Mingo Falls, called Big Bear Falls in the Cherokee language, cascades 200 feet nearly down granite boulders. It's located just five miles from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Big Cove Road (past several big campgrounds). The beautiful 1/4-mile hike to the falls along the rushing stream is short, but you must climb 161 steps. At the top of the stairway, a short path past impressive rock outcroppings leads to a viewing bridge at the base of the falls. The waterfall is especially impressive after some big rains.
Cherokee people who live on the Qualla Boundary enjoy this waterfall as one of the beautiful places to visit on tribal land. Early morning is our favorite time to visit. Morning fog adds to the magical feeling. Plus, you can enjoy the falls before other people arrive. It is free to visit and open every day. Directional signs are limited, so take note of directions below!
Directions: From U.S. 441 in downtown Cherokee, turn onto Acquoni Road, which runs beside the Oconaluftee River. Proceed to Saunooke Village shopping center, then turn right onto Big Cove Road. About five miles from downtown Cherokee on this two-lane paved road, signs appear for Mingo Falls Campground. The waterfall is adjacent to the campground. Parking for the waterfall accommodates a half-dozen cars or more in the unmarked lot.