Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mingo Falls, Upper Mingo Falls & Juney Whank Falls Trip

It's Crimson Bee Balm season again!

Mingo Falls, Upper Mingo Falls & Juney Whank Falls Trip

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Saturday June 16, 2012
Pictures are here:

Videos are here:
Upper Mingo Falls

     Kenny & I had talked about how long it had been since we visited Mingo Falls and Upper Mingo Falls.  We decided to re-visit some of the nice areas and waterfalls of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park we had not been to in a long time.   Kenny did not get home from work until after ten o'clock p.m. on Friday night.  I had dinner ready which he ate wearily.   I sat and talked with him a little bit. We went to bed Friday night.  I was down hearted. I figured Saturday one of two things would happen 1. I'd be home 2.  I'd be out doing things alone again. Neither appealed to me.

    Saturday morning dawned. We slept in a little bit.  Kenny woke and was game to still go hiking.
We did not get the early start I'd liked to have gotten, but I was pleased to be going and to have my husband with me.   We tossed a few things in the jeep and off we went.   It was a pretty day to be out.  I had read the weather forecast which called for a "twenty percent chance of evening thunder storms."  I was unconcerned. Those were pretty good odds in my book.

      We made it over to Cherokee and decided to visit Mingo Falls first.  It is a huge waterfall towering 180 feet high.   It is a short walk up some steps to reach it so it is heavily visited.
Its usually best to get there very early to see this before the sun gets on it and before the tourons flood the area.  We'd had good luck the last time we were there and while there were lots of people everyone was considerate.  Today we had a gaggle of folks and a large portion of them were NOT considerate. They plowed and fell through the creek right in front of the falls making shooting video footage and taking photos a challenge to say the least.  I tried patience figuring eventually they'd tire and be done and get back out of the creek.  I could not outlast this bunch. Oh no. Not today.
Kenny finally said he felt it was time to give up and get going lest they learn of the trail to the upper falls or see us going and follow us.  He didn't have to tell me twice.

       We quickly hit the trail for the upper falls and motored up it fast as we could til we were decently out of sight.   We then stopped to notice how very overgrown the path has become. It has not been maintained in a long time. Evidenced by the large amounts of downfall over the trail and weeds and briers that have grown up in and around the path.  I remembered there being one hairy portion of the trail that I was not looking forward to, but it was not a real long section so I knew I'd be ok.   We had some nice views of the surrounding area at one point in our hike up.   It was hot on the sides of that mountain! It was steep going.  Lots of erosion and trails going off this way and that where folks had made short cuts over the years going around stuff that had fallen.  We followed some survey tape flagging and soon we knew we had to be close.  There was no more elevation to gain!  I knew something was not right.  The trail as it were just went a few feet more and stopped in the worst mess of downed trees and shrubby growth.   We had passed a side trail. Kenny said that Has to be it! We could hear the upper falls right below us so I agreed we'd have to try it.

     We started down this side path. The upper falls was visible below. We were coming out right at it.  It was a steep, slick descent over mud, over dry thick patches of fallen leaves, and loose slick dirt patches.   BIG steps down.   Not enough to hold onto.  One false move... and down you'd go to the bottom like a pig in barrell right to the bottom.  I protested more the whole time I was creeping down that dirt ditch that THIS IS NOT RIGHT!   Once at the bottom Kenny agreed something was off and he intended to figure what so we did not have to climb back up that.  I started taking photos while Kenny set off to see if he could figure what went wrong? He headed in the direction of the main falls and the drop.   I took some photos and video footage of Upper Falls. It was beautiful. No one here but us!  It was quiet, mossy and picturesque.  Worth the climb.  A few cascades above the main falls and one below.  Very attractive, but the cascades above were in dense rhododendron.    Soon Kenny came back saying he'd figured out where we went wrong.
He said I was correct that we had not done the hike this way before.  He found the right way so we could not have to climb back up the dirt ditch. I was glad of that, but going up would have been easier than coming down it!

        We a very short portion of the path at the top is level, shady and scenic. The rest goes out past the main 180 foot brink of the main falls.  It goes across a short rocky section that would be potentially deadly in rainy or icey weather.  There is a chain link fence at the bottom of this which is rolled up like an old sardine can.  Once past that it gets better. Not as steep, slick or treacherous, but rocky and overgrown still.  Hot and exposed out there on the slopes of the mountain.  I kept a sharp eye peeled for snakes which I was surprised not to see today.   We continued down and corrected our course and found where we went wrong. I feel someone made the new track because it avoids the rocky precipice near the rim. I can understand it, but it was no better to me.


Mingo Falls is 180 ft high

Upper Mingo Falls is about 25 ft high with cascades above and below it.

      We went by Bryson City to get some lunch and continue our day.  After a quick bite to eat we headed to the Deep Creek section of the Smokies.   We were going to hike to see Juney Whank Falls, Toms Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls.  These make up the classic "Three Waterfall Dayhike".    We found that trying to find a parking spot at Deep Creek on a Saturday in Summer is like pulling teeth.
Covered up with tubers and tourists!   We circled the wagons til we found a spot.
We began our hike and in minutes were standing at Juney Whank Falls. It was prettier than I remembered!  Lots of water coming over the falls. A few hikers today, but not too many.  I was enjoying taking photos and video footage.
Kenny sat down to rest and the sleepies caught up with him.  He said we needed not to tarry since he was becoming very tired.  So we wrapped it up and headed down.  We hadn't taken two steps when we realized rain drops were falling.
It rapidly progressed from a few drops to an all out downpour!  It was fun since it had been a long time since I was caught out in a warm Summer rain storm with my love.  I couldn't help laughing at some of the people carrying on crying that it was raining! Throwing dirt in the air and bemoaning the rain when they were already wet from having been in the river!   We had to head home and I ended up driving most of the way.  Kenny played out.  He was far too sleepy to put up with anymore.   At least I got out with him some today.

Stopped by Mingus Mill on the way home.

Juney Whank Falls at Deep Creek

His mistake was sitting down! Zzzzzzz~~~


  1. Absolutely gorgeous falls! Poor Kenny; hope he got rested up! I had to go view the videos just to see all that lovely water flowing! I'm so longing to be in TN right now.1

  2. We have seen all of these that you talk about --except Upper Mingo... Beautiful falls... Maybe someday we will try it --but your description of the trail(s) sound scary...

    As much as I love the Smokies, we opt to stay away in the summer due to the people..

    Thanks for taking us on your hike with you...

  3. Absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for sharing these falls.

  4. Thanks ladies. It was a nice day outing. I am a softy and I love Kenny so much I just would not have had the heart to push him to go if he'd been too tired. I want to get back over there with the family including our grandson to go tubing at Deep Creek, hike to the three waterfalls and tool around Bryson City. They've made so many improvements to the downtown! It looks like a wonderful place to shop and eat out! I love that area. I have an Uncle who was born and raised in Bryson City and I just love him! He grew up going to these places and thought nothing special of it!

  5. Dana...Your photos of Mingo Falls are so beautiful. I'm glad to hear we were not the only ones who had trouble finding the upper falls. We were there years ago, maybe 12 or so, went back 2 years ago and absolutely couldn't find them. The first time we didn't even know there was an upper falls. Just decided to see where the side trail went. I remember that rocky section from the first time but we couldn't even find that the last time. I was pretty frustrated:(
    I enjoyed the upper ones so much more because we had them all to ourselves.

    1. Glad you finally found them! Yes, they are more enjoyable from the solitude and scenery stand point. Reading your words here makes me wonder....Did you go down that dirt ditch?! :-D

      Thanks for the compliments on the photos.

    2. A little before you get to Mingo Falls ,a little side trail went off to the left, up a pretty steep bank. It might have been kind of a ditch???
      The first time we went if I remember right, the trail was easy to follow. We sat on top of Mingo Falls on some rocks and just happened to notice a trail going on back into the woods. We decided to see what else we could find and shortly found the upper falls not having any idea they were there.
      The last time it seemed we climbed a lot higher than the first time but couldn't find that steep rocky section right on top of Mingo Falls. Nothing looked like what we remembered from years ago. After "kinda sorta" getting a teeny bit lost on a hike one time:( we don't stray to far off the trail so we gave up and turned around.

    3. Pearl, I can tell you from your description where you went wrong. Same place we did! Instead of going on the regular trail.. the one you did the 1st time.. sounds like you went too high onto the mountain. Passed up the upper falls. The steep rocky section is right out on the rim. If you were standing facing Mingo Falls.. the main drop. it would be to the left of it and out near the edge. There is an old delapidated fence there along that edge. Starting up the path that begins at the top of the steps and to the left.. you go up and instead of continuing to switchback to the left... (marked with survey tape) you bear to the right. Head toward the rim area of the main falls. Both will get you there, but the one to the right is the correct one.
      Somebody just didn't want to cross that rocky edge and made their own path that avoids it!

  6. Thanks Dana, We will have to try again. Did we have the right path though or is there another one? I only remember one path. We did think we went too high and your description of the top of the falls is how I remember it. That's where we were the first time.
    I'll make a note of this and maybe we will find it the next time. Thanks so much!! I thought I was losing it because it was so easy the other time!!


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