Drive to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, where you’ll want to stop at the Mountain Farm Museum. Nineteenth-century log buildings from other areas of the park populate the grounds and include a farmhouse, springhouse, barn, apple house, and still-operational blacksmith shop.
The trailhead begins at the upper end of the parking lot at the Mingus Mill, which is just a half-mile north of the visitor center. You also may want to stop here and see how early settler John Jacob Mingus developed the most technologically advanced mill in the area for its time, with a water-generated cast-iron turbine. The mill still grinds out cornmeal during the warmer months.
Start on the hike, and you will soon notice two points of interest. Just a few dozen yards past the gate is an old slave cemetery, and a sluice made from oak diverts creek water toward the mill around one-tenth of a mile. You’ll cross the creek several more times, on an old road bed, before coming to a large open space with some building foundations at around the first mile. This was once a camp for the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Once you cross another bridge, the trail narrows and climbs and passes remnants of farms. Around three-quarters of a mile, you’ll come to an intersection. Go to the right for about three-quarters of a mile and you’ll come to a family cemetery. But you’ll likely want to take the left fork and keep going on the Mingus Creek following Madcap Branch.
On this portion, the trail crosses the creek several times, with the first going over on a log. Obviously, be careful of your footing here, and use hiking sticks or even a study branch if necessary. This is the trickiest of the crossings, and the others should be easier to ford.