Mingo Falls

Categories: Waterfalls, Hikes to waterfalls, Cherokee Indian Reservation


  • Gorgeous 175* foot falls (* listed up to 200 foot from other sources)
  • Well maintained path that is mostly a series of stairs
  • Footbridge that doubles as a viewing platform just below the falls
  • Great photo opportunity 
  • Family friendly- however, requires climbing 160 stairs to the top

The Local Scoop

Just outside of Downtown Cherokee, Mingo Falls is the closest set of falls for visitors to the area to see.  At somewhere between 120 ft - 200 ft in height, the falls are beautiful as they cascade down the moss covered rock face and into Mingo Creek below.  The access trail for the falls starts out in a gravel parking area and immediately heads up a set of well maintained stairs, 159 of them to be exact. Mingo Creek keeps you company as you make the climb and helps keep your mind free of the stairs ahead of you.  The last time I was there I passed a church group made up of mostly seniors, so this trail is very family friendly.  Benches to rest on await you at the top, then a short path leads you to a footbridge over the creek as a viewing platform.  For the best photo opportunity try to go in the morning before the sun has a chance to hit the whitewater.                                                                                                  

For the adventurous ONLY:  Something I read previous to my last visit made me curious as to what kind of exploration there is to do at Mingo Falls.  I only recommend this to experienced hikers, scramblers, climbers, etc.  You can access the top of Mingo Falls via a trail on the left hand side of where the falls bottom out into Mingo Creek.  You'll have to do some rock hopping to cross the creek.  Please be careful.  As you get up to the bottom of the falls (left side) you'll see a scramble trail heading up the embankment.  Follow this up to where you will pick up a more predominant trail with a few switchbacks and on up.  This area is VERY steep and if you fall here, you'll be in serious trouble.  There is a smaller set of falls (15-20ft) above the main falls.  As you venture up to the top just continue exploring along the creek to find them.                   


The Local Directions

From Downtown Cherokee take U.S. Hwy-441 North towards Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Once on 441 N you will continue through one stop Light (cherokee indian museum at the corner) passing multiple small businesses, gas statons, restaurants until you come to a second stop light.  Here, you will need to turn RIGHT over the Oconaluftee River. You will need to take your first LEFT onto "Big Cove Road" (look for a small sign on a power pole on right hand side of road pointing you in the direction of Big Cove).  Take Big Cove Rd for 5.2 miles and take a RIGHT over bridge and into parking area for the falls. You'll pass KOA campground along the way and as you get closer, a small sign for Mingo Falls as you approach the parking area.

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Difficulty Levels

  • Hike6What's this?
  • Waterfalls6What's this?
35.53204 , -83.27459
Hike Distance
0.3 mile
Moderate via Cherokee/
Big Cove Road 
Nearest City
Distance From
Cherokee, 5.2 miles