Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over one-half million acres, making it one of the largest natural areas in the East.
Nestled in Haywood County, Cataloochee Valley is one of the most remote and most beautiful areas of the park, and a unique place to explore both the natural and cultural history of the NC Smoky Mountains. Once a populous settlement and mountain community, Cataloochee Valley is perhaps now best known for elk, which were reintroduced in the valley in 2001 after disappearing from North Carolina in the late 1700s as a result of over-hunting and loss of habitat. Early morning and late evening are regarded as the best times for viewing the elk (usually as they graze along the roads and in the meadows). Other wildlife, including black bear, white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, also roam the area.
Cataloochee Valley is rich in history, with original homesteads still standing. Visitors can tour a school, churches, a barn, and several homes to learn what life was like for early settlers of the area. There’s also plenty of hiking, camping and fishing to be had here, so make sure a trip to Cataloochee Valley is on your itinerary while visiting Haywood County.
In addition to Cataloochee Valley, some of the most popular spots and attractions within Great Smoky Mountains National Park include:
— Cades Cove, an iconic 11-mile loop road in an open valley surrounded by tall mountains
— Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park at 6,643 feet
— Newfound Gap, the nearly mile-high spot where Newfound Gap Road crosses the mountain ridge
Download a free Great Smoky Mountains National Parks & Forests trail map and start planning your Outdoor Activities today!
Great Smoky Mountains Trail Map