Mouse Creek Falls, Big Creek Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Mouse Creek Falls - 3.8 miles
Big Creek Campground
|Round-Trip Length:||3.8 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,797' - 2,328' (2,348' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+531' net elevation gain (+578' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Mouse Creek Falls is accessed from the Big Creek Campground in the northeast corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Big Creek Trail follows an old rail grade along Big Creek for 1.9 miles to its confluence with Mouse Creek and the 45' fall. Visitors will enjoy excellent fishing, a stop at Midnight Hole Falls, and a lively stream setting on the hike to Mouse Creek Falls:
This now healthy forest boasts a luxuriant understory of rosebay rhododendron, dogwood and magnolia that yield colorful spring blooms.
The trail runs high over Big Creek until merging beside it at 1.0 mile (2,055'), where you'll have access to several cascades and wide, slow moving sections ideal for angling.
The trail reaches unmarked Midnight Hole Falls at 1.4 miles (2,149') , a 6' fall that slows into a notably large pool ideal for swimming and wading.
The trail continues up to a hitchrack and unmarked spur on the left that leads to a viewing area for Mouse Creek Falls (1.9 miles : 2,328'). Mouse Creek Falls is located on the far side of Big Creek, with three tiers tumbling 45' down a mossy rock chute.
It's possible to cross Big Creek for a closer look, but inadvisable during peak flow. Those with time should consider continuing past the falls and crowds to explore more of Big Creek.
Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View Interactive Google Map
- N35 45.113 W83 06.615 — 0.0 miles : Big Creek Campground Trailhead
- N35 44.850 W83 07.040 — .5 miles : Gentle climb on wide gravel path
- N35 44.500 W83 07.392 — 1.0 miles : Level grade beside Big Creek
- N35 44.304 W83 07.640 — 1.4 miles : Midnight Hole Falls
- N35 44.117 W83 08.027 — 1.9 miles : Mouse Creek Falls
- River Otter have been seen along lower sections of Big Creek.
- April-May visitors will enjoy brilliant blooms in the understory along Big Creek, with peak autumn colors lasting through late October at these lower elevations.
- Mild grades on a packed gravel path make the hike to Mouse Creek Falls ideal for families and trail runners.
Camping and Backpacking Information
The Big Creek Campground is a tent-only campground. There are no designated backcountry campsites leading to Mouse Creek Falls, or past them on the Big Creek Trail. Sites #37 and #36 are located approximately 5.9 miles and 6.3 miles from the trailhead on the Camel Gap Trail, respectively.
BACKPACKING IN THE SMOKIES
Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping in the park. Before planning your backcountry trip, please read through this important information about reservations and permits, regulations, bear safety, trail closures, and more.
Reserve your Backcountry or Thru Hike permits here: https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/
Please direct questions concerning backpacking trip planning to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. Phone calls are the preferred method of contact. The information office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.
Backpackers and hikers are subject to all Backcountry Rules and Regulations. Failure to abide by park regulations may subject you to a fine under Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations. Maximum fine for each violation is $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.
General Backcountry Regulations
1. Camping is permitted only at designated backcountry campsites and shelters.
2. You may not stay at any backcountry campsite for more than 3 consecutive nights. You may not stay consecutive nights at campsite 113 or at any shelter.
3. Maximum party size is 8. Two parties affiliated with the same group may not stay in the same campsite or at the same shelter on the same night(s). Special permits may be issued for a few sites that accommodate parties of up to 12.
4. Fires are only allowed at designated campsites and shelters and must be contained in a fire ring. Constructing new fire rings is prohibited. You may only burn wood that is dead and already on the ground. You may not cut any standing wood.
5. It is illegal to possess firewood originating from a location from which a federal or state firewood quarantine is in effect. Read information about this quarantine and the states affected.
6. Building a fire in the fireplace of any historic structure or removing any parts of a historic structure, including brick or rock, is illegal.
7. Backcountry permit holders may not use tents at shelters.
8. Hammocks may only be used within designated backcountry campsites. They may not be used inside shelters and may not be attached to shelters in any way.
9. All odorous items (e.g., food, trash, lip balm, toothpaste, stock feed, hay etc) must be hung on the bear cable system at each campsite or shelter.
10. Human waste must be disposed of at least 100 feet from any campsite, shelter, water source or trail and must be buried in a hole at least 6 inches deep.
11. All food, trash, clothing, equipment or personal items must be packed out.
12. Burning food, trash or anything other than dead wood is prohibited.
13. Carving into or defacing trees, signs, shelters or other backcountry features is illegal.
14. Soap, even biodegradable soap, may not be used in any water sources. Bathing and washing dishes should be done well away from water sources and campsites.
15. No dogs or other pets are allowed on any park trails except the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. No dogs or other pets may be carried into the backcountry.
16. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the backcountry.
17. No hunting is allowed anywhere in the park
18. Feeding, touching or teasing wildlife is prohibited. You may not willfully approach within 50 yards (150 feet) of elk or bears.
- Fishing is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.
- The park allows fishing in all streams except Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek, and Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong.
- A valid fishing license from Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns or online.
- Daily Possession Limits: Five (5) brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of these, each day or in possession, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total must not exceed five fish. Twenty (20) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit. A person must stop fishing immediately after obtaining the limit.
- Size Limits: Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum. Smallmouth bass: 7 inch minimum. Rockbass: no minimum. Trout or smallmouth bass caught less than the legal length shall be immediately returned to the water from which it was taken.
- Lures, Bait, and Equipment: Fishing is permitted only by the use of one hand-held rod. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used. Dropper flies may be used, with up to two flies on a leader.
Rules and Regulations
- There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.
- Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.
Directions to Trailhead
Big Creek Campground and Mouse Creek Falls are located in the northeast corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The campground and trailhead are located 30.8 miles from Light #3 in Gatlinburg, TN, or 2 miles from Exit #451 on I-40.
From Light #3 in Gatlinburg, take Highway 321-73 North 17.8 miles to the turn for Cosby Camp - Highway 32. Turn right on Highway 32 toward Cosby Camp. Note HWY 32 soon becomes narrow with many sharp turns.
Highway 32 becomes a graded gravel road at 28.8 miles. Turn right on the well-marked sign for Big Creek Campground at 29.8 miles. Continue past the Ranger Station to the cul-de-sac parking lot for Big Creek Campground and the Big Creek Trail.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Visitor Information - Recorded Message
Backcountry Office - Camping and Reservations
The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8 am - 6 pm daily (EST)
Backcountry Information Office - Trip Planning Questions
The information office is open daily 9 am - 12n (EST)
Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)
Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)