The Waterfalls of Cherokee, North Carolina7.28.2016
There is nothing more magical than the sights and sounds of waterfalls. Cherokee is home to two of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina. Both of these falls are just a short drive from the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Make a visit to these amazing waterfalls part of a fun filled vacation in Cherokee!
Rising to over 120 feet, Mingo Falls, pictured above, is located on the Qualla Boundary, the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is one of the tallest waterfalls in the southern Appalachians. The sight and sound of water crashing on the mossy rocks and then running in the creek below is very soothing. A cooling mist fills the air around the falls.
This cascade is the perfect destination for anyone who wants to see a waterfall, but cannot hike for long distances. To get to Mingo Falls from the Saunooke Village shopping area in downtown Cherokee, drive north on Big Cove Road until you reach the Mingo Falls parking lot (it is about five miles away). The hike from the parking area to the falls viewing platform is less than half a mile.
As hiking trails go, Mingo Falls Trail is a short walk but the climb to the falls is steep–it includes 161 steps! Despite the stairs, the hike to Mingo Falls is moderately easy. Please be aware though, that elders, families carrying small children, or people with physical challenges may find the climb more difficult. The steps were built with a handrail and there is a bench at the top for those who need to take a rest. The reward of seeing Mingo Falls with your own eyes is well worth the effort. Once you’ve caught your breath at the top of the stairs, take a short path that leads to a bridge that crosses directly in front of the falls.
Enjoy the view from the bridge for as long as you’d like to stay. Bring your favorite camera because you’ll likely want to take a lot of photos. If you are planning a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, make sure to add stops to Cherokee and Mingo Falls on your itinerary.
Have you ever seen twin waterfalls before? If that sounds like fun, make sure to visit Soco Falls, a breathtaking double waterfall located in Cherokee. This cascade is a more off the beaten path than Mingo Falls. Be on the lookout for a small sign that marks the waterfall, as you drive towards Maggie Valley from Cherokee on US 19.
The parking area for Soco Falls is a gravel pull off on the side of US 19. You will be able to hear the sound of the waterfall from the road. There will be a break in the guard rail right at the spot where the trail to the falls begins. Follow the trail to the Soco Falls observation deck which offers incredible views.
There is a very steep pathway that goes down to the falls, but beware. Hiking closer to Soco Falls is not recommended as the pathways can be muddy, rocky, and dangerous.
Photo courtesy of Scott Ramsey Photography
Photo courtesy James Daniels of JD Photography
After Seeing the Falls, Enjoy Other Outdoor Adventures In and Around Cherokee, NC
Western North Carolina is a beautiful place and The Qualla Boundary, which is sometimes called The Eastern Cherokee Indian Reservation, is rich in natural wonders. After your visits to Soco and Mingo Falls, make sure to visit the Oconaluftee River that flows right through the heart of downtown Cherokee, NC.
If you want to go chasing other waterfalls while you are in the area, Downtown Cherokee is only about a 20 minute drive to another popular waterfall–Juney Whank Falls, which is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls are other waterfalls located in that area of the park.