Tent Camping specific: Cataloochee is my favorite campground in the great Smoky Mountains national Park. It’s secluded, on the small side, and quiet. It’s very much a family campground, and there seem to be a lot of regulars that camp here year after year. I know our family does.
As a tent camper, I look for campgrounds where there are not going to be a plethora of large RVs. The last thing I want to hear when I’m out camping is somebody’s TV playing at full blast and the generator going all night. I’ve never had this happen at Cataloochee. Yes, some people use generators, but it usually tends to only be for an hour or two during the day which I can handle. What keeps out the large RVs? This:
“Access to Cataloochee is via a narrow, winding, mountain road. A 3-mile stretch of gravel road contains many narrow, blind curves. Though many campsites will accommodate large rigs, motorhomes over 32' and trailers over 25' in length are not recommended due to the access road. “
The road is quite the trip just in a car, and I can’t imagine driving a large RV on it. There are two approach roads. There’s one that goes from Big Creek Campground to Cataloochee. I would recommend this one because of how scenic it is, but we once got stuck behind a tractor trailer on the small gravel road and had to sit there for an hour in order to get going again.
The campground specifics: there are flush toilets and there is drinking water, but that’s it. No electrical hook ups. This is bear country, so put your food up, along with any scented health and beauty items. Tent pad is 16‘ x 16‘. You can collect the dead wood, but please don’t bring firewood into the park unless it’s been specially treated.
Reservations are highly recommended, but it is possible except on the busiest weekends to occasionally snag one of the not so prime sites. And even the not so prime sites are still wonderful because of this campground. Just keep checking Recreation.gov to see what comes available.
There’s great fishing, great hiking and a lot of historical buildings to explore. There’s an area of the stream where little kids can easily play which is important because I have a three-year-old. Lots of people bike throughout this area of the park because there’s not a lot of traffic. Fishing is great, just do your research on what is effective on the trout in this area and what the rules and regulations for fishing in the park are. And there’s elk! They have their babies at the beginning of June and mid September through October is their mating season, so you can hear their strange whistles.
Site specific: Sites 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are located along the stream. 1, 2, 4 & 6 are across the the road from the waterfront sites. Sites 11-15, 17-19 are on the outside of the loop. Sites 20-27 are located on the road that bisects village. The best sites? 5 & 10. They are really nicely sited with the tent pad quite a distance from the gravel road around the campground. All of the other waterfront sites are great. Site 11 is not waterfront, but it’s spacious and private. The worst sites are those on the road that bisects the Loop Road.
LET ME BE VERY CLEAR: any campsite at Cataloochee is worth reserving. They’re all nice. You can hear the water from any of them. They are paths that lead behind the campground to the river so it’s just a matter of walking a few more feet. Your neighbors might be a little close, but with the ambience of this campground, it won’t feel like that.
I’ve stayed in Cataloochee every year for the past six years. I’ve stayed at almost every other campground in the park. Cataloochee is just fantastic. To prove that point, we have three stays reserved this year for our family. So go! You won’t regret it.