Cataloochee Valley, Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great place to take children to see authentic uncaged, unbridled wildlife, if you don’t mind a little driving on some “forest service roads” and about 90 minutes or so from Asheville.

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The valley is known for the wild elk, which were reintroduced back into nature in 2001.  Trust me, you will see plenty, unless the weather is atrocious.

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To get to Cataloochee Valley, from Asheville, take I-40 west past Waynesville to exit 20 (Maggie Valley).  As you exit the ramp, stay to the right onto US 276 about .20 miles, and taking a right (follow Cove Creek Road).  Then, prepare for a back country ride.  The road is decent but steep, with some pretty scary drop-offs (for back east) and tight curves.  Be constantly prepared for oncoming traffic.

The Smoky Mountain website has very clear instructions on getting here, so I refer you to them.

When you get to the actual valley, you have two choices (except for rutting season from mid September-end of October).  You can turn right and follow the river to the Palmer House area, where the male elk gather around sunrise and again at dusk, or

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you can stay on the main paved road and head towards the ranger station and the Caldwell house and barn where the female elk and young herd.  Either way, its a beautiful area with plenty to see and keep children well occupied trying to see the elk.

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You might even catch a vey young bull elk playing in the water, just like all kids do!

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A disclaimer, with an embarrassed grin, these pictures were some of my earliest attempts, so the quality is not the best, but you get the gist of Cataloochee Valley.

Enjoy,

A Happy Hiker!

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