Elk Viewing, Historic Structures and a Peaceful Valley
The Cataloochee Valley section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is approximately a 1 hour and 20 minutes drive from Bryson City. If you have already explored Oconaluftee and seek more of the same features, this is a great spot to visit. A variety of historic buildings have been preserved in the valley, including a school, church, barn, outbuildings, and several homes. Five buildings are along the road in the valley. An additional four buildings can be reached via a hike down the Little Cataloochee Trail. This is the best place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see historic frame buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The self-guiding Auto Tour Booklet (usually available roadside near entrance) provides brief histories of each structure.
Of historic significance, the valley was one of the largest and most prosperous settlements with 1,200 people living here in 1910. Most made their living by farming, including commercial apple growing. Early tourism developed here and some of the families boarded fishermen and tourists who vacationed in the mountains. The plan to create a national park left few people living in Cataloochee by 1938. Cataloochee Valley contains a number of old homes that you can still see and walk through, such as the Beech Grove School, Palmer Chapel and numerous frame houses that help us take a step back in time and imagine what life might have been like in Cataloochee.
To get there from Bryson City, follow US-74E/Great Smoky Mountains Expy and US 276 North continue to Cove Creek Rd in Haywood County. Continue on Cove Creek Road. Drive to Cataloochee Entrance Road. An alternate route along US 19 East is more scenic, and takes you past Soco Falls, but will add about 10 minutes to your travel time one way. The entrance road to Cataloochee Valley is a winding, gravel road that has some steep drop offs with no guard rails. The road is narrow, so drivers may be required to stop or back up their vehicles to allow oncoming motorists to pass. Horse trailer traffic may be encountered on the road. Please use caution when driving on this road.