If you’re visiting the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains, your trip wouldn’t be complete without exploring Cataloochee. This valley is home to a number of historic buildings and structures and some wildlife! Cataloochee Valley is nestled among the mountains, surrounded by 6,000-foot peaks. It was once one of the largest and most prosperous settlements in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. About 1,200 people lived in Cataloochee, most earning their living by farming.
Things to Do in Cataloochee
Wildlife Viewing: The most popular thing to do in Cataloochee is see wildlife. This is one of the best places to spot elk! The best times to spot elk in the valley are early mornings and evenings. Keep in mind that elk can be dangerous, and you must stay at least 150 feet away at all times. Other animals you can see in Cataloochee are deer, turkey and more.
Fishing: Cataloochee Creek is known for its population of wild trout! If you love to fish, this is a great spot for you. Keep in mind that a fishing license is required to go fishing anywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Hiking: Hiking is another popular activity in Cataloochee. Popular trails are the Boogerman Trail, which is a 7-mile loop through old-growth forest, and the Little Cataloochee Trail, which follows an old road past old cabins and a church..
Camping: A campground with 27 sites can be found in Cataloochee. The campground is open from mid-March through October and allows tents or RVs up to 31 feet.
Historic Structures in Cataloochee Valley
If you choose to drive along Cataloochee Road, you can see 5 historic structures! Other historic buildings in the area can be seen from walking along the Cataloochee Trail. Some of the popular structures you can see are the Will Messer Barn, Palmer Chapel, Beech Grove School, Caldwell House and Barn, Palmer House and Bunkhouse and the Little Cataloochee Church. The elk and historic structures are the two main things that draw visitors in to Cataloochee Valley.
Directions to Cataloochee
The most direct route to Cataloochee Valley is Cove Creek Road. From I-40, take exit 20 in North Carolina and travel 0.2 miles on route 276 before turning right on Cove Creek Road. From there, you’ll follow the signs for 11 miles into Cataloochee Valley.
The entrance road to Cataloochee Valley is a winding, gravel road. It does have some steep drop-offs and is narrow, so please use extreme caution when driving the road.