Horsepasture River (via Grassy Ridge Trailhead)

Location: Western North Carolina
Trip Starts: Grassy Ridge Trailhead
Trip Ends: Grassy Ridge Trailhead
Total Distance: 6 miles
Hike Type: In & Out, Backtrack Hike
Hike Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Trails Used: Rainbow Falls Trail
Trail Traffic: Moderate to Heavy
Trip Type: Day or Overnight Hike
More Information:

Gorges State Park
P.O. Box 100
976 Grassy Ridge Road
Sapphire, NC 29774
(828) 966-9099


Gorges State Park is one of North Carolina’s newest state parks. The property was purchased on April 29, 1999 by the state from Duke Energy Corporation. The transaction created a 2,900-acre gameland managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and a 7,100-acre state park with plunging waterfalls, rugged river gorges, sheer rock walls and one of the greatest concentrations of rare and unique species in the eastern United States.

This hike along the Horsepasture River starts at the Grassy Ridge Trailhead in Gorges State Park. (Many people previously accessed the river from NC 281 – but parking is now prohibited along the road.) The hike begins in the recently developed and beautifully built Gorges State Park. Drive past the visitor’s center to the Grassy Ridge Trailhead and follow the Rainbow Falls trail down to the river and then up to a series of waterfalls – with Rainbow Falls being first and most impressive. It’s a 3 mile hike to the falls and back but if you have the energy you can continue on to see Turtleback and Drift Falls which are just upstream. All the falls are actually located in the National Forest and not in the State Park. You can expect to see a lot of people on this trail especially on weekends and during the busy summer season. Give yourself extra time for the hike out – it’s a long one.

GPS Coordinates:

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