Falls is being able walk underneath the falls. We weren’t able to do that. Oh well. I would suggest visiting later in May, even though the park is open in early May and all of the snow is melted by then.


  1. Watkins Glen State Park is directly off of NY-14 in Watkins Glen.
  2. Pay the state park entrance fee, and then park.
  3. Rainbow Falls can be seen from the Gorge Trail or the Rim Trail.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: up to 3 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Rainbow Falls?