Rainbow Falls is my favorite waterfall in the Adirondacks of the New York. There are several waterfalls throughout the Adirondacks, but I think that Rainbow Falls is the most majestic. We added the short spur trail onto another hike that we were doing, and were so surprised at how nice it ended up being. It is definitely worth visiting!
Note that if you search on Google for Rainbow Falls in New York, three different Rainbow Falls will pop up across the state. This post is specifically regarding the Rainbow Falls near St. Huberts and Keene, New York.
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*****Everything in this article is my personal opinion and experiences. Check your own resources and choose to do anything I discuss at your own risk. Some of the things in this post may be dangerous and not recommended for every body.
About Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls is located in the in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. I am not sure how tall it is, as it is technically located on private land (with a public easement) and there is not a lot of information online about it. It is a popular waterfall to see for people who hike to Indian Head in New York as it is only a short additional hike to the falls from the Indian Head Trail.
How to Visit Rainbow Falls
Because of the land that Rainbow Falls is located on, you must have a reservation to hike in the area. Reservations must be made online through the AMR website hikeamr.org. The reservation will allow you to have a parking spot at the trailhead, but you need a reservation regardless of how you arrive to the trailhead. Even if you walk or bike to the AMR, you will be required to show a reservation. The private group only allows a certain number of people on the property per day.
When you arrive, they will check your reservation twice. Do not try to enter the property without a reservation or they will turn you away.
Reservations are made online at hikeamr.org
The Trail to Rainbow Falls
The trail options to Rainbow Falls are very similar to the hiking trails to Indian Head, because many trails to Indian Head include a stop at Rainbow Falls. If you’re interested in visiting Indian Falls in addition to Rainbow Falls, I have an entire post dedicated to Indian Head with specific information regarding the hike and viewpoint.
The Beginning of the Trail
To enter the area, you must park or be dropped off at the designated parking lot along Route 73. To access the area, regardless of if you are driving, walking, biking, etc, you must have a reservation online through the AMR website (hikeamr.org). There are only a certain number of reservations per day and you must have one to access the property. Your reservation will be checked twice, once at the entrance of the property and once at the start of the trail, before you are allowed on the trail. New reservations can NOT be made within 24 hours, so reserve in advance. Do not try to hike the trail without a reservation or you will be turned away. We honestly have never been hiking somewhere as strict as they are here.
From the area entrance/ parking area, you will need to walk on the paved road for around a mile until you reach the actual start of the trail. Someone will check your reservation once again and you will be allowed to walk through the wooden gates to the trail.
The Easiest Way to Get to Rainbow Falls
The quickest and easiest way to Rainbow Falls is to walk the gravel road until it ends at the dam at the beginning of the lake. The gravel road is 3.3 miles from it’s start at the wooden gate. There is a bridge that crosses over to the other side of the dam and a trail that leads to Rainbow Falls that is around 0.3 miles from the bridge. The trail is marked and has signs at the intersections. If you take this route, your mileage will be around 9 miles round trip.
Other Routes to Rainbow Falls
If you want to see more than Rainbow Falls and you don’t mind a slightly longer hike, I recommend visiting Indian Head viewpoint while you’re in the area. By hiking out to Rainbow Falls, you are quite close to the Indian Head Viewpoint. The only benefit of not hiking to Indian Head while visiting Rainbow Falls is that you wouldn’t have to hike uphill and downhill as much since seeing Indian Head requires a lot of change in elevation while hiking only to Rainbow Falls has a lot less elevation change.
There are various different trails that you can take that lead to Indian Head and loop around to Rainbow Falls. My favorite option for hiking into the area that covers Indian Head is the Gill Brook Trail which takes you along a creek with various waterfalls and ends at the Indian Head viewpoint. For more information on visiting Indian Head and the various trails that lead there, check out my Indian Head Hiking Blog Post.
Near Rainbow Falls
As I have mentioned multiple times throughout this post, Indian Head is nearby. Most people that visit Rainbow Falls also visit Indian Head on their trip. Visiting Indian Head will only add 2.2 miles to your round-trip mileage and will give you one of the most iconic views of the Adirondacks.
If visiting Indian Head, take the 1.1 mile trail to the top which is marked with signage along the main gravel road, not far from the dam. For more information on visiting Indian Head, check out my Guide to Indian Head blog post.
Beaver Meadow Falls
Another waterfall, although lesser known, that is close to Rainbow Falls is Beaver Meadow Falls. To see Beaver Meadow Falls, take the East River Trail which can be found at the end of the gravel road, close to the bridge across the river before Rainbow Falls. This trail leads to the trailhead where you started and is an alternative to taking the gravel road back.
This trail is a little difficult to follow at times as it is much less traveled, however it is worth it! If you take the East Creek Trail, around halfway back you will find Beaver Meadow Falls. Along the way, the trail follows a beautiful river and there are other smaller waterfalls along the way too.
Tips for Visiting Rainbow Falls
Visit in the spring
In New York, spring is known as waterfall season. The waterfalls are bursting with water from all of the snow melting at the higher elevations. The spring is the best time to see waterfalls and Rainbow Falls is no exception.
Rainbow Falls appears much more majestic in the spring with loads of water tumbling over the edge, versus the trickle that comes by the end of August.
Visit in the afternoon
For the best view of Rainbow Falls, I recommend visiting in the afternoon. As you will see when visiting, the water drops off the cliff edge to form a waterfall and there is also a rock wall across from it, blocking the sun for most of the day.
In the morning, the waterfall is in the shade, but in the afternoon the sun hits the water and illuminates it, creating little rainbows, hence the name Rainbow Falls.
Follow the rules of the AMR (where the waterfall is)
As I discussed previously, Rainbow Falls is located on private property of the group AMR. This group has specific rules regarding access to their property and it is important that you follow the rules properly. You can find a full list of their rules on the DEC website, but some important ones to know are: no dogs, no touching the water, and no drones.
Wear sturdy shoes
To see Rainbow Falls to it’s full extent, you will have to climb over some rocks and walk on some larger rocks. The mist of the waterfall makes this area quite slick, so I recommend having good footwear. The rocks were really slippery and I even slipped while wearing heavy duty boots. Just watch your step and wear good shoes. 🙂
Some other posts you may like:
This concludes my guide to visiting Rainbow Falls in the Adirondacks of New York. Have you been to Rainbow Falls? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!