This Emerald Lagoon In North Carolina Looks Like A Fairy Tale, and You’ll Never Want To Leave

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We heard about a place called Midnight Hole in North Carolina that featured an emerald lagoon, one that would likely have mermaids, or so we hoped.

Are you looking for a romantic day trip for you and the apple of your eye? A new place to take the family for a nature-inspired adventure? Midnight Hole in the Big Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park might be just the place for your next outdoor family quest.

Midnight Hole Emerald Lagoon, Western North Carolina

Searching For Mermaids At Midnight Hole, An Emerald Lagoon in North Carolina

Pack a picnic lunch and head to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina for a hike to an unforgettable emerald lagoon called Midnight Hole. When the temperatures rise, our natural instinct is to seek ways to cool off. I can honestly say, I can’t think of a more natural way than a dip in this picturesque lagoon. Bring a hammock and just forget about the troubles from the week!

Tips for Getting to Midnight Hole Lagoon

Directions to Midnight Hole

You’ll want to allow approximately two hours of travel time to get there, depending on where in the Upstate you leave from. Enter “Big Creek Trail” into your GPS for directions.

GPS Coordinates for Midnight Hole Lagoon

A tip I learned on this trip – screenshot your directions, in case you lose your cellular signal. This is always a good idea when heading into the mountains because if you lose your signal, you might lose your way!

Once you arrive, the road in most places will be narrow and only allow one car to pass at a time. Please be aware of this, before you head in. A short distance into the park you will see a parking lot on the right side, continue past this and head forward over the bridge. The parking lot for the Big Creek trailhead dead ends, so you are just going to keep driving until you hit the parking lot. This hidden swimming hole is a favorite for locals, so try to arrive early.

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Parking at The Big Creek Trail Head

If you get there later in the morning, be prepared to park creatively because the parking area is limited. If you park on the side of the road, just make sure cars can pass by.

The parking lot has a restroom, which I highly recommend visiting before you hit the trail. This will be the last source of modern plumbing you’ll see for a while.

Midnight Hole Is a 3-mile hike (round-trip)

The trailhead is marked with a sign and Midnight Hole Lagoon is just a 1.5 mile hike up over flat terrain. The trail to midnight hole is rocky and doubles as a horse trail, so please watch where you step. Because this doubles as a horse trail, dogs are NOT permitted, although we did see dogs on our trip there.

Only you know your children well enough to know if they should make this hike. I personally plan on waiting a few years to attempt it with my younger children. The Big Creek side of the trail has steep inclines with dramatic drop-offs, and one misstep could be dangerous if a child is not paying attention (or anyone for that matter).

Just 1/2 a mile past Midnight Hole is Mouse Creek Falls, a less crowded and beautiful spot worth the hike.

Trail sign to Midnight Hole in Western North Carolina

There will be no path marker indicating you are at Midnight Hole. If you make this trip in the cooler months, I suggest using a pedometer to measure the distance.

Once you’ve arrived at the lagoon, you’ll have to climb down some rocks to the water. There are plenty of places to stow away your stuff. There are even places you can hang a hammock, for the ultimate relaxation experience.

We decided to cross the creek and sit on the rocks adjacent to the trail. I highly suggest some sort of hiking/water type shoe. The terrain is rocky and slippery, and when the water is rushing over your feet, it’s comforting to know that you’re not sticking bare feet in between rocks as you walk across.

New to Hiking?

Check out our beginner hiking tips before heading out.

Hiking near Greenville, SC

Swimming at Midnight Hole Lagoon

Once you’ve found a spot and settled in, relax. You can sunbathe, swim, people watch, or if you are very brave, you can climb up and jump off the rocks into the gorgeous emerald lagoon. I heard someone near me say, “The scariest part of jumping off is how far you go down once you hit the water. You just keep going!”

*Note: Natural swimming holes can present unique dangers. Please use caution, especially with children and review safety rules for swimming in natural swimming areas.

The water is pretty cold, so just jumping in is the best way to get over that. Once you get in though, it feels very refreshing.

Midnight Hole emerald lagoon in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hiking Trails to Explore: Mouse Creek Trail

If you continue up past the path into the lagoon just a ½ mile more, you’ll be able to access Mouse Creek. This spills into a pool that continues into Big Creek. Hiking past this ¼ mile more will bring you to a bridge that will allow you to access that swimming hole.

Something I noticed and appreciated was the respect visitors had for this beautiful spot. I didn’t see any trash or litter left lying around. Everyone adheres to the pack it in, pack it out rule. It would be a shame to see this beautiful spot ruined.

I hope you decide to make the trip up to North Carolina to visit this emerald-colored lagoon in North Carolina. The hike is well worth the reward, even for someone not accustomed to hiking. There are plenty of spots to sit down and take a break along the way, or even set up a small picnic area before or after your hike if you need to. Plus that gives you a chance to take in the beauty along the trail.

The beach at Chau Ram County Park

Looking for a sandy beach to play at after a mountain hike? We have a list of the best sandy beaches near Greenville, SC.

These natural swimming holes near Greenville, SC will have you splashing in the refreshing mountain water all day!

Lake Jocassee at Devils Fork State Park

About the Author
Melanie is a native New Yorker, who landed in the Upstate by way of Florida. She is the mom of two awesome kids, and the three of them love going on adventures!

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4 years ago

Good article on a new place to me! Thanks.

4 years ago

Fun blog! Were you there on a weekday or weekend? Thanks.

3 years ago

What “address’” am I putting in so I can see how far of a drive it is?