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Mingus Creek Trail

 3.8 (6)

A steady climb following a peaceful creek to stunning views atop Newton Bald.

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4,995' 1,523 m


2,085' 635 m


2,911' 887 m


0' 0 m



Avg Grade (5°)


Max Grade (17°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views


The Mingus Creek Trail begins at the gate along the upper end of the parking area adjacent to the mill. About fifty yards to the right of the gate is an old slave cemetery occupied by a few unmarked fieldstones. The trail leaves the gate on a wide easy track along the stream near where a 150-yard sluice of oak boards diverts water from Mingus Creek to a wooden mill.

Beyond the mill, the trail crosses Mingus Creek multiple times on wooden bridges before entering a large open space once occupied by a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Foundations remain of the officers’ quarters, the corpsmen’s barracks and mess hall, as well as various workshops, educational, and recreational buildings can still be recognized on the landscape.

Beyond the second bridge, the trail proceeds through cove-hardwood stands on an easy course along a wide jeep track a half-mile before crossing a third bridge over Mingus Creek. Above the bridge, the jeep track abruptly gives way to a narrower course that is steeper and more uneven.

From this juncture, the trail winds through former farmsteads, crosses a feeder stream on a footlog, and then enters an intersection. On the right, the wider track continues upstream along Mingus Creek, proceeding another three-quarters of a mile to a path that leads eighty yards to the Mingus Creek Cemetery. At the intersection, the Mingus Creek Trail bears left, diminishes to a narrow track, and begins following Madcap Branch. The grade becomes markedly steeper as the course begins negotiating several crossings of Madcap Branch. The first is a bit difficult, while the remaining crossings are much easier and are spaced at irregular intervals.

One mile above the junction, the Mingus Creek Trail executes a sharp switchback, the first of several that leverage the trail up the mountain and into a minor gap where it intersects the eastern terminus of the Deeplow Gap Trail.

At its intersection with the Deeplow Gap Trail, the Mingus Creek Trail turns right and follows the ridgeline to Newton Bald. Initially the grade is easy, but it soon enters into a steep steady climb that remains below the ridgeline. About a mile and three-quarters above the Deeplow Gap Trail junction, six switchbacks begin elevating the trail to the ridgeline.

Above the switchbacks, the trail enters the southern perimeter of Newton Bald and terminates into the Newton Bald Trail.

This content was contributed by author Ken Wise. For a comprehensive hiking guide to the Great Smoky Mountains and to see more by Ken, click here.

Flora & Fauna

At one point, a live American chestnut tree stands just off to the right of the trail. The tree is about forty feet high, eight inches in diameter, and is identifiable by its coarsely serrated oblong leaves and the spine-covered husks that hold the chestnuts. This chestnut is one of only a few mature trees of this species still living in the Smokies. Until their demise from a parasitic fungus early in the twentieth century, the chestnuts were one of the dominant tree species in the Smokies, occasionally comprising most of the forest cover on the drier hardwood slopes like those flanking the Mingus Creek Trail.


Shared By:

Ken Wise

Trail Ratings

  3.8 from 6 votes


in Oconaluftee


  3.8 from 6 votes
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in Oconaluftee


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11 Views Last Month
3,080 Since Jul 25, 2016



Mingus Mill
Jan 9, 2023 near Cherokee, NC
Mingus Creek runs alongside the trail, providing great opportunities to see small cascades as the creek makes its way down toward the Oconaluftee River.
Nov 25, 2017 near Cherokee, NC
Moss, lichen, mushrooms, and other plants that enjoy moist climates begin to appear alongside the trail.
Nov 25, 2017 near Cherokee, NC
As the trail drops from the ridgeline, small creeks and washes begin to appear. Rhododendron, ferns, and other plans that prefer damp climates begin to appear.
Nov 25, 2017 near Cherokee, NC
Rhododendron sit along the trail as it climbs higher.  The forest changes from a wet creek valley into a dry ridgeline the higher you climb.
Nov 25, 2017 near Cherokee, NC
The National Park Service has a firing range along the trail.  If they are practicing, the trail may be temporarily closed until they have completed training.
Nov 25, 2017 near Cherokee, NC



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Nov 2, 2018
Rob Stamper