Cataloochee Valley

One of the true hidden gems of the Smoky Mountains, and fortunately very close to Maggie Valley NC is Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Cataloochee Valley is a remote valley, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that was once a settlement for many pioneer families.

The Valley is now a remote, and beautiful destination for visitors that offers historic buildings, hiking trails, fishing, and wildlife, including the majestic and popular Elk!

Cataloochee Valley

Cataloochee Valley was first occupied by Cherokee Indians, who used primarily as for hunting grounds.  Early mountain pioneers moved in Cataloochee Valley in the early 1800s, and were generally on good terms with the Cherokee Indians.   Many of the early settlers event spoke fluent Cherokee.

Cataloochee Valley

Cataloochee Valley

The Valley continued to grow into the early 1900s.  In 1900, the population was 764.  A church and school building were built.  Additionally some of the long time land and home owners built more modern structures, including Caldwell house.

Caldwell House

Caldwell House

While in Cataloochee Valley, you’ll see and experience:

  • Elk and other wildlife including black bears and turkey
  • Numerous Hiking trails
  • Historic and restored structures, including a church, school house and old homes
  • Trout Fishing
  • Campground
  • Horseback Riding

How to get to Cataloochee Valley from Maggie Valley

Today, visitors travel to Cataloochee Valley primarily along Cove Creek road, which follows the same path as the famous Cherokee Trading trail into Tennessee.   The drive in is an adventure, that will take you along a narrow gravel road, the bends and winds around the mountains as it makes it’s way into the Valley.


From Maggie Valley, head east on Highway 19 (Soco Road).  Turn left onto Highway 276 (Jonathan Creek Road) towards I-40.   Just prior to reaching I-40, turn left onto Cove Creek Road.  The road will be just past the two convenience stores and gas stations.  Follow Cove Creek Road for 11 miles to Cataloochee Valley.

Cove Creek Road begins as pavement, and takes you up a curvy climb up the mountain where it will turn into a gravel road just around a sharp switchback turn.   You’ll want to go slow from here, as the road is two-way traffic and narrow in some spots.  There are pull-off areas to allow passing.

The old dirt road climbs up to the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and also the trailhead of the Cataloochee Divide Trail.  From there the road is wider, and twists and winds it’s way down into Cataloochee Valley.

Cataloochee Valley Road

Road through Cataloochee Valley

When the gravel road reaches a paved road, follow it to the left, and it will take you past Cataloochee Valley Campground ground and the Ranger’s station.  Continue down the road into Cataloochee Valley.

Cataloochee Valley Elk

While there is plenty to do and see in Cataloochee Valley, one of the top attractions are the Elk.  In 2001, Elk were reintroduced into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and more specifically into Cataloochee Valley.  This was the start of a an effort to reintroduce Elk back into the Park, as they had been hunted out in the late 1700s.

Bull Elk Cataloochee Valley

Bull Elk near the Ranger’s station

Herds of Elk can now been seen in Cataloochee Valley, most often in the early mornings and late evenings.   The Elk have thrived since they were introduced, and have spread out into Maggie Valley, Cherokee and other surrounding areas.

Visiting in the Fall offers a special treat: Rut season.  Rut occurs during September and early October.   Male Elk (called Bulls) make their famous bugling calls to both attract females and to challenge other bulls.   The sound is beautiful and haunting, and can often be heard more than a mile away.  Bulls, using their antlers, battle for dominancy by pushing each other.

Dominant bulls gather and breed with up to 20 cows, and will defend them aggressively.

Cataloochee Valley Elk

Rangers and Volunteers after drive around and answer questions about the Elk, and have a number of displays available to teach children and adults more about these amazing animals.   Be sure to get your photo made with one of the big Elk Racks the Rangers and Volunteers keep with them!

Please note: Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces elk, is illegal in the park. Violation of this federal regulation can result in fines and arrest. Do not enter fields to view elk—remain by the roadside and use binoculars, telephoto lens, or a spotting scope to view the animals.

Cataloochee Valley Historic Structures

Palmer Chapel

Palmer Chapel

Cataloochee Valley contains a number of restored and historic structures.  The buildings are well maintained by the park staff, and visitors are allowed to walk through them.  Historic structures in Cataloochee Valley include:

  • Hannah Cabin
  • Cook Cabin
  • Palmer House
  • Palmer Chapel
  • Caldwell House
  • Steve Woody House
  • Little Cataloochee Baptist Church
  • Messer Barn
Caldwell House

Caldwell House

Hiking in Cataloochee Valley

Cataloochee Valley is the starting point for a number of great trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   Trails in the area include:

  • Boogerman Trail – This 7.4 mile roundtrip loop trail is a favorite with hikers due to the old growth trees that surround the trail, and due to the historic home sights you pass through.
  • Rough Fork Trail – An easy 2 mile roundtrip, and beautiful hike out to the Woody Homesite.
  • Pretty Hollow Gap Trail – An 8 mile Creekside hike up to Pretty Hollow Gap
Boogerman Trail

One of the large old growth trees on Boogerman Trail

Cataloochee Valley Trout Fishing

Creeks in Cataloochee Valley are famous for their wild trout.  In fact, residents that lived here made a pretty good living, before the park was created, housing fisherman that would travel to the area just to Trout fish.

Cataloochee Valley Trout Fishing

Fishing requires a NC or TN Fishing license, you’ll want to follow all Great Smoky Mountain National Park Fishing regulations.

Cataloochee creeks are well known for wild trout.  Many of the residents that lived their prior to the park taking ownership, stocked the creeks and streams with trout and charged fisherman from all over to come and fish.  Many residents earned a good living this way, and by providing boarding and food for the tourists and fisherman.   Fishing does require a state license and fishing regulations are enforced.

>> For more information and photos on Cataloochee Valley, see our more detailed Cataloochee Vally guide on our parent site, Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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