Off The Well-Worn Path: Great Smoky's Cataloochee Valley
It seems that everyone who heads to Great Smoky Mountains National Park wants to head straight to Cades Cove. But how many even think of trotting over to the Cataloochee Valley?
This little-known cousin to Great Smoky’s famous Cades Cove actually was one of the region’s most thriving communities a century ago, counting 1,200 residents in 1910. Today, though, it draws no crowds to its historic buildings, rolling orchards, meadows or forests, which do, however, attract elk, wild turkeys, and black bear.
Nestled near the park’s eastern border, you must negotiate a winding 11-mile gravel road found near Dellwood, North Carolina, to reach Cataloochee. Make the journey, though, and this road will carry you back into a 19th- and early-20th century landscape rimmed by 6,000-foot mountains and clutching some of the park’s best examples of historic frame buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Still standing is the Palmer House, a vintage “dog trot” construction featuring two separate log cabins (that later were planked over) tied together by a covered porch popular with dogs on long, hot summer days. These days the house doubles as a museum of the valley and offers a video that provides an interesting oral history provided by descendants of the valley’s settlers.
Elsewhere in the valley you can find the Palmer Chapel, the Caldwell House that is sandwiched by two covered porches, and the Beech Grove Schoolhouse, a two-room structure built in 1901.
There are 27 sites at the Cataloochee Campground, where you can find respectable trout fishing in Cataloohcee Creek. For a roof overhead at night, check out the Abbey Inn in nearby Maggie Valley, North Carolina, or head over to Cherokee, North Carolina, with its many options.