In the heart of the Appalachian wilderness, where the mists of time curl around ancient trees and the whispers of bygone eras linger, a hidden world beckons history buffs and nature enthusiasts. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its breathtaking landscapes and diverse ecosystems, but beyond its lush forests and rushing waterfalls lies a secret: a realm of forgotten souls and hidden stories where nature and history intertwine in a tapestry of mystery and intrigue. These are the lost cemeteries of the Smokies.

Cemetery Angel

One of the most captivating aspects of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the opportunity it provides to take a step back in time. The park, which straddles the ancient homeland of the Cherokee people, boasts a rich cultural history that includes the lives of early European settlers and loggers. These early inhabitants of the Smokies left traces of their presence in cemeteries, sometimes simple family plots, hidden amidst the forests. To explore these hidden gems, one must don their hiking boots and venture off the well-trodden paths into the deep woods.

Grave markers were often simple field stones, with a larger one at the head and a smaller one at the foot of the burial plot. Engraved markers became commonplace later in the region’s history, during the 19th century. It wasn’t uncommon for people to make their own preparations for when they died, such as making their own coffins, stones, and clothing.

Mingus Slave Cemetery

A lot of the headstones of graves are unmarked in the national park. Some of these unmarked graves may have had inscriptions at one point, but the sandstone from which these markers were made was fragile, and the inscriptions faded after time. Most families back in the time, before the National Park was created, wrote names and locations of the family members buried in the family bibles. When the government uprooted those families from the different communities and towns within what is now the park boundaries, those bibles, stories, and knowledge of who was buried where went with them. We may never know the stories of those unmarked graves, who is buried there, or what their life was like.

Bryson City has compiled a list of some of the forgotten cemeteries on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and hopes to tell the untold stories of those who rest there. There are many other cemeteries located throughout other areas of the Park, and not covered here, including Cades Cove. They serve as a reminder that even in the most picture-perfect landscapes, there is always a hidden past waiting to be discovered!

Bradley Cemetery

Bradley Cemetery

The Cemetery was for the Smokemont community, which was first named Bradleytown which the Bradley cemetery was named for. They changed the name to Smokemont in the 1900s after Champion Fibre Company built a sawmill. After that, Smokemont was turned into a thriving logging community by 1920. In the 1930’s, the land was sold to the government when the National Park was being created.

To get there: Take U.S. 441 N from Cherokee and proceed past the National Park’s office. At the entrance to the Smokemont Campground, the road forks. On the left fork is a sign “Do Not Enter.” To the left of the sign, there is an old cement bridge with a gate across it. Cross this bridge, and you will go up the road about a ½ mile. When the road divides, take the right fork, and you will come to an old house on the left. Just past the house is a trail to the right. The cemetery is just up this trail – 18 graves. 

Carver Family Cemetery

Carver Family Cemetery

This cemetery is home to Aden Carvers family along with some Gibson family. Aden Carver was one of six millers for Mingus Mill. Aden was a skilled stone cutter who crafted the mill's corn stones from flint granite near his home; after that, he was a miller for over 40 years. His grave is unique because it had a handprint at the bottom; the story is when a handprint on the gravestone pointed up, it meant a soul had risen and gone to heaven. The handprint was of his granddaughter, Janice Carver, and Aden traced and carved into his stone.

To get there: Take U.S 441N from Cherokee to the National Park. Continue to Smokemont Campground. Go to the upper end of Smokemont campground to an iron gate, go through the gate, and up Bradly Fork Trail for ½ mile to the black water treatment house. Turn right, and go 50 ft to a trail. Continue up the trail (Do not turn left at the first fork) about 200 yards to the cemetery. This cemetery is past the Aden Carver home place, and you may need a park ranger or historian to visit, so please check with park rangers first. – 39 graves, 14 of which are marked or have a name.

Conner Cemetery

Conner Cemetery

This cemetery was first used in 1919. A four-foot-high woven wire fence encloses four graves inside the wall.

To get there: Take U.S 441N from Cherokee, going north on 441, 1.20 Miles past Mingus Mill is a trail on the left of the highway. The cemetery is about 671 feet up, and this trail is the cemetery.  – 16 graves.

2nd Conner Cemetery

Conner Cemetery 2

This cemetery is also known as W.H. Conner Cemetery or Dock Cemetery. Some of the McMahan family is also buried here. W.H. Conner was a well-known Baptist Minister around the Cherokee and Tennessee area; he baptized over 1,000 people in the area, and his wife helped in the Church.  W.H. Conner and his wife Rachel were the parents of Dock Conner, who was also well known in the area for driving cattle through the mountains. Interestingly enough, Dock’s first name was Doctor. 

To get there: Take US 441N from Cherokee. Continue past the park entrance. Go 5/10 of a mile past the Collins Creek Picnic Area (a little past the sign stating a 35 MPH Curve ahead). There is a wide berm on the right side of the Highway that you can easily pull in. Walk towards the sign a few feet until you see two rocks starting at the path's beginning. You can see the footlog handrail from the road.  Take the trail that crosses the creek on the footlog. The cemetery is about 300 feet to the right at the trail's end. – 5 graves.

Enloe Cemetery or Mingus-Enloe Cemetery

Mingus Enloe Cemetery

This cemetery was first used in 1841. There were memorial markers for Abraham Enloe, an Oconaluftee pioneer. Abraham and his family first moved here from South Carolina in roughly 1810.

To get there: Take US 441N from Cherokee to the Oconaluftee Visitors Center. The cemetery is on the left side of the road across from the Visitor Center bus parking lot. There should be a small path leading into the woods. Three hundred fourteen feet up that path will bring up to a small plateau; depending on the time of year, the cemetery may be overgrown.  – 36 graves.

Floyd Cemetery

Floyd Cemetery

This cemetery is also known as the Floyd – Enloe Cemetery. Mingus, Floyd, and Enloe were the first families of the first settlers in the area. They were also some of the region's most prominent and affluent families. The surrounding land, including the Visitors Center, the Cherokee High School, and the confluence of the Oconaluftee River and Raven Fork, were once known as the Enloe–Floyd Bottoms because they owned that land. That is why the Mingus and Floyd families were buried inside the rock wall in the cemetery, along with the elaborate markers. 

To get there: From Cherokee, go towards 441 North. Once you have entered the National Park, go about .2 miles towards the Mingus Mill entrance. About 150 feet up the road to the “35 MPH” sign, there is a trail next to it. Two hundred twenty feet up that trail is this cemetery; a low stone wall is on the east side of the trail; the graves are inside the wall. – 75 graves, this cemetery was first used in the late 1800s.

Nations and Hughes Cemetery

Nations Cemetery

These cemeteries were first used in the late 1800’s. Hughes Cemetery  – 8 Graves. Nations Cemetery– 42 graves.

To get there: Go North on US 441 from Cherokee, proceed into the National Park, and go past the parking lot for the Visitor Center. Turn right over the bridge after the parking lot for the Visitor Center. When the road comes to a “Y,” turn left. Then turn left towards the Oconaluftee Job Corp and about 100 yards down this road will be the path for the cemetery. 651 feet up this path is Hughes Cemetery, and then another 224 feet up to Nation’s Cemetery.

McGhee or McGee Cemetery

McGee Cemetery

This cemetery was named after Ira G. McGee, who was born in 1853 in Cataloochee, and he operated a gristmill on Ledge Creek. He and his wife, Sallie McGee, had 12 children. Both Sallie and Ira were buried here, then moved to Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Clyde, NC. Ira’s father was Jesse McGee, who was one of the first settlers in Cataloochee.

To get there: From Cherokee, take U.S. 441 and follow signs for Big Cove Rd. Follow that road for 8.4 miles and then turn right onto Straight Fork Rd for 1.1 miles to the National Park Boundary. Continue up Straight Fork for 1.2 miles, then look for a path on your left between Skidder Branch and Quillaree Branch. The cemetery is 481 feet up this path. – 11 unmarked graves, this cemetery was first used in 1926.

Mingus Slave Cemetery or Enloe Slave Cemetery

enloe slave cemetery

Many people who visit Mingus Mill in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have no idea that there is a burial ground for enslaved people on the grounds. It is not known exactly who is buried here. There are no names, dates, or headstones, just rocks that mark the heads and feet of the graves. When visiting, it is important to remember that this is a sacred site. Please refrain from disturbing the rocks or leaving any items behind, except for the coins, which are a respectful gesture of remembrance.

The National Park Service recognizes this area as the Enloe Slave Graveyard, named after the white settlers who lived there—the Enloe, Mingus, and Floyd families.

Mingus Enloe Cemetery

During your exploration, you may chance upon coins, delicately placed on the graves. These humble offerings serve as a powerful testament to your visit and respect. In a profound tradition, some believe these coins are symbolic payments to the ferryman, guiding the departed souls to their afterlife.

Discovering this serene spot is a rewarding adventure. Nestled on a hilltop, the graves are discreetly tucked away from the bustling Mingus Mill hiking trails, a secret waiting to be unveiled. At the far end of the parking lot, a gate marks the  trailhead to the Mingus Creek Trail. Look for a faint path to the right of the gate, leading you on a meandering journey about 75 feet up a small hill to the cemetery. The National Park Service, in collaboration with local communities, is committed to preserving and maintaining this sacred site, ensuring its historical significance is respected and understood.

Enloe Slave Cemetery - Signage

To get there: Take US 441N from Cherokee, proceed to Mingus Mill Road, and turn left into the Mingus Mill parking lot. Park anywhere and head towards the end of the parking lot with a gate. When you get closer to the gate, look to your right for a trail. About 147 feet up that trail is the cemetery. There are 6-8 graves. This cemetery was first used in the 1860s and is one of six slave cemeteries within the National Park. 

Tow String Cemeteries, New and Old

Tow String Cemetery

New and Old, Tow Sting cemeteries are in the Smokemont Community. The cemeteries are close to each other. The first person to be buried at the old cemetery was Moses Treadway in 1889. This cemetery was in existence long before the new National Park displaced the Smokemont community.  Almost 100 years separate the inception of the old cemetery and the new one up on the hill, which was founded in 1985. The most recent burial at the new cemetery was in February 2014.  Mary L. Treadway, Raymond's aunt, was 103 years old when she passed. Raymond is the Minister of the Lufty Baptist Church, which when the park was formed, the church community built a new church outside of park grounds, Lufty Church still gets used from time to time. The old cemetery went through upgrades because of the state the cemetery was turning into, so it looks modern for being over 100 years old. It is still taken care of today by the descendants of the Smokemont Community and the Lufty Church goers.

Smokemont was once a thriving lumber town with businesses, homes, and a school.  The Lufty Baptist Church was built in 1912 for the congregation that started in 1836.

To get to the NEW Tow String Cemetery: Take US 441N from Cherokee and proceed to Tow String Road in the National Park. Turn Right onto Tow String Road and go about 2 miles to a sign “Tow String Cemeteries”. Turn right on this road and go to the 2nd house. Keep right at the white house. The cemetery is on the hill about ¼ mile up this road. – 30 graves

To get to the Old Tow String Cemetery or Treadway Cemetery

Take US 441N from Cherokee. Turn right on Tow String Road. Proceed about 2 miles to a sign ‘Tow String Cemeteries,” and turn right. Go to the Second house and turn left. The cemetery is on the ridge past the white house.  – 151 graves

Old Beck Cemetery or Husky Cemetery

Old Beck Husky Cemetery

This cemetery was first used in 1863. – 28 Graves

To get there: Take US 441N from Cherokee. Turn right onto Tow String Road. After you cross the bridge, turn left, and continue to the parking area and Horse Camp. Go across the bridge where the iron gate is located and turn right. About 100 yards at the end of the parking lot, there is a gate where the path starts for the cemetery. Initially, this is part of a horse trail. Go down this path for 243 feet. There should be a path to your right, a sign saying “No horses” should be posted, and this would be access to the New Beck Cemetery about 554 feet up that trail. If you keep on the horse trail 212 feet up the trail to your right should be access to the Old Beck Cemetery Trail about 466 feet up that trail.

New Beck Cemetery

New Beck Cemetery

The New Beck Cemetery was built for overflow because the Old Beck Cemetery was small. Down at the lower end of the old cemetery are four manufactured stones, 1863 was the oldest readable date found. In the new cemetery, the newest date found was Beverly Smith Kimsey - Died 2000. John Beck was among some of the earliest settlers in the Smokies, he and his wife Jane were Lufty Baptist Church goers and their son-in-law Robert Collins was a deacon after the church was built. Both John and his wife Jane are buried at the New Beck Cemetery

To get there: To reach New Beck Cemetery from Old Beck, come back down to the bridge by the parking area.(If you are visiting New Beck directly from your car and bypassing the climb to Old Beck, walk over to the road gate.) The path to New Beck begins between the bar gate and the bridge, heading in the direction away from the Oconaluftee River.It is not a long hike and will take only a few minutes. Soon, the trail turns right and climbs steadily. 

Proctor Cemetery

Proctor Cemetery Cropped

The Proctor Cemetery is indeed a place rich with history for Swain County and the surrounding areas.The town of Proctor was named after the first European settlers of Hazel Creek, Moses and Patience Proctor. In the early 20th century, it was a thriving company town that grew up around the local lumber industry. By the 1930s, it had declined with the lumber industry as well. Today, little is left of the former boomtown except for the remains of the old Ritter Lumber Mill, a single house that is now used by the National Park Service, and the cemeteries located above the water level. Soon after Fontana Dam was built, Proctor and the rest of Hazel Creek became part of the newly established Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and what remained of the village was razed. Today, the former site of Proctor is a serene backcountry campsite in the national park.

To get there: It's a bit challenging to reach, so we recommend going with a guide. The cemetery is only accessible by boat or a long hike. If you choose to hike, you can follow the Lakeshore Trail out of the Road to Nowhere, which would take approximately 12 hours and cover a distance of 29.5 miles one way. Alternatively, if you start from Fontana Dam, the hike would take around 6 hours and cover 14.5 miles one way. If you opt for a boat with a guided hike, the walking distance to the cemetery would be approximately 1.5 hours, covering 3.7 miles one way.

Decoration Days

Decoration Days by CBS News

The folk custom of Decoration Day, a testament to the resilience of our ancestors, has been a long tradition of maintaining the gravesites of loved ones in the Smoky Mountains. Families who were uprooted from the “North Shore” in 1943 when the Fontana Dam was completed, bravely faced the direct impact of having to leave their homesteads due to the rising waters of Fontana Lake. Others were  affected because Fontana Lake covered most of a road along the north side of the Little Tennessee River before the dam was built.


A promised new road, a symbol of hope and connection, would have allowed these families to once again access the old home sites and 27 cemeteries. But by the 1960s, construction ceased at a point just beyond a tunnel under a mountain ridge, now known as the enigmatic “Road to Nowhere.”


Decoration Days by CBS News

Today, the only access to these cemeteries and old family homesteads is by water (or and extended hike). In a commendable effort, North Shore Cemetery Historical Association in alliance with officials from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, transportation by pontoon shuttle to these cemeteries in the Smokies on Decoration Days is now offered. This initiative not only provides practical assistance but also plays a crucial role in preserving our cherished tradition. Additionally, the North Shore Cemetery Historical Association has been instrumental in this preservation effort, maintaining a Facebook page with their Decoration Days schedule of events and locations, thereby further contributing to the preservation of our history.


Learn more about Swain County's Decoration Days in this feature video from CBS Sunday Morning broadcast in 2017.

A Step Back in Time

Every step you take in these lost cemeteries is a step back in time. The whispering winds among the leaves, the songs of the forest birds, and the rustling of unseen creatures create an eerie but enchanting atmosphere, as though the spirits of the past still reside among the trees, silently watching, waiting, and sharing their untold stories.

The lost cemeteries of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are a treasure trove of stories waiting to be uncovered, a living connection to the history of this beautiful and rugged landscape. To visit them is to embark on a journey through time, where the lines between the past and present blur, and the spirits of the Smoky Mountains whisper their secrets. If you are a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking adventure off the beaten path, be sure to explore the hidden and forgotten corners of this stunning national park and discover the enigmatic cemeteries that await, weaving tales of both life and the eternal slumber in the heart of the Smokies.

North Shore

Explore the backcountry wilderness of the North Shore of Fontana Lake, within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boundary. This is a remote wilderness section of the National Park, which is accessible via hiking trails or by boat.