The Great Smoky Mountains National Park's largest animal, elk can weigh 700 pounds and reach 5 feet at the shoulder. They spend most of their day browsing on grasses and fords in open meadows. Elk were hunted to extinction in the area by the mid-1800s, but a successful 2001 reintroduction project brought them back to the park. Now, the population numbers as many as 200 elk.
Where to See Elk
Most of the park’s elk population hangs out in Cataloochee. Visit at dawn or dusk to catch them at their most active. Target early summer to see calves and September to October for the rut (mating season) when bulls gather cows into large herds.
Safe Elk Viewing
For more information about elk in Cataloochee, visit https://visitncsmokies.com/attractions/cataloochee-valley/ or contact the Visit NC Smokies Visitors Center at (800) 334-9036, 1110 Soco Road, Maggie Valley, NC 28751.