The Cataloochee Valley was settled in the early 1800s by homesteaders. The community flourished until 1928 when rumors of the U.S. Government buying up lands for a new national park shoed residents away. By 1938 only a few farmers remained. The rest had moved away to make room for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Unique to this national park, many community buildings were preserved for historic display. Popular to visitors of Cataloochee are the Palmer Chapel, the Will Messer Barn, and Caldwell Place. This area of the park also has a campground, hiking trails, wildlife watching, and fishing.
In 2001, the National Park Service introduced elk into the park. It was the first time that elk roamed these woods in 150 years. The elk continue to inhabit Catalooche and can be seen in the meadows on the edge of the forest from evening through early morning.
Getting to Cataloochee
Cataloochee is located in the southeastern area of the park and can be accessed during the summer months from North Carolina.
Tip: Cove Creek Road, the main access to Cataloochee, will be closed through May 20, 2020, for road repair. Access from Crosby, Tenn., on Route 32 is available but not recommended for large vehicles. Check current conditions at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.
From I-40 at the North Carolina exit 20. Drive .2 miles before turning right onto Cove Creek Road. Drive for 11 miles to the Cataloochee Park Entrance Road. Cove Creek Road is open seasonally, weather permitting. Some of the road is paved; sections are dirt and gravel. The road's many hairpin turns and the rough road surface make getting to this section of the national park an adventure. Travel time from I-40 to the park entrance can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half depending on traffic and road conditions.