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?
I’m back in the North Carolina/South Carolina/Georgia/Tennessee vicinity, and there are so many waterfalls in the area. I wasn’t sure where to start today, but decided to head to Pearson’s Falls first, since it wasn’t an extremely long drive from the Greenville/Spartanburg area.
Pearson’s Falls is a very pretty waterfall. At 90′, it’s impressive, and the Tyron Garden Club has done a very good job of keeping up the trails and park. From the few falls I saw today, it seems as though the water flow is just a bit lower than normal. I’ll see if this continues to be a trend for other waterfalls in the region.
I’m going to comment on one interesting thing I experienced today at the falls…Who knows, someone who reads this might even be one of the people there. When I got to the falls, there were at least six different photographers with their tripods out taking pictures of the falls. I have never seen that many people, so it made me wonder whether there was some regular Sunday morning photography meeting! With that being said, it did create a bit of an odd situation. I really wasn’t sure where to sneak in and take pictures since I didn’t want to get in the way of anybody. A couple walking to the falls arrived after me, and turned around pretty quickly. I still was able to get some good shots, but probably didn’t hang around as long.
- There are a few different main roads that can lead to the falls, so I’ll describe the one I followed. From I-26 right near the NC/SC border, I was heading north and took exit 67 toward NC-108.
- Go through the roundabout and take the exit that heads west along NC-108, and then go through another roundabout to continue heading west. Continue along NC-108 W for a few miles.
- Veer right onto Harmon Field Road. After about 2000 ft, turn right onto US-176.
- After a few miles along US-176, turn left onto Pearson Falls Road. (While on US-176, you’ll also pass the trailhead for Melrose Falls, which I would have stopped at if I had know it existed!)
- Drive along Pearson Falls Road for about a mile to the park entrance. Check Pearson’s Falls website for the most current park hours. There is also an entrance fee, and the hike to the falls is pretty easy once you’ve parked.
Length of Hike: ~0.6 miles round-trip
Pearson’s Falls in March 2017
Where in the World is Pearson’s Falls?
Soco Falls in late April 2013
I didn’t have very high expectations for Soco Falls. I was using the book “North Carolina Waterfalls” by Kevin Adams to find waterfall candidates. In 2005, he did not have anything particularly good to say about the falls. It is different now! And I think it’s possible that his comments could have spurred the changes (or the changes were already in motion). Either way, it’s definitely a good thing!!!
The most difficult part is finding the falls. Even that has somewhat improved. There are now signs in both directions, approximately 0.5 miles before the falls. If headed west along US-19, though, it is extremely easy to miss the parking area, even after seeing the sign indicating the distance. There is now a sign at the parking area but it cannot be seen coming from that direction. The sign for the parking area CAN be seen if headed east (from Cherokee). It was difficult to turn around, but I did, and it was worth it.
The hike to the falls is simple. The trail starts at a split between two metal barriers. It heads downhill pretty quickly, but is very manageable. There are rocks strategically placed to help with footing. After a tenth of a mile or so (if that), you’ll reach the wood boardwalk, which leads to a great view of the falls. The trail to the base of the falls was blocked with yellow rope, so I didn’t proceed to the base of the falls. This is a very beautiful waterfall, and it just so happened to be raining today. The falls were impressive! (They also seem to be cleaner now.)
- The parking area for Soco Falls is found approximately 1.5 miles west from the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and US-19. As I said, if you are headed west, you will see a sign indicating 0.5 miles to Soco Falls (in blue), but then it is very easy to miss the parking area.
- If heading east from Cherokee along US-19, you will see both the first sign (0.5 miles ahead), and the blue sign at the parking area.
- From the parking area, head down the trail to the falls!
Height: 35′ (main drop)
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip
Where in the World is Soco Falls?
There aren’t very many waterfalls in Clay County, North Carolina, apparently due to the sandstone predominantly found in the area. After some searching, I found information about Leatherwood Falls (also sometimes called Fires Creek Falls). I decided to try and find it, and it was an interesting adventure.
First off, there aren’t many sites that discuss the drive to the falls. The drive to the falls is surprisingly easy, nearly all on paved roads. I say this after being on some waterfall hunts that are on rocky, unpaved national forest roads. Only a short stretch (maybe 1/10 of a mile) is actually on unpaved road. Other websites give numbers for the roads, but Google Maps and my Garmin GPS found that it was off of Fires Creek Wildlife Road. I easily found this road by having my GPS find the intersection of Fires Creek Road and Fires Creek Wildlife Road. (See the directions below for more info.)
After getting to the parking area for the falls, it became more interesting. I could see an impressive drop, but it was mostly hidden behind trees. Since the trees had all of their leaves, the view was greatly diminished. I’m guessing the easiest way to get to the drop I’m referring to would be to actually cross Fires Creek, but I wasn’t in any mood to do that. I started to wander around, and found the Leatherwood Loop. It does actually loop around, and it’s not a difficult hike, but it doesn’t lead to any truly spectacular views of the falls. At one point, you can take a left and get down to the river, where you’ll see the same view in the photo, but otherwise, it seemed far to slippery and dangerous to explore any further. (A crazy downpour/hailstorm had just occurred minutes earlier.) So, let me know if you decide to cross the river to get a better view….I have a feeling the best time to view the falls might be right before the leaves emerge on the trees.
- From US-64 heading west from Hayesville, turn right onto Fires Creek Road and drive.
- After about 3 miles, turn left onto Fires Creek Wildlife Road. There is a National Forest sign indicating a distance of 1.8 miles to a picnic area (and 6 miles further to some horse thing). Head 1.8 miles.
- Now, getting there is easier than it seems, but there are a few things that may confuse you. Right near the 1.8 mile mark is Leatherwood Road. Do NOT turn onto Leatherwood Road. Keep going. The road will go from paved to unpaved, and there will be a sign for FR-340. Follow this for a VERY SHORT distance to the parking area on your left. A picnic table can be found there, along with the Leatherwood Loop.
Accessibility: 7/10 for upper views (10/10 for a not so great view of the falls across the creek)
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip (though you can see part of the falls from the parking area)
Where in the World is Leatherwood Falls?: map
A portion of Leatherwood Falls in May 2012
Looking Glass Falls in March 2009
Looking Glass Falls just so happens to be one of my favorite waterfalls in North Carolina, though there are a number of other equally impressive falls in the state. Looking Glass Falls is found in Pisgah National Forest in the waterfall-infested Transylvania County. The first plus is that is very easy to visit, being found right off of US-276. The drive to the falls is amazingly beautiful, even in the time just before spring.
Once you get to the falls, you have two options. The first option is to view the falls without much effort. It is disability accessible when not going to the base. Even from this viewpoint, it’s impressive. If you have the option of heading down the base, you definitely should. From here, you can get some great shots of the falls. The rock hanging to the upper right of the falls is uniquely interesting, and the shadows that form on the falls make this a gem.
- From Brevard, drive north on US-276.
- After about 5.5 miles you’ll pass the pullout/parking for Looking Glass Falls.
- Pull off on the right, park, and head to the falls.
Length of Hike: negligible (essentially roadside)
Where in the World is Looking Glass Falls?
Should I suggest visiting Batson Creek and Connestee Creek Falls? I don’t know. On the one hand, the falls are right off of US-276 and it is very easy to get to the “viewpoint.” On the other hand, the view is rather disappointing. I get the sense that there may be a better viewpoint somewhere else, but I’m not totally sure.
The current viewpoint blocks off most of the view of Connestee Falls. Looking on the internet, I’ve seen pictures of the falls, but I’m not sure how they got to view them. It seemed pretty blocked off to me. If you look in the picture, you can see stairs that lead down next to Batson Creek Falls, but I think those are blocked from use as they look pretty slippery and just abruptly end! It seems that a boardwalk was built after I visited, but still doesn’t allow for great viewing. From what I understand, the best views are to be had for those that are in the housing development in the area.
- The park, if it is open, is found off US-276 south of Brevard, about 6 miles south of the city.
- If you are driving south, the falls are on your right side at the Top of the Falls Realty center (which may be named something else now.
Length of Hike: negligible
Batson Creek/Connestee Falls in March 2009
Where in the World are Batson Creek/Connestee Falls?
Of the three waterfalls you can most easily view in the Dupont State Forest in North Carolina, Hooker Falls is the easiest of those three to visit. High and Triple Falls both require hikes up a steeper hill, though they are still clearly marked. There are many other falls in the area, though the trails can become a little bit confusing.
Hooker Falls is also the smallest of the three falls, and many people may skip in favor of the other two more photogenic falls. I had a fun time, though, at Hooker Falls. The height of the waterfall is not that significant, but that apparently makes it a favorite of kayakers. When I visited in early March, there were two kayakers actually plunging over the falls. I was excited to use my newer camera to capture the image as they plunged over the falls. That’s the only waterfall that I’ve ever seen somebody kayak over, so it sticks with me.
- You’re going to want to get on US-64 heading south of Brevard. (Head north on US-64 if you’re coming from South Carolina.)
- Turn right on Crab Creek Rd. and head 4.3 miles to Dupont Rd.
- Turn right on Dupont Road, which is also called Station Road in places.
- Go for a ways until you cross the Little River. During busy times of the year, you’ll realize that right near the bridge is the parking area for the falls. You can also park on the side of the road.
- The short 0.25 mile (one-way) trail to Hooker Falls is clearly marked, and is found directly opposite the start of the trail leading to Triple/High Falls.
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip
Hooker Falls in March 2009
Where in the World is Hooker Falls?