Places Inside the Park

Cataloochee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Visit a pioneer community and watch elk in this remote section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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.

The Palmer Chapel in Cataloochee Valley
The Palmer Chapel sits between a cross-hatched fence on the country road and a shaded creekside trail.Gloria Wadzinski

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.

Elk in Cataloochee Valley
At dusk when the temperatures cool, elk come out of the woods to graze in the grassy meadows.Gloria Wadzinski

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

The road to Cataloochee Valley.
The road to Cataloochee Valley has many twists and turns. Watch out for worn away shoulders and potholes. Gloria Wadzinski

Cataloochee is located in the southeastern area of the park and can be accessed during the summer months from North Carolina.

Tip:  Check current road conditions at

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.

For more information about Cataloochee, visit or contact the Visit NC Smokies Visitors Center at (800) 334-9036, 1110 Soco Road, Maggie Valley, NC 28751.