5-9-09 - Mingo Falls is located in the Qualla Indian Reservation in Cherokee, NC. There are several ways to get there - here's the way I go from west Asheville when I know this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is open. Take I-40 west and get off at the Hwys 19, 23, 74 exit. I believe it's exit #27. Follow this south and take the 19 south exit towards Maggie Valley. Follow 19 south to the Blue Ridge Parkway and head south on the Parkway. The Parkway ends in about 15 miles near Cherokee at Hwy 441. Turn left off of the Parkway. You used to be able to drive about 1/2 mile and turn left on a road that then connects to Big Cove Rd. On my last visit, this road was closed, so continue a short distance to the first stop light and turn left. Go a very short distance and turn left on Big Cove Rd - try not to run over any of the tourists. Follow Big Cove Rd for 4.5 - 5 miles, passing the KOA Campground on the right. Start looking for a small sign saying 'Mingo Falls Next Right" and take that road - Mingo Falls Bridge Rd - over the bridge to the parking area at the trail head. If the Parkway is closed, you can continue into Cherokee on Hwy 19 and look for a right turn on to Hwy 441 and get to Big Cove Rd that way.
The trail to the falls is only 1/4 mile, but heads up about 150 stairs, levels off and ends at a small wooden bridge that crosses Mingo Creek in front of the falls. I've seen estimates from 120' to 200' for the height of this beauty - take your pick. You really need to visit the waterfall after some heavy rains. The above picture was from my most recent trip after several days of decent rain. But, I've also found it in this condition - and this wasn't during a particularly dry period. So I'm not really sure what normal flow for this waterfall is.
For photography, go early to avoid people and to get there before the sun gets on the falls. The viewing platform is a railed bridge across the creek in front of the waterfall. It's very safe, but it will shake a tripod when people walk on it. There is a smaller 15-20' falls above the main waterfall, it's steep and you need to be part mountain goat to get up safely. This picture is from my 1st visit to Mingo Falls - I haven't climbed up there since.
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