The trail down to Rainbow Lake is easy enough for almost any hiker, with a short but more challenging loop around the lake and many options for longer routes.
What Makes It Great
Rainbow Lake was built in 1916 as part of the Signal Mountain Hotel (now Alexian Village) and since that time has remained one of Signal Mountain's most popular outdoor destinations. From the parking lot on Ohio Avenue, you'll walk alongside the golf course, then past an old spring house. Around the half mile mark you'll come to a junction and must choose between a left turn to descend immediately to Rainbow Lake, or going straight to circle the lake on a 2.3 mile loop that is rocky and challenging. Whichever you choose, you'll eventually find yourself at Middle Creek. Upstream is the 1916 dam, the water usually cascading over its top. Nearby, through a pretty grove of hemlocks and laurel, is a 100 foot long suspension bridge over the creek, part of the Cumberland Trail.If you're feeling more ambitious, options abound. You could follow the Cumberland Trail on the south (trailhead) side of Middle Creek 1.4 miles to Signal Point, a rocky trail with spectacular overlooks and a steep climb at the end, then walk the half mile of road from Signal Point back to your car. From the far side of the bridge, you could follow the Cumberland Trail the other direction towards Edwards Point, or even make a loop that includes Edwards Point. The choices are limited only by your time and energy.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers and families who enjoy a variety of trail, from easy gravel paths to rocky, ankle-turning paths on the optional loops. Kids always seem to love going down to Middle Creek at the suspension bridge.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The Rainbow Lake Trailhead is on Ohio Avenue on the edge of the golf course near Alexian Village. The easiest way to find the trailhead is to follow the signs toward Signal Point, but continue past Alexian Village until you see the trailhead on your left.