Date: April 27, 2016
Miles: 5.7 miles Elevation Gain: 2,920↑ Elev./Mi: 512 Grade: 10%
Difficulty: Class 4 Hiking Time: 2:18 Pace: 2.73 mph Avg. Temp.: 63
The trailhead for Mingus Creek Trail is the parking area for Mingus Mill on Newfound Gap Road near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the Cherokee entrance to the Park. The trail follows along Mingus Creek and then Madcap Branch for the first 2.5 miles providing ample water although the second half of the trail is fairly dry. The nearest campsite is Campsite #52 on Newton Bald Trail just 0.3 miles past the intersection. Mingus Creek is also part of the Mountain-To=Sea Trail in North Carolina that runs 1,150 miles form Jockey’s Ridge on the Coast to Clingmans Dome. The other main feature of the trail is the Mill which is at the trailhead. Mingus Mill boasts a turbine mill which represents fairly advanced technology for the time it was employed in commerce.
Leaving the parking area, the trail is a gravel road following Mingus Creek. The trail crosses Mingus Creek on bridges four times in the first mile starting at 0.2 miles. AT 0.4 miles, just past the second bridge crossing is a firing range on the right used by the Park Service. The trail climbs gently through this section. The service road ends about a mile in and becomes a jeep track. At 1.2 miles is the access road to the Mingus Creek Cemetery. The road forks as does the stream at about 1.4 miles. Mingus Creek Trail crosses and then follows Madcap Branch and narrows to single track climbing more steeply. AT 2.2 miles there is is the first of several switchbacks negotiating the ascent up to the intersection with Deeplow Gap Trail at 2.9 miles. The trail levels off for a few hundred yards before resuming it arduous climb along the ridge toward Newton Bald. At 4.7 miles is the first of 6 switchbacks over the next half mile. A half mile or so past these switchbacks, or just a few hundred yards from the end of the section, the old guidebooks mention the existence of an ancient American Chestnut Tree that somehow has survived the blight that killed off this beautiful race of tree people nearly a hundred years ago.
The trail terminates at the intersection with Newton Bald Trail on Newton Bald. The bald has long since overgrown with mixed hardwoods.