Monday, April 23, 2012

Cataloochee Valley to Oconaluftee

We’ve moved on from our spot at Creekwood Farm RV Park.  We had some fine hikes out of Cataloochee Valley.  I’m glad to say all the trails on my map are colored in for this area except for Swallow Fork which I can get to either from Big Creek or Cosby so will wait until later in the summer to do that.  That’s probably going to require a backpack anyway and we’re just not up to that level of fitness yet.

In a way I’m gonna miss hiking in Cataloochee.  For one thing, that is where the elk are so we probably won’t see them anymore.  They’re moving closer to Oconaluftee and they say you can see them there, but I never have.  Also, Cataloochee is in a remote section of the park and gets much fewer visitors that other areas.  It was nice not fighting the crowds and not having the heavy traffic.  Best of all, I love the drive through the valley to the trailheads.

The one thing I will not miss is the drive down Cove Creek Road to get to the valley. This narrow, twisty, gravel road is not a pleasant ride, despite its historical significance.  The road is roughly the same route used by the Cherokee to access the settlements around Cosby, Tennessee.  It was also the route used by Bishop Francis Asbury as he cross the mountains in the early 1800s.

Now, we’re in the Cherokee, North Carolina area.  The Oconaluftee entrance to the Park is the main entrance on the North Carolina side on US 441.  The Oconaluftee Visitor Center has the usual visitor information area with rangers and volunteers on hand to answer questions and give directions.  There is, of course, a gift shop and a backcountry ranger office.  This is a brand new visitor center which opened only a year ago.  There are impressive exhibits in the museum area which recount the history of life in the mountains.

Adjacent to the new Visitor Center is the Mountain Farm Museum.  This is like a working farm with several old buildings which have been moved to this location from other areas of the park.  The apple house was moved from the Cataloochee Valley.  Periodically, volunteer re-enactors dressed in period costume are out on the “farm” giving demonstrations of how life used to be.  
Mountain Farm Museum
We’ll be over here for several days hiking trails which lead off Newfound Gap Road, Clingman’s Dome Road, and from the Smokemont area.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.


  1. Keep me posted on your plans. I really would like to hike a couple more times before we leave. That is, if I can get across the snow-covered mountains! I've noticed that Clingman's Dome Road has been closed most of the day according to the NPS website. Go figure!!

  2. I love reading about the unique names of parks, mountains and towns in that area of the country (i.e. Cataloochee).

    1. As you might guess, Rick, they are mostly Native American names. I'm at the Visitor Center in Cherokee right now and can't even read the sign; it's in the traditional Cherokee Language.