Tom Branch Falls in March 2017
Just inside the boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Bryson City, North Carolina are three waterfalls that can be seen in a not-so-difficult hike. Tom Branch Falls, Juney Whank Falls, and Indian Creek Falls can be found by starting at the Deep Creek Trail head. I think the trail continues on, but you can see all three falls within a 2 mile or so hike.
Tom Branch Falls is the first waterfall you’ll encounter, and you don’t have to hike the whole 2 miles to see Tom Branch Falls. The hike to Tom Branch Falls is only about 1/4 of a mile one-way, and the elevation gain is minimal. I remember the trail being rather flat up until this point. It does then change more in elevation to see the other two falls. I think I showed up when there wasn’t as much water flowing over Tom Branch Falls, so the other two falls were more exciting, even though they required a longer hike to view.
- There isn’t one specific set of directions that will get you to the falls. It all depends on where you start. So head toward Bryson City, which is not far from US-19 or US-74.
- Route 1337 (W Deep Creek Road) is the most direct way to lead to the trail head. It is off of 1336 (Old River Road), which is on the north side of the Tuckasegee River.
- Drive 2.5 miles along Route 1337, W Deep Creek Road. Pass a number of other parking areas, and park in the Deep Creek Trail head parking area.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip
Where in the World is Tom Branch Falls?
I’ve had the chance to visit Mingo Falls twice, once in late April 2013 and then just a few weeks ago in early March 2017. I hadn’t looked at the two pictures side by until just recently, and realized Mingo Falls could present very different personalities depending on the time of year.
Let’s start by stating: Mingo Falls is a fun waterfall to visit. It’s right at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and is a few minutes drive from Cherokee (which is a town I could visit pretty frequently, especially in non-peak season). The first time I visited, I made sure to see Mingo Falls. The second visit, I had time to kill before the sunset, and figured I should go and see Mingo Falls again. I’m glad I did.
In late April, the leaves on the trees were emerging and so they covered up part of the falls. That wasn’t a problem in early March! What’s also striking is the amount of water flowing over the falls. After doing a bit of research, I found that this year (2017) has been a rather dry year in the Great Smoky Mountains region. Many of the falls were not as intense as I expected. As you can see, much more water was flowing in late April of 2013 than this year. (Usually, as the spring progresses toward summer, the opposite holds true.)
Late April 2013
Early March 2017
One issue with writing about waterfalls sometime after I visit them is I don’t always remember the fine details. When I arrived this year, I was surprised to find steps leading up most of the way to the falls. I don’t exactly remember that the last time, but it was four years ago…It is a short hike, but it is also consistently uphill. You’ll get a bit of exercise. I probably went a bit too fast on the way up, as I could feel the burn.
- You want to end up on Big Cove Road (Road 1410), and there are a few different ways to get there. If you’re on US-441 in Cherokee headed toward the Smoky Mountains Park entrance, you could turn right onto Acquoni Road, and then very soon after turn left onto Big Cove. (If you miss that, there’s another road that leads to Big Cove right after that.)
- Drive for approximately 3.5 miles on Big Cove Road.
- There should be a sign for Mingo Falls, turn right onto Sherrill Cove Road. Literally a few hundred feet after this turn is the parking area for Mingo Falls. (Some GPS systems might direct you to turn onto Sherrill Cove Road much earlier, but ignore this. Sherrill Cove Road is a very narrow, winding dirt road, whereas Big Cove Falls is a paved road.)
- It’s an uphill hike from the parking area.
Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate, this would be fine for kids, it’s just almost all uphill with stairs)
Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip
Where in the World is Mingo Falls?