From where US 19 runs under the Blue Ridge Parkway at Soco Gap, drive north on US 19 toward Cherokee. A pullout is on the left 1.5 miles from the parkway. Park here.
If you haven’t driven this road in a while, you’ll be surprised. As with the section of US 19 south of the parkway, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has done extensive roadwork here, making massive cuts and fills in order to straighten a few curves. It’s a shame that department officials and officials from Qualla Boundary saw the need for this project, feeling the “dangerous mountain road” was unsuitable for motor homes carrying fat-walleted tourists looking to lose their money at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. Never mind that straight, flat, four-lane roads lead to both Maggie Valley and Cherokee. There was still a stretch of curvy highway left in the mountains, and the officials felt that needed to be fixed. Rumor has it that the Blue Ridge Parkway would be next on the department’s agenda, if it had jurisdiction.
An obvious path leads to a viewing deck that provides a good view of the falls. A scramble path goes down from the deck to the base of the falls. The path is steep and washed away in places.
For those who haven’t visited Soco Falls in a while, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that now a good trail leads down to a viewing deck, so you no longer have to scramble through the garbage dump. The bad news is that if you want to view the falls from the base, you’ll still have to make a difficult scramble from the viewing deck. You’ll still see some garbage, but fortunately most of it has been cleaned up.
I’ve read that the creek on the left (if looking upstream) is Soco Creek and the one on the right is the tributary, but I can’t verify it. It seems it ought to be the other way around, since the right-hand creek is the larger of the two and flows down from near Soco Gap.
I also haven’t been able to determine conclusively the origin of the name Soco. It may be an anglicized version of Sagwa’hi, the Cherokee name for the creek. Legend says the Cherokees threw one of Hernando De Soto’s men over the falls, supposedly shouting “Soco!” as they did so. As is the case with several other legends involving Native Americans and North Carolina waterfalls, this one likely has little basis in fact.