NC-- Cataloochee CG, Great Smoky Mountains NP

Discussion in 'National Parks, Forests and ACOE Campgrounds' started by Travelhoveler, Oct 26, 2011.

  1. Travelhoveler

    Travelhoveler New Member

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    Mar 8, 2011
    We are heading to Cataloochee, a remote cove in the eastern corner of the Great Smoky Mountains NP, for the weekend. Ideal hiking conditions, highs forecast for upper 40s, lows in the upper 20s.

    If you haven't been there before, there's really no easy way in. The National Park Service began building a modern road in the 1960s but pressure from environmentalists led them to cancel the project after completing the section in the cove itself. Today, the only access from the North Carolina side is a very, very steep gravel road with steep dropoffs and no guard rails. It's a difficult drive, but the reward is that Cataloochee remains uncrowded, as most park visitors head to areas with good roads.

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    If you don't know Cataloochee, it's a Cades Cove in miniature, with a number of historic structures including two churches, a school, houses and cemeteries. Charming is an understatement.

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    Cataloochee Cove is also home to the largest elk herd in the park. Once extirpated from the area, they were reintroduced a decade ago and are thriving.

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    The park campground in the cove is small (26 sites) and quiet. Camping by reservation only, which we don't like, but I suppose it helps discourage people from making the trip up and down the mountain only to find there's no space on a weekend. There are no hookups--no problem, we don't need them. Here's our campsite there last March.

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    Right behind our campsite was Cataloochee Creek, one of a number of beautiful streams in the area, and home to our native brook trout.

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    We're hoping to catch the end of fall color this weekend, if not in the park, on the Cumberland Plateau as we approach. Can't wait to be there. This is the beginning of our favorite camping season.
     
  2. bud121156

    bud121156 Western North Carolina

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    Apr 15, 2007
    North Carolina
    Wishing you a great trip.........nice pics!
     
  3. Travelhoveler

    Travelhoveler New Member

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    Mar 8, 2011
    I do have a question for others who have been here. Have any of you driven the much longer gravel road (Route 32) from Cosby to Cataloochee? It's about 27 miles long from Big Creek to Cataloochee, and climbs over Mount Sterling Gap. The park recommends that travelers with RVs and trailers avoid it, but our pup is very small. Rain is forecast through Friday so it will likely be in poor shape, but we are thinking of going out on it on Sunday. Will check with the rangers first, but wondered if anyone had any thoughts on it. Thanks.
     
  4. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    That looks like a nice area. I always take gravel roads as a good sign because, as you noted, they usually mean fewer people, especially big rigs.
     
  5. Flyfisherman

    Flyfisherman New Member

    I've driven from Cataloochee to Big Creek (not towing) taking 32, rather had left the p'up at Cat and went over there for a recon mission just to check it out. Of course, Big Creek is just for tent camping. Anyway, it was a typical secondary mountain road, narrow in places and a lot of cutbacks ... and some real steep stretches here and there (going up and coming down). On the return to Cataloochee we then went over to I-40. Now it's been I'm thinking four years.

    By the way, that Cataloochee Creek that goes right through the C/G has some of the most tasty brookies you've ever put in your mouth!
     
  6. Travelhoveler

    Travelhoveler New Member

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    Mar 8, 2011
    Thanks Fly,

    With rain coming in later this week, I'm inclined to avoid Route 32 altogether, or just do a day trip up to Mt. Sterling without the camper. The mountain roads in the park are enough of a challenge without adding mud or high water to the mix.

    We have a friend joining us at Cataloochee who plans to join us by traveling down that road from Big Creek in his VW Westphalia. Will get a report from him... if he makes it.

    Hope rains are light and we can do a little fishing, but not too optimistic about that.
     
  7. Grizzly_Wayne

    Grizzly_Wayne Member

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    Oct 7, 2010
    Knoxville, Tn
    Sound slike a great trip. I have heard of Cataloochee and wanted to go tent camping there.. don't think i could talk the wife into with lows in the 20's, but i would have a good time! Lol.. would love to see more pics when you get back. We are much closer here in Knoxville than you, but i was thinking I-40 was the way to go.. would like to go see the elk at play..
     
  8. Travelhoveler

    Travelhoveler New Member

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    Mar 8, 2011
    You'll have to wait for spring, Wayne, as the campground closes after this weekend. It's a bit over 2 hours from Knoxville by interstate, then another half hour or more over that rough road into the cove. But well worth it.

    Oh, and it's just twenties at night.... Days should be upper forties. Perfect hiking weather!
     

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