What is it with people suggesting coming into Cataloochee from the TN side?
The only way to go in with a trailer or vehicle over 10k pounds is via Cove Creek Rd which starts at Hwy 276 just south of I-40. All of this route is in NC.
Coming in from TN would be to start at I-40 exit 451 and then involve 16 miles of gravel road along with crossing a long narrow bridge with a 10K pound weight limit. There are sections of this road just as bad if not worse than Cove Creek Rd, not to mention a tight turn when coming off the bridge.
2004.5 Ram 3500 4x4 Quad-Cab SRW CTD 6-spd, XD9000 winch
2004 Lance 815 (an upgrade from my prev 2005 35' fiver )
DW (homemaker), 1 DD @ Clemson in Civil Eng (Dec 2013) w/SIL, 1 DD Tech Grad (home but employed), 2 DFs (meow)
Have you ever pulled a 35' 5ver in from the NC side? I have never been on that Tenn road but the rangers had told me it was better to come that way. if what you say is true, I wouldn't go there with a 5ver from either side. Others may be more adventurous.
I've only been there once in 2009, but I usually have a pretty good memory of the roads I drive. I went in from 276 and out via the TN side. Road condition may be a bit fuzzy, but I know it took us an hour to drive out in the TC, 1st gear a couple places where rock is exposed in the road bed, 2nd a couple times due to curves, hills, ruts and 3rd gear 90% of the other time.
One thing I know for sure, is the bridge with it's weight limit. I looked carefully before driving across it with my 10k pound rig and remember saying to myself "glad I don't have my 5ver". Though in reality, it would possibly handle twice it's limit, but that is a long bridge to testing that much.
The only way I would pull a trailer in from the NC is if I had a spotter with radio during from the switchback after the "waterfall switchback" to the left turn after the NPS boundary. Phone wouldn't work because you loose service soon after the NPS boundary. Other than meeting oncoming traffic, it's an easy pull with a trailer for the experienced.
With the alternative camping nearby, at least one of which is a Passport America CG, I wouldn't try to haul a trailer in. And I am the adventurous type. Think I made the adventurous type qualification when I went down a gravel road at night with my 35' fiver, couldn't turn around, so had to back up for over 1/2 mile.
Lots of good advice, but since the OP asked about a MH, I'll add my experience.
33' gas Class A. There are a lot of blind curves where I used the entire road. I would have no worries in making it in and back out again, but what concerns me is oncoming traffic. As has been said, there are stretches of the road containing 2 or more curves with no room to pass another large vehicle.
I do think a MH would be much easier than a trailer.
I would go in at dawn (probably not many people coming out that early), but I don't know the best time to come back out.
No matter how difficult it is to get there, it is worth the trip.
Last weekend (Oct 22) we pulled our 30' camper over the mountain from the Maggie Valley side into Cataloochee Valley. It's definitely doable, but not for someone uncomfortable with tight spaces... in some places it is tight even without a camper. Most everyone we encountered took it very slowly, was courteous... allowing our treck over and back to be uneventful.
The gravel road over the mountain is narrow with VERY tight turns. Expect to meet oncoming traffic... we drove over on Saturday afternoon and met 10+ vehicles & campers of various sizes... pulling the camper back over on Wednesday morning, we met 4 or 5 vehicles. There are many places along the road wide enough to pass... expect to be on the edge of the drop-off or against the mountain. Oncoming vehicles can usually be seen before they get to you... allowing one of you to find a passing spot and wait for the other to pass.
My main concern going up was having traction on the gravel. I didn't have any issues, just had to ease into the throttle and take it very slowly. Luckily the roads were dry, though could have used a little grading as they were like a washboard. Once in the valley, the major road is mostly paved and in good condition with plenty of room.
Once off the gravel road, it's about 3 miles to the campground. There are several old homesteads in the valley to visit. Elk can be seen almost always; though morning and late afternoon/evening will allow you to see more in the fields. After setting up camp, we toured the area and saw MANY elk in the fields... it was about 4:00 or so. Turkey are abundant also... we had half a dozen walk right by our campsite while we were there. The elk & turkey do not seem too concerned with people... it's surprising how close you will get to them.
Black bears were in the area... though we did not see any. The campground hosts said someone had seen one crosing the road outside the campground one afternoon.
If you plan to visit Maggie Valley, be prepared for a 45 minute trip over the mountain then into town. We had no cell coverage in the valley (AT&T). Others with Verizon had very limited coverage. Make all your calls before reaching the mountain peak and entering the park. There were also limited radio stations available... if you want music, bring your iPod or CDs.
All in all it was a very good experience. I would not let the road in keep me from visiting again. We did not take the road in/out on the Tennessee side; though did ride the dirt road loop within the park over on that side... which crossed a bridge rated at 10 tons. Looking at the map... taking that way out of the park looks much longer than from Maggie Valley and likely similar driving conditions.
If anyone needs more specific info, please PM me.
* This post was
edited 10/29/11 06:26pm by MegaJohn *
I was there in 2009 and it's one of only two roads I have ever turned around and got out of there as quickly as I could. I was in a Ford pick-up and just couldn't see putting us in harms way with the narrow road and blind spots of oncoming traffic. On our way out I saw a cloud of dust coming from behind and could tell it was a vehicle traveling at a fast pace. I found a place to pull over and let them,teenagers, pass. I truly expected to find them off the road or head on into another car. Fortunately neither happened. IMHO.
I tow a large 5th wheel, and I can tell you I would never try to tow it into there. However, I have seen some fairly large traiers in there and there is a horse camp in there with some fairly large horse trailers. When we go there, we stay at Winngray campground which is only about 1-2 miles from the Cove Creek road entrance from US 276. If you really have your heart set on camping in there, do what was recomended above and drive the road first.
There are two campgrounds in the Cataloochie valley. One is just a big group camping area, although they do allow single campers to camp there, and an improved campground with a comfort station, but no hook-ups.
Don't feed the bears, and at this time of year, don't get too close to the elk. They are very big, and very bad tempered during the rut. Oh, and the best times to see the elk are just after sunrise and just before sunset.
Take your hiking shoes and hike back to Little Cataloochie, where there are some additional cabins and houses that you can't get to with a car.
Enjoy, we loved Cataloochie valley,and the elk are really neat during the rut.