The Cataloochee Valley is one of my favorite areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park because of its great beauty and extensive trail system.
It is less heavily used compared to most areas of the Park. The valley contains wonderful sections of virgin forest, lovely streams, and numerous historical buildings and demonstrations.
Cataloochee Valley was heavily settled by the mid-1800s and remained a self-contained community until the 1930s when the land was condemned for the formation of the Park. The valley's rich human history is still remembered in the weathered boards of reconstructed churches, schools, and remaining home sites with aged rock chimneys and rock walls.
Two main trails, Caldwell Fork and Rough Fork , generally run parallel to each other through the central part of the valley. Several connector trails join the two main trails with the surrounding"rim" trails along the bordering ridges.
The trails in the valley floor are mostly old roadbeds and are generally well-graded. The trails along the small streams are especially lush and beautiful. Anglers will definitely want to bring along their fishing polefishing in the Cataloochee Basin is among the best in the region.
Recommended day hikes include the Boogerman and Hemphill Bald/Double Gap trails in the Cataloochee Divide area; the Long Bunk, Mt. Sterling Gap, and Pretty Hollow Gap trails in the Mt. Sterling area; and the Balsam Mountain and Flat Creek trails in the Balsam Mountain area. Two more great day hikes in the Cataloochee Divide area can also be great overnighters; you can hike the Rough Fork Trail into Big Hemlock Campsite, or the Caldwell Fork Trail into Caldwell Fork Campsite.
Many of these trails can be pieced together into loops.
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