The Last Of The Mohicans | 1992
James Fenimore Cooper’s story, set in 1756 during the war between the French and English, is set in upstate New York, but was made on location around Asheville, in the Blue Mountains of North Carolina.
Much of the filming was on the Biltmore Estate, just south of Asheville which is where you can see the graceful brick arch over which Major Heyward (Steven Waddington) and his troops ride. The estate has its own winery, and Bass Pond Bridge is on Winery Approach Road as it crosses Bass Pond, south of the main house.
This 250-room mansion is the centrepiece of the estate, though it’s not seen in The Last Of The Mohicans. You’ll probably recognise it from Being There or as the home of Mason Verger in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal. The entrance to the estate is on McDowell Street, at Lodge Street, south of Asheville.
In north Asheville, you’ll find the British HQ, at ‘Albany, New York’, where the settlers are promised leave to protect their homesteads, and from which Magua (Wes Studi) is dispatched to guide Heyward and Colonel Munro’s daughters, Cora and Alice (Madeleine Stowe and Jodhi May) to ‘Fort William Henry’. It’s the Manor Inn Apartments, 265 Charlotte Street.
As you might deduce from the name, this was an inn, until it closed in 1990. The building came close to demolition (it was in a state of serious disrepair during filming) but has since been bought, restored and turned into private apartments – retaining some of the interior features added for the film.
When 1956 romance The Swan was filmed on location at Biltmore House, star Grace Kelly stayed at the Manor Inn. Her former rooms are now known as the Princess Suite.
The vengeful Magua, meanwhile, leads Heyward’s party into a trap, and only the intervention of Mohican trapper Chingachgook (Russell Means) and his two sons saves the major and the Munro sisters.
As Chingachgook, with Uncas and adopted son Hawkeye (Eric Schweig and Daniel Day-Lewis), continue to lead the party toward the fort on foot, they’re actually trekking through DuPont State Forest, Staton Road, Cedar Mountain, about 40 miles to the south of Asheville.
They follow the Little River through the forest, negotiating the Triple Falls. You can find these falls on a track running east from the Hooker Falls car park on Staton Road, about a mile north of Dupont Lake.
In fact, several waterfalls in the area are seen in later in the film, as Hawkeye and company once again flee Magua’s men. Hooker Falls itself is the cataract over which their canoes plunge.
A couple of miles south, west of Lake Julia, are Bridal Veil Falls. It’s behind these falls that temporary shelter is offered by a hidden cave. Disappointingly, although there is a small overhang here, and you can walk behind the falls, there is no cave behind Bridal Veil Falls – this was a studio set.
The real Fort William Henry was located on the southern end Lake George in upstate New York at the southeast base of the Adirondack Mountains, but for the film it was recreated alongside Lake James, in Lake James State Park, north of I-40, about 40 miles east of Asheville.
The vast set, which supposedly cost around $1 million, was built at the most northerly point of the lake, where NC Route 126 bends to run along the lakeshore, just east of Wolf Pit Road / National Forest Road.
Another set built for the movie was the Indian village to which Magua takes Heyward and the Munro sisters. This was built about 30 miles southwest of Lake James, in Chimney Rock Park, on Highway 74A East.
The village set remained as an attraction for some years after filming, but has finally disappeared. Overlooking the village in the film, you can see the cascading ribbon of Hickory Nut Falls, at the top of which Chingachgook finally faces Magua.
You might be surprised to find that there’s an elevator which will whisk you to the top of the park’s cliffs, where the final section of the film was shot. Handily, the park provides a map to the specific movie sites.