Ok I am admit I am a sucker for hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains national park of all of the guided hikes I had taken this historical hike through Little Cataloochee with National park Ranger Brad Free is tops and a do not miss Smokies experience.
Little Cataloochee and Big Cataloochee were both thriving communities when the park came into existence. Ranger Brad Free will take you on a moderate 5 mile hike with some small steep sections where you will step back in time with the help of a fantastic narrative and historical photographs along with some Smoky Mountains magic.
The hike will start along the old North Carolina Turnpike with a history lesson on this road onto a gravel trail where you will have the opportunity to experience the history of the park at the Hannah Cabin and the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church and cemetery (pictured below). You will walk by and see the site of other historical building and farms and where on of the mills was located where you can see historical artifacts and evidence of the Little Cataloochee Community.
The hike will then continue where you will stop where you can enjoy your lunch or snack that you have brought along at one of the most inspiring parts of the Great Smoky Mountains national park: the beautiful Dan and Rachel Cook Cabin on Coggins Branch.
The Dan and Rachel Cook Cabin pictured below was destroyed by vandals with a chainsaw. The loss of this beautiful structure was devastating but thanks to the help of the Friends of the Smokies, this outstanding example of Smoky Mountains architecture was restored to its original beauty. This is just one of many examples of why we should all support this incredible organization.
Cataloochee valley is right next to Maggie Valley and road to take you to the valley is near the intersection of 276 and I40. Meet just before 10 am at the first parking lot when you pull into the GSMNP Cataloochee Valley where you will see a bulletin board and literature. The hike starts at 10 am and the return time is approximately 3 pm but you can stay longer if you wish.
It can be very cool in the Cataloochee Valley in the mornings so dress warm in layers and pack a picnic lunch or snack along with any water you may need. While the trail is not particularly steep or rocky it is best to wear hiking shoes or at the least sneakers.
Not only will you be able to experience the best guided hike that Great Smoky Mountains national park has to offer with an excellent veteran Ranger, the elk are in rut right now so you should stick around until sunset to listen to and watch them.