Mingo Falls Text
On the Cherokee side of the Smoky Mountains National Park, at the Qualla Boundary of the Cherokee Indian Reservation, is a favorite water attraction for many known as Mingo Falls. Mingo Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the Southern Appalachians and owes its popularity due to the fact that the hiking distance to get to it is slightly less than half a mile (though still considered having some moderate difficulty to it). Mingo Falls is accessible from the Pigeon Creek Trail that starts at the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center just before you get to Cherokee and we recommend the destination to anyone going towards Cherokee, NC. as part of their Smoky Mountain getaway.
“Reached via Big Cove Road on the Qualla Boundary of the Cherokee Reservation, the trailhead for Mingo Falls lies but a stone’s throw from Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Oconaluftee Visitor Center, the park’s main south entrance. You’ll be taking the Pigeon Creek Trail to reach the waterfall, and the first leg is an invigorating climb up some 160 stairs. Once you’ve ascended those, though, the grade slackens and it’s a quick walk to the wooden bridge at the base of Mingo Falls. “Mingo” means “big bear” in the Cherokee language, and in fact you’ll also sometimes hear this cataract referred to as Big Bear Falls. No matter what you call it, Mingo Creek’s horsetail plunge down the long rocky slide is glorious to behold. The bridge across Mingo Creek gives you front-row seats.
Although the trail to Mingo Falls is sometimes remarkably quiet for such a scenic payoff, this is definitely a popular trail among locals and vacationers alike. Consider visiting early in the day to avoid crowds, but keep in mind that, depending on the season, the morning sun may hamper your view a bit. Keep an eye out for elk on your drive to the Pigeon Creek Trail trailhead. These oversized deer, also called wapiti, were reintroduced to Great Smoky Mountains National Park—native range for them—back in 2001. It’s not uncommon to see them grazing around the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.”
Mingo Falls is a great idea for any time of the year (though, obviously, the warmer months may be a better time than the colder) and you get to see a wondrous natural attraction and get some good exercise in at the same time. And it’s free. Why aren’t you already on your way?
See more on Mingo Falls at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/mingo-falls.htm and https://smokymountains.com/park/hikes/mingo-falls/.