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Rutting Season in Haywood, As Told by A Cataloochee Elk


Me drinking water, captured by a fan. Please tag all fan photos with @VisitNCSmokies for my viewing | Photo by: @orcainspiredphotography


Greetings! I’m Autumn, one of the Cataloochee Valley elk. Here in Haywood County, we elk are stuck in a Rut–and that’s a great thing! As the weather gets cooler and the leaves begin to turn, it’s time for us to start our rutting season, which means new babies next spring. But most immediately, it means it’s the perfect time for you to visit and get your bugle on (No Tik Tok duets, please). Pack your bags and come to see us and our friendly neighbors in Canton, Clyde, Maggie Valley, Lake Junaluska and Waynesville. From chilling with the herd to playing the long game on one of our greens, it’s time to get wild in the North Carolina Smokies.


Since 2001, we’ve been strutting our stuff around Cataloochee Valley and we love it. In the summer, the NC Smoky Mountains have temperatures that hover around the 80s. In the fall, the leaf-peeping is absolutely stunning. And, don’t get me started on our beautiful winters…which reminds me of our crisp springs. Oops, I’m rambling. Grab a picnic basket and head out to see if you can spot us. There’s also wonderful hiking for you humans to enjoy. However, do be sure to stay a safe distance away from our herd and fellow animals. It’s required that you maintain 150 feet of distance from us according to federal law. We elk don’t mind your visitors, but we do like our personal space. A group of our neighboring humans put together this guide filled with other tips to plan your elk-watching excursion to see us.

Chase some waterfalls
You can’t beat the views of our cascading waterfalls. We have big ones, small ones and some that lead to watering holes fit for a casual swim. And they all taste quite delicious if you ask me. Take a splash or just bask in the sun and admire the view. I’d recommend hiking to Soco Falls, one of our most popular attractions in Maggie Valley. Although the falls have a little less movement, these beauties are just as cool in the winter.  No two waterfalls freeze the same!


We overhear our visiting humans say the food here is really great. There’s even a page on this website where you can check out menus from local restaurants. P.S. My friends and I are reeeeally into moss and bark, so please don’t share your food with us, as friendly as that may seem. We have plenty of our own! Plus, people food can cause some serious harm to us. Oh, and if you could please clean up after yourself too, that would be wonderful! Let’s keep Cataloochee Valley the pristine place it is by following the Leave No Trace principles.

Cruise the Parkway.

As an elk, I tend to stick to strutting my stuff in the Valley, but I hear the views along the Blue Ridge Parkway are scenic year-round. In the spring, fresh greenery lines the Parkway, fall foliage fills in along the roadways in autumn and in winter, some parts of the Parkway close which make it perfect for hiking and snow-shoeing! While I four-hoof it in the forest, you can four-wheel it along 46-scenic miles of winding twists and turn through the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can even kick your drive up a notch with a slingshot.


Once you’ve had a chance to visit our herd (aka the main attraction), feel free to make your way to a golf course or create a custom golf trail. Believe it or not, us elk know a thing or two about leisure. We may even take a rest on the freshly cut greens at Maggie Valley Club and watch you play. Take a swing on one of five courses surrounded by 360° mountain views. You say, “fore” we say “hroooonnkkk.”

We’re telling you, Rut season is the perfect time to visit us in the North Carolina Smokies and it’s happening now! Quit elkin’ around and pack your bags. We look forward to seeing you (from a distance) and hope you enjoy the beauty of Haywood County as much as we do.

Why would you stay anywhere else?


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