Cataloochee Valley the Great Secret of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The Cataloochee Valley is located near Maggie Valley in North Carolina and is one of the top "must see places" in the Great Smoky Mountains national park whether your interest is wildlife, Camping, Hiking, Fishing, Photography, Horseback Riding, or visiting historical buildings and cemeteries.

Cataloochee fields are Closed in October for elk rut. Elk are now extremely aggressive.

The road running past the Cataloochee Rangers Station is closed to all vehicles from Sunset to Sunrise even though the gate is not closed. You are free to walk along the road anytime you want day or night.

Sunrise today will be at 07:31 and Sunset will be at 19:14.

Cataloochee is up there with Cades Cove in Tennessee for historical buildings, hiking trails and observing wildlife. What makes Cataloochee unique over every other section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park is the chance to observe the majority of the herd of North American Elk that were reintroduced to the GSMNP starting in 2001. The seasonal Elk Rut in the early part of fall is very popular.


Road Conditions in the Cataloochee North Carolina Area of GSMNP



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At one time Cataloochee was one of the most populated areas of what became the national park and was comprised of 2 sections. The original area which was settled is now named Big Cataloochee and when it became too crowded, a new settlement was made in what is now Little Cataloochee. Little Cataloochee is now only accessible via 2 hiking trails.

Even popular before the park was formed and brimming with natural beauty as well as an abundance of wildlife, Cataloochee is now one of the least visited sections of the of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and thus quiet.

Cataloochee is far more remote than most other sections of the Great Smoky Mountains national park and the roads to get into the Cataloochee Valley can be described as primitive at best and often closed due to weather/road conditions.

Cataloochee is open year round to visitors but because the only ways to get into the valley or out is by driving on one of the steep winding single lane dirt roads listed above. Neither of these primitive dirt roads are for the faint at heart and in winter, fall and early spring, bad weather often closes either one or both of these roads for days or weeks at a time.

Cataloochee like Cades Cove is an open air museum with its fair share of historical buildings most of which are along the roadway or a short walking distance. There is a motor tour guidebook available for sale in Cataloochee by the information kiosk bulletin board area for $1 as well as information on Elk and bear safety information.

Just like Cades Cove, Cataloochee is only open to motor vehicles during the daytime past the gate at the Ranger Station. Even if the gate is open, vehicles are not allowed past this point before 8 am unless or after dusk.

Besides the guide book and a map of all of the hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, there is nothing else for sale - no food, drink, insect spray, firewood, batteries or gas. It is at least 10 miles to the closest gas station so be sure that you have what you need and plenty of gas before you come to the Cataloochee Valley.

There are no pay phones or dependable cell phone service in the Cataloochee Valley however with Verizon and US Cellular there are a few spots where you will get service along the roadway coming down the mountain to the valley.

Second to elk watching, hiking in Cataloochee is an extremely popular pastime in Big Cataloochee, Little Cataloochee and along the Cataloochee Divide. You can even hike all the way to Balsam Mountain or Big Creek from Cataloochee.

Hikers can find enjoyment with a variety of hiking trails in Cataloochee, some of which have some of the best views in the park, and most of which are very quiet in relation to many other hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.


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Facilities in the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Cataloochee Valley area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has:
3 developed campgrounds (Regular, Group and Horse) 4 Backcountry Primitive Camps Sites, 2 sets of vault toilets (non flushing and no running water) outside of the Campgrounds, 2 picnic tables (no cooking or heating allowed), a Ranger Station (no public facilities or phone service), a small Museum with artifacts and photos on display and a video demonstration.

Big Cataloochee and Little Cataloochee Historic buildings and areas include:
2 Churches, 5 Cemeteries, 2-Room Schoolhouse, 3 Clapboard Homesteads, 2 Log Cabins, 3 Barns, 3 Spring Houses, 1 Apple House, and numerous homestead sites off trail.

The Cataloochee Valley area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park does NOT have:
Food, Drinks, Restaurants, Vending Machines, Horse Rentals, Gas, Lodging (other than camping), Supplies for Camping, Fishing or Hiking, Fishing Licenses, Pay Phones, Souvenirs, Electrical Outlets for Public Use, Showers, Picnic Area, First Aid Station.


Picnicking in the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Unlike many sections of the Great Smoky Mountains national park, Cataloochee does not have any developed picnic areas. People who are not registered in the campgrounds can not use charcoal grills or picnic tables in the campsites.

Grilling or cooking is not allowed in the park except for in developed picnic areas and campsites so if you wish to picnic, do not bring food that needs to be cooked or heated. If your cooking stove or grill has any flame, it is illegal to use it.

Cataloochee does however have a few places that are wonderful to have a picnic such as the Caldwell house across from the Caldwell barn in the back end of Cataloochee.

At the Caldwell House you will find a great grassy area by the stream. This is a perfect place to lay out a blanket and have a picnic while you enjoy the beautiful scenery and listen to the sounds of the stream near this beautiful house built in 1903 and if Mother Nature will not cooperate with your picnic plans, the Caldwell Barn is also a nice place for a makeshift picnic - especially on the second floor where you can look at in all directions on the back fields of the valley.

Another great spot to have a picnic in Cataloochee is at the end of the dirt road near the Rough Fork Trailhead. Here in the late afternoon is the perfect location to see the elk come out of the forest and into the fields for an afternoon graze.

Lots of visitors to the park will also sit and eat on the porches of the historic buildings around the park. As long as you pack out your food, that is fine but please have respect and do not eat inside the Palmer Chapel in Big Cataloochee or the Little Cataloochee Church.

My favorite porch to eat on is at the Woody House a 1 mile hike in from the road along the Rough Fork Trail. Blackberries just after the house along the trail make a perfect desert. Do not drink untreated water from any GSMNP streams.

The last place to picnic in the Cataloochee Valley is around the yellow Palmer House where a few of the large bull elks we like to call the bachelors hang out. There is a single picnic table here and you are close to trash cans.

It is important that when you are done eating here or elsewhere in the park that you pack out and throw away and leftover food and even peanut shells, apple cores, banana peels etc as this is a great temptation for a wild animal in the park to eat and once wild animals eat human food, their life expectancy is cut at least in half.

Today’s Programs and Events in Cataloochee in the GSM National Park

  • Sorry: No Programs are Scheduled in Cataloochee for Today.


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Cataloochee Future Programs / Events in the GSM National Park

  • Sorry - No Future Programs are scheduled in Cataloochee at this time.

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