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Fall Foliage - Cataloochee

posted Oct 23, 2012, 5:29 PM by Justin P
For our annual fall foliage trip this year, we stayed at the Cataloochee group campsites at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Sandy and I left after work Friday night and arrived at the camp at around 10.  We set up our tent and went to bed shortly afterwards.  In the morning, we ate breakfast and drove through Cherokee towards the Oconaluftee visitor center, then took Big Cove Road into the park, where it becomes Straight Fork Road.  We parked at the trailhead to Hyatt Ridge Trail and began our hike.  The Hyatt Ridge Trail runs for about 1.9 miles before meeting up with the Enloe Creek Trail.  And it is uphill the entire way, for more than 1000 feet of elevation gain.  But with cooler weather and beautiful fall color, it wasn't too bad.  There was even a big log about three fourths of the way for a nice break.  At the junction, we turned left to head down the Enloe Creek Trail.  The steady downhill was a nice relief after heading up for a ways, but of course that means more uphill on the way back.  After heading down a bit, we came to a bridge over a river crossing and stopped for a bit.  Just downstream of the bridge were several nice cascades and Raven Fork Falls, a small 8-foot cascade.  Getting downstream was a bit of a challenge, however, and it took some rock climbing and tree hugging to get downstream.  After a short bit, it was clear that further travel was impossible, so we headed back to the bridge.  There is a campsite immediately across the bridge and the Enloe Creek Trail continues past the intersection of Raven Fork and Enloe Creek and heads upstream along its namesake creek.  Casey told us that there might be some marking tape to get down to Enloe Creek Falls, but we never saw any.  After a while, we could see Upper Enloe Creek Falls through the brush and made a very challenging descent down to get a good view of the falls.  And the climb up was even more challenging.  We ate lunch near the river and tried to find the actual Enloe Creek Falls, but to no avail.  We will have to come back another time and this time, make sure to have a GPS waypoint.  As it was getting late, we turned around and made our way back to the cars.  On the way back to camp, we stopped at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to see the elk and stopped in Maggie Valley for dinner before heading back to camp.

Sunday morning, we woke up and packed up camp as soon as possible to get in a nice hike before heading back home.  We moved our cars to the trailhead for Caldwell Fork & Boogerman Trails hiked across the first of many footbridges.  Hiking on the Caldwell Fork Trail, we passed the first turn for Boogerman Trail.  I had hiked this trail in March and two of the bridges were out requiring stream crossing and butt-sliding across a narrow log.  But the park had replaced one bridge and stream crossing could be accomplished by walking across a very large tree that had been cut down.  So we didn't have to get out feet we this time.  At about 2.7 miles, we came to the second junction with the Boogerman Trail and turned right to begin a gradual climb.  Along the way, we saw some artifacts from before the area was a park - an unknown metal device, an old foundation, and some stone walls, including one that is still in very good shape.  We also stopped at the big tulip poplar tree with a hole so big, at least two people can fit inside.  After some amusing pictures, including handstands and yoga poses at the tree, we continued along the trail.  But we didn't go too fast, because there were just too many opportunities for beautiful pictures of the fall foliage.  Leaves in every shade of red, orange, yellow, pink, and peach brightened the landscape and made for a very relaxing and enjoyable hike.  We even found another giant tulip poplar, this one with a hole in the back, so it was not as obvious from the trail.  And the hole went all the way up with light coming in at the very top.  Continuing on, the trail twisted around before starting to head back down and joining back up with the Caldwell Fork Trail.  When we got back to the car we didn't leave immediately.  Instead, we headed back towards the group camp and stopped at the Palmer House were two male elk were grazing near the road.  We walked around the old barn and headed up to the cemetery for more pictures and stopped again at the Cataloochee overlook for some last fall foliage views before heading back home to Raleigh.