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My wife and I stayed at the shelter while doing a backpacking loop in the smokies. We started at Newfound gap and followed the AT north towards Charlie's Bunion then headed down to the shelter at the split. The views along the ridge are incredible and this is some of the best hiking in the area. I highly recommend this loop and the distance works out nicely for a single night. The shelter itself is nothing too special but has all the amenities of the shelters in the area. There is a bear cable set up so you can hang your gear and multiple fire pits along with a fireplace in the shelter itself for very cold nights. Normally you are required to stay within the shelter but due to COVID concerns, you are temporarily allowed to set up a tent in the area surrounding the shelter. This was a nice option and there were already several established sites. Overall it's not as nice a view as you get staying up on the ridge but it's a quieter area with more privacy and will probably have more space available if you need to book last minute.
I was a little underwhelmed compared to what I was expecting from camping at a national park. The positives are the cheap rates and there are bathroom and shower facilities. If you want old fashion tent camping the park does have some backcountry campsites.
The cons are the lack of actual campsites. They are more like parking spaces. Probably to appeal to the people who use campers. The noise of the highway was constant and annoying.
Overall I enjoyed my time staying here. Wish I could have done more backcountry camping but the weather didn't permit it.
Campsites are perfectly spread apart. They do a fantastic job on keeping everything neat and orderly. Plenty of places to hike and if you want to have a picnic there is a picnic area right next to the creek where the kids can play. The loop around Cades cove just takes you back in time to much simpler time. You can rent bikes if want to take it slow.
I’m a reluctant camper and hiker doing this to spend time with my family so factor that in to my review. I had a permit, but no one asked to see it. Perhaps anyone who might had left for the day. My pack weighed at least 30lbs. and I’m new to this, so it took me forever to get up here. It was dark by the time we arrived and boy, was I disappointed to learn this shelter is situated PAST the lodge. My exhaustion made the merriment I glimpsed behind its fire-warmed window panes seem cruel, but I’m sure it wasn’t as personal as it seemed in the moment. There were two other tents set up outside the shelter when we arrived so I set up my camp, silently, by the light of my otherwise useless iphone. I would’ve slept inside the shelter, even though the entrance was covered by a plastic tarp that read, “keep out” (because of COVID, maybe?), but my son told me there would be mice. Then, he did something with our food that involved some system of ropes and pulleys, but I didn’t care if I were eaten by a bear. At least then I wouldn’t have had to hike down. Or discover what a “compost toilet” is.
I had the opportunity to tour this facility before it was open to the public. This is going to be a phenomenal RV Resort. Big-rig friendly, a HUGE pool with a hot tub, fishing, kayaking, and hiking trails. Inside the lodge, there will be meeting spaces, a retail store, and an on-site concierge. If you have been to Catherine's Landing, this resort is going to be even more magnificent (If that is even possible)!
We stayed at the main area but not much space or privacy so we put up a tent out side our door, but then moved to the tent camping site area the second night which was more secluded and private, but still close to the showers/bath house. So much hiking and a cool view of the dam is all within walking distance. Nice bath rooms and showers too.
Full Video With Drive Through Of The Campground CLICK HERE
When visiting the smoky mountains you might be tempted to try something a little bit more off the beaten path. Sometimes the path being rocky and windy makes the campsite all the more worth it. As is the case with the Cataloochee campground.
I took a trip to this campground in hopes of finding something spectacular I had heard that the elk in this area around freely and that on a crisp day you could hear the water which runs along side the camp even at the furthest campsite. As I drove down the winding road I noticed that the twist interns grew narrow the bumps grew frequent and then encountering a motorist was a hairy experience. I had been told that large RVs we're not permitted however I saw one precariously going down the mountain side.
The roads suddenly turned from dirt and gravel to a paved section of highway and I was slightly confused.
Just a short distance after this occurred I found the Cataloochee campground jetting off to the left-hand side of the road. It welcomed me with open arms and tall trees casting gorgeous shade that seem to be dancing in the sunlight. I pulled in to speak to the Ranger on duty and then quickly found my campsite. It was something unlike any other campground I had found in the area completely removed from the comforts of community and distanced intentionally from the creature comforts.
This campground is one for making memories and enjoying truly the outdoors. Hiking trails depart from this campground and lead to some of the most historic areas of the great Smoky Mountain National Park including several structures which ones were the homes of some of the first residents of the Smoky Mountains.
Each site was large enough to spread out in with a small camper or a tent. Tent pads are large and size allowing for even the largest of tents. Each pull in was large enough for a large vehicle, though I could see an RV being an issue. Campsites came standard with lantern hooks and picnic tables in addition to a fire ring.
Centralized restrooms and trash receptacles were available in addition to a spigot. These restrooms are very basic however do have a wash sink area in a common area as well to avoid restroom clean up for dishes. There are no showers at this facility.
Since this area is widely regarded for bear sightings in addition to other wild animals, you can find bear safety at the kiosk and locking trash bins. I would advise brushing up on your bear safety before a trip to the Smoky Mountains for a camping trip in general.
Sure enough after settling in this campground was a peaceful and idyllic setting. At$25 per night the waterfront sites more than justify the price point. However, I will say reservations are required for this campground as it is more remote and also more limited on availability.
This campground is frequently effected by weather so planning in advance is a must!!
This is really an incredible camping site. The shelter is well maintained and they have taken all the COVID precautions. Another feature of this shelter that is really special is the composting toilet bathroom. They built an entire stall to help with waste buildup at the site. The shelter itself is very large and has a bench for sleeping on along with a fireplace to keep everyone warm. At the moment they are asking people to sleep outside as a safety precaution but in the future, this is a wonderful communal place to sleep. This is a very busy trail and highly trafficked but still worth the stay. If you are considering this site though make sure to book it early cause it can get full. Finally, I would suggest visiting all the small side trails along the way since the views are incredible!!!!