Big Creek – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Big Creek NC

Big Creek, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a 40 minute drive from Maggie Valley, through the Pigeon River Gorge on Interstate 40.   Not only is it a short drive, but beautiful as well.  Big Creek has it all, creekside camping and picnic areas, hiking trails, waterfalls, access to the Appalachian Trail, horseback riding, fishing, and wildlife.

How to get to Big Creek from Maggie Valley

Your drive to Big Creek from Maggie Valley, will take you down through “J Creek” along Jonathan Creek Road to I-40.   You’ll take I-40 West which will take you through the very scenic and beautiful Pigeon River Gorge, that cuts it’s way through the Smoky Mountains that border North Carolina and Tennessee.

From I-40, you’ll take the Waterville exit, which will take you over and along the Pigeon River, which in the summer is a very popular whitewater rafting location.  You’ll also pass by the old power plant.

You’ll enter the Big Creek areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on a narrow dirt road, that will take you back into the dense forest for the National Park, past the Ranger Station, and finally into the Big Creek parking area.

Big Creek Parking Lot

Parking Lot – Camping area is in the rear.

Directions to Big Creek

From Maggie Valley, take Highway 19 (Soco Road) to Highway 276, and turn left heading towards I-40.  At I-40, take I-40 West towards Tennessee.  Take I-40 to exit 451 to Waterville.  Take a left, and go under I-40 and follow this short road to a stop sign, where you’ll see a bridge to the left.  Turn left and cross the bridge over the Pigeon River.  Continue down Waterville Road, past the Dam, and on up to the intersection of Mt. Sterling Road.  Enter the dirt road directly across from you, and follow it down to the Big Creek parking area.

After crossing the bridge over the Pigeon River, and right in the hard turn to the left is the Appalachian Trail, which crosses here at the bridge, and picks back up on the other side of I-40, near the exit.

Big Creek Picnic Area

From the Parking area, there is a path that leads you down to the creekside picnic area for Big Creek.  There are a number of picnic areas, with picnic tables and grills that also provide nice views of Big Creek, and creek access for kids and adults.

Big Creek Picnic Area

Big Creek Picnic Area

Also here is a beautiful large metal bridge that crosses over Big Creek, and not only provides access to the far side of Big Creek, but also serves as the trailhead for Baxter Creek Trail, which takes you on a very steep climb up to the top of Mount Sterling.

Restroom facilities and water are available near by at the parking area.

Camping at Big Creek

Big Creek provides two different kinds of camping:

  • Primitive Tent Camping
  • Horse Camping

Primitive Creekside tent camping is available in the tent area past the parking log.  The 12 sites are available on a first come first serve basis.  There are not electrical or water hookups, and RVs are not permited.  A group camping area is also available.

Big Creek Camping

Big Creek next to Campground

Cars are not allowed into the camping area, and campers must park in the parking area and walk to their campsites.

A horse camp area provides parking for horse trailers, and restroom facilities with water.   Horses can be ridden along Big Creek Trail.

Hiking at Big Creek

One of the most popular activities at Big Creek is hiking.  The Big Creek Area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides three different trails:

Chestnut Branch Trail – This 2.1 mile trail, provides access to the famous Appalachian Trail and Mount Cammerer.  This trail is a vey nice hike, and popular with Appalachian Trail section hikers.  It is directly next to the Ranger station.

Big Creek Trail

Hiking up Big Creek Trail to Midnight Hole

Big Creek Trail – The most popular trail in Big Creek, and for good reason.  This 5.8 mile in length trail, provides a gorgeous hike through the dense forest of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Along the way, you’ll see Midnight Hole, a very popular waterfall and summer swimming hole, and Mouse Creek Falls, a beautiful and tall waterfall that flows into Big Creek.

Midnight Hole is at the 1.4 miles, and Mouse Creek Falls is 2.1 miles from the trailhead.

Baxter Creek Trail – This is a very long trail, but most day hikers use this trail to hike up to Mount Sterling, which is a 12.2 mile strenuous hike.

Waterfalls in Big Creek NC

While Big Creek is full of small and medium sized waterfalls, there are two main waterfalls that are easily accessible to hikers along Big Creek Trail:

Midnight Hole – Midnight hole is a 12 foot tell waterfall, that squeezes Big Creek between two large boulders.  Water flows over the falls into a deep basin, that is dark, hence the name Midnight Hole.  The falls are a very popular swimming hole in the summer.

Midnight Hole Big Creek

Fall at Midnight Hole

Mouse Creek Falls – Just a little further up the trail is Mouse Creek Falls, a 45′ waterfall that plunges into Big Creek.  This is a really pretty waterfall, and worth the .5 mile extra hike.

Mouse Creek Falls

Spring at Mouse Creek Falls

>> Get more information on Big Creek, including details, photos, and it’s rich logging history in our Big Creek Guide, located on our parent site Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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