Editor’s note: This information was gathered from two books, “Hiking Trails of the Smokies” and “The Best of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: A Hiker’s Guide to Trails and Attractions.” These books, and others, are available at various visitors’ centers in and around the GSMNP. They are also available online through the Great Smoky Mountains Association.
November is a wonderful time to visit the Cataloochee Valley, located on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This time of year is known as “rut” and visitors can hear the legendary bugle of the bulls (male elk) from one to two miles away.
The Little Cataloochee Trail is a perfect way to take in the beauty of the Cataloochee Valley. This trail begins 0.8 miles from the Cataloochee Road on the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail and follows old roads through the historic Little Cataloochee Valley. It is a total of 5.2 miles from Pretty Hollow Gap Trail to NC Route 284.
The Little Cataloochee Valley was named as to identify it from the neighboring Big Cataloochee Valley. Little Cataloochee is sometimes considered an island community, which was typical of the loosely-connected rural settlements that made up most of the United States in the 1800s.
According to records, the Cataloochee area was the last portion of Haywood County, North Carolina to be settled due to its rough topography. The valley is nestled among some of the most rugged mountains in the southeastern United States. Surrounded by 6000-foot peaks, this isolated valley was one of the largest and most prosperous settlements in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.