Cataloochee campground is located in the historic Cataloochee Valley--a relatively remote part of Smoky Mountain National Park. The secluded setting offers visitors the ability to enjoy a multitude of recreational activities like hiking and fishing, without the crowds, which are sometimes common in other parts of the park.
The Cataloochee Valley features an extensive trail system that is less heavily used compared to other areas of the park. The two main trails, Caldwell Fork and nearby Rough Fork Trail, run mostly parallel to one another in the central portion of the valley. Either of these trails extend alongside scenic creeks and streams and support both hikers and horeseback riders.
For hikers only, the 3.9-mile Boogerman Trail forms a nice loop off the Caldwell Fork Trail and is less than a mile walk from the campground.
Anglers will agree that some of the best Rainbow and Brook trout fishing in the area can be found in the Cataloochee Basin, one of the most remote sections of the park. Fly fishing is particularly good during spring months when aquatic insects hatch in large numbers.
The park also holds one of the best collections of log buildings in the eastern United States. Over 90 historic structures, including houses, barns, outbuildings, churches, schools and grist mills, have been preserved or rehabilitated in the park. A handful of which can be found in the Cataloochee Valley, including the nearby Palmer House, built in 1869, which contains a self-guided museum.
Cataloochee offers a traditional outdoor camping experience with the added convenience of flush toilets and drinking water. There are no hookups or showers at the campground.
Hiking trails and fishing streams are easily accessible from the site and the nearby Cataloochee Group Camp can accommodate larger parties of guests.
Additionally, the Cataloochee Horse Camp provides convenient camping for horseback riding enthusiasts.
Cataloochee Campground is surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges and pristine mountain streams, like nearby Cataloochee Creek. Elk are common in this part of the park, during the spring and fall.
At a 2,600 foot elevation, Cataloochee provides a moderate climate, characterized by mild winters and hot, humid summers. Whether blanketed in bright spring wildflowers or exploding with vivid fall colors, the scenery at Cataloochee never disappoints.
A number of the park's famous historical buildings, including the Steve Woody and Caldwell Houses, both built in the late 19th-century, are nearby the campground.
The Steve Woody House, built in 1880, is located along the Rough Fork trail, an easy 2-mile roundtrip hike from the parking lot at the end of Ranger Station Road.
ADA Access: N
This was a nice campground. A creek ran along one side and a small stream on the other side. The camp sites were nice and consisted of a fire pit, pic-nic table, and raised bed for your tent. There was only one bathroom but the campground was small enough that it wasn’t too far of a walk. The bathrooms had a sink in the middle for washing dishes. The campground included a water pump as well. The campground was an extremely short walk to a trail head and less than a 2 minute drive from where you could see elk and Turkey from your car. The only negatives were you were next to a road, and while you couldn’t see the cars, you could hear them but there was very little traffic, and you were at least 20 minutes from any store in case you needed ice, or something of that nature.
- We stayed at site #26 in tents. It was small but all the trees were great since we had to put up tarps for the rain. We were able to set up 2 -4 person tents and 1 large 10 person tent as well as a screened canopy over the picnic table. Plus you can hear the river from our site so that was pretty pleasant =)
- I walked the campground and my personal favorite site was #7. The fire pit and picnic bench are in the front and the tent area is further back near the river. Very large space.
- The drive up goes from road, to dirt, to road. Yes it is very narrow (especially since I drive a Suburban), but just drive slow and be careful on turns and you'll be fine. Any turn I couldn't see around, I honked as a heads up to oncoming traffic (which is a total of like 6 cars).
- Make sure to get firewood/supplies prior to driving up the mountain. It's about a 30 minute drive up and there is no firewood/ice/or any supplies anywhere on the mountain.
- The woman's bathroom had 2 stalls. One large and one small. No soap dispenser, but someone left a hand soap pump which was pretty nice of them. Electric hand dryer. No showers. Sink for your dishes is attached to the restrooms. It got pretty dirty and muddy, but in the morning it was cleaned up.
- We didn't see any wildlife besides 1 squirrel. But there is some massive spiders (look like red daddy long legs) and had a few bees. Lightning bugs were hardly there, but the mosquitoes were hardly there too.
- We walked the closest trail, very muddy. The creek/river was super pretty but it was super cold. Not much scenery on the trail besides the fun wood bridge at the beginning. We ended up driving an hour to the big creek section of the Smokies. We went on the Big Creek Trail which led to Midnight Hole (which is a beautiful swimming hole). Its at another campground that also has white water rafting.
- There is an old church next to the campground that is open and very lovely.
- There's also a look over stop. Its 100% worth stopping at.
- Overall, we enjoyed that everyone at the campground pretty much went to bed around 11pm. The campground seems like its taken care of. Personally I'd rather stay at a campground with a little more adventure (and maybe showers). The campground is very small so it'll only take up to 5 minutes to walk the whole place.
Oh, what a wonderful place to camp!!🙂 A small campground ⛺️, and u need reservations, early, to see the Elk rutting in early October. It’s a long 13 miles into the valley down a very narrow, curvy gravel road, so I wouldn’t try w/o reservations! We spent 5 nights and watched them early am and afternoons every day. They will get up close-and personal. The rangers keep a watch out, tho, and try to warn u if they are coming too close. They are wild and rutting and will run over u!! There are historical homesteads, a school, churches and cemetery to take you back in time. Trails by creeks there to hike. Bears, turkeys, deer and the Elk😍 We were in campsite 11 close to the creek. Large and quiet for the most part. No electricity, no problem. A couple of water spigots centrally located and a dish washing station. Bath house was a little ways from us, but we could drive and park there. No showers or hot water. That’s fine. We had the Elk😂😂Loved it all!!!
So much to see. It’s easy to spend a couple of days exploring the historical sites, walking trails, watching the elk herd (especially during the fall rut period) and admiring the natural beauty of the Great Smokey Mountains with less than the usual crowds. This is because access to the campground requires a challenging drive down a one lane dirt road. Believe me, you don’t want to try this in wet conditions.
But the trip is well worth the challenge. The campsite is a loop in the pines along a creek. It’s a 15 minute walk to the pastures where you can see the elk herd in the early morning or at dusk. Get up before dawn to watch the sun rise over the mountain and streak across the meadow.
After a steep, curvy road of about 10 miles from a main road, you will get to this campsite. The good thing about it is that you really feel as if you are experiencing nature at its finest. The bad thing is that you will be far from the nearest town or store. The road is single lane access at times, but the drive is WELL WORTH IT. Early in the morning or late in the afternoon, you can drive about a mile, and sometimes less, to see elk and lots of them. There are few amenities--no access to electricity, no on-site water, no showers, etc., but the sites are large enough that you don't feel crammed in. As far as the amenities, if you are prepared, water and electricity is not a huge factor. If you like hiking, there are miles of hiking trails, especially since this campground is located in a national park. There are also several historic structures in the area--a school, a church, barns, old houses, etc.
This is an unbelievable area! We took our small camper and stayed during the Elk Rut and it was incredible! Our dog came too and we were able to hike and get some great pictures of elk in the valley!
This campground was amazing. They do not have showers, but do have a bathhouse with water toilets and sinks. We camped near the creek and it was beautiful. Also viewing the elk is an experience I will never forget. There was hardly anyone there when we went. The camp hosts were friendly and knowledgeable about the area. Somewhat difficult to get to with the dirt roads but not that bad. It was well worth it.
We had s great night atvtge campground! The volunteer, Buck, was so wonderful and helpful! We will for sure be back!
Loved this campground. Not very big and nicely spaced. You can easily walk to trails and animal viewing. I would recommend this to everyone. Try to get a spot that backs up to the creek if you enjoy the sounds of water. Nice facilities as well.
This site is so peaceful and gorgeous. The wildlife is all around you and they aren't scared to interact, though you shouldn't encourage them. Cataloochee in itself is a very fun place to visit. My 4th great grandparents are buried in the Hannah cemetery here, as well as a Hannah cabin is on site. The campsite is rustic so there are no showers, and the bathrooms are "upgraded" outhouses. Best idea would be to go in the woods because the smell is unbearable. There are a few sites you can get right on the river, and it is fun exploring through the woods where you can discover the foundations of houses that once were. The elk are a beautiful site to behold in the early mornings. Be careful out there though, a black bear walked through our site while we were fixing dinner. Didn't bother us, but it was a nice little scare.