The Cataloochee Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park doesn't open until March 9 this year, but now is the time to make reservations for this small 27-site campground.
Until 2010, visitors had to drive into the deep valley to find that there wasn't a spot for their tent or trailer. That drives includes almost three miles of twisty unpaved road. But now you can reserve a site using recreation.gov.
The campground is laid out in a one-way loop with campsites on both sides of the road. With such a small campground, it's hard to say if any site is better than any other. Sites #3, 5, and 7 back up to the swiftly flowing Cataloochee Creek, perfect if you're an angler! Site #10 is set back a little and a bit more private. But campers should expect to enjoy Cataloochee Campground with a bunch of other friendly people.
This campground accepts trailers that are less than 32 feet long. There are no electrical or water hook ups, though generator use is allowed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Each site has a tent pad, grill, and picnic table. A restroom with flush toilets and cold water is in the campground. Since this is the only place for running water, day visitors know to stop in this restroom as well. A camp host is there in season.
You should come ready with everything you need for your stay - and that includes gas. There is no campstore, and it's over ten miles to US 276 where you might find the first gas station and minimart. The closest town is Maggie Valley - and it's not that close and it's mostly motels and restaurants lining US 19.
The best part of Cataloochee campground is the location. With any luck, you'll see elk grazing in the fields in the early morning or at dusk. You can get started early for a hike on the Boogerman Trail or to the Woody House.
Palmer Chapel, Beech Grove School, and Caldwell House will be yours to explore quietly before the day visitors come. There is no cell phone coverage, so just enjoy the Cataloochee Valley.