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Mingo Falls Cherokee NC

We visited Mingo Falls on October  15th, 2013 as part of our 2013 Fall Photo Excursion.   We had been to Cherokee NC many times, but had never taken the time to visit Mingo Falls.  To be really honest, we were surprised at how beautiful the falls and surrounding area were, and would definitely recommend taking a some extra time to visit the falls if you're in the Cherokee NC area.

 This tall view of the falls gives you some perspective on how tall Mingo Falls really is. This photo was taken from the bridge.

Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls is located in Big Cove Community of the Cherokee Indian Reservation (Qualla Boundary) in North Carolina.  Big Cove is just north of Cherokee, NC.

Mingo means "Big Bear" in the Cherokee language.  Mingo falls is a beautiful and one of the tallest waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains at 120 feet tall.

Mingo Falls, Cherokee

Mingo Falls Video

Here is a video did of one of our adventures to Mingo Falls, where you can see the full hike up, the falls, and the creek area surrounding the falls.

Hiking up to Mingo Falls

The trail head to Mingo falls is located right off of Big Cove Road and the hike to the falls is very short.  The only difficulty is the 150-160 stairs that must be climbed to get to falls.  

The stairs aren't steep, and there is ample room to stop and take a breather without blocking other visitors coming up or down.  The stairs aren't level though, which adds to the challenge a bit.  

We took a few short  breaks on the way up.  We made it to the top without too much difficulty, but were a bit winded at the top.

Mingo Falls Stairs

At the top is nice bench where you can catch your breath, and enjoy the view and sounds of the creek flowing from the base of the falls.  The entire area is heavily shaded, so nice and cool as well.  We would recommend making sure you have some water with you, as you will break a sweat on the way up.

Once you're at the top of the stairs, the trail to the falls is short, but a bit rocky.   The trail leads to a set of wooden stairs that take you to a bridge that gives you a wonderful view of the base of the falls.  Be prepared, there will generally be lots of people here, especially in the summer.

If you're a photographer, I would highly recommend arriving very early in the morning to get pictures.  This will keep you from having your tripod bumped and from having the motion of the bridge as people walk over it from blurring your time lapse waterfall photos.

Mingo Falls Cherokee

We stayed for about 15-20 minutes, taking lots of photos and just enjoying the wonderful sites and sounds of the falls.  Honestly, I could have stayed there all day, but we had other places we wanted to see and visit.

We headed back down the trail, taking a few photos of the creek before we arrived at the stairs.   Here's the good news, going down the stairs is far more easy than going up!   At the base of the stairs is a nice little waterfall, where I spent a few minutes taking some photos.   Here's one that I thought turned out really well.

Mingo Falls Bridge

We've been to and photographed a number of waterfalls in the area, and Mingo falls is definitely on our list of the most beautiful.  If you love waterfalls, you'll definitely want to put Mingo Falls on your list to visit and photograph!

Our Waterfall Guides

See our full guides to more than 40 waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on our Waterfalls Page.  Information, Directions, Photos, Video, and more!

Directions to Mingo Falls

From the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, drive south (toward Cherokee) on US-441 and take the second left onto Big Cove Road. At the first stop sign turn left and drive 4.5 miles to Mingo Falls Campground, where the trail begins.   You will see a small sign on your right at a bridge that says "Mingo Falls".  Make sure you obey the slow speed limit as you pass by the school area too.

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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