Trail: Boogerman Loop via Caldwell Fork Trail
Surface: Forest Trail
Distance: 7.6 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Foot Traffic: Not Crowded
Restrooms: Cataloochee Campground (backcountry regulations)
Highlights: Horses, Wildflowers, Birding, Old-Growth Forest, Historical
Boogerman Loop Trail via Caldwell Fork Trailhead
From Maggie Valley, NC: Follow Soco Road (US 19) to Jonathan Creek Road (US 276) and turn left. Take Jonathan Creek Road (US 276) to Cove Creek Road (SR 1395) and turn left (Cove Creek Road is just before the I-40 junction). See NOTE below for further directions.
From 1-40: Take Exit 20 (US 276 – Waynesville / Maggie Valley). Stay to the right. After crossing the overpass on Jonathan Creek Road, turn right onto Cove Creek Road. See NOTE below for further directions.
NOTE: Drive 10.6 miles to Cataloochee Campground and park. Return to the main road and walk 0.1-mile to the Caldwell Fork Trail trailhead on the left.
Boogerman Loop Trail Background
Where did Boogerman Loop get its name? Legend has it that a teacher asked a young boy named Robert Palmer what he wanted to be when he grew up. He responded, “The Boogerman”. Of course, from that point on he became the Boogerman. As an adult, Robert Palmer owned many acres of land in Cataloochee Valley and the trail was named after him.
While many landowners in the mountains sold their logging rights, Palmer, and a few others in the Cataloochee Valley, did not. This area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to the best old-growth forest, with some of the largest trees around.
Boogerman Loop Trail via Caldwell Fork Trail Description
Boogerman Loop is a trail through old-growth forest with beautiful wildflowers, large trees, streams, birds, and other wildlife.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT bring your dog on this trail. We found a popular hiking website that said dogs are welcome on this trail, but that is not correct. According to the National Park Service’s Pet Policy, dogs are welcome on just two trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Gatlinburg Trail and Oconaluftee River Trail.
The trail elevation rises 1,100’ and most guides rate it “moderate”. A few sections of the trail can be challenging, and some hikers claim it borders on being “strenuous”. Given that this hike is more than 7.0 miles, carefully consider whether this trail is one you want to tackle.
The hike begins on Caldwell Fork Trail. After crossing the footbridge, one of the longest in the park, walk 0.8-mile and turn left onto Boogerman Loop.
A couple of sources indicate that hiking this loop in a counterclockwise direction is easier than the clockwise direction we are describing on our site. If you decide to take that route, pass the first Boogerman Loop entrance and continue walking 1.9 miles to the second trail entrance.
Creeks and Streams
A wonderful characteristic of this hike is the frequent stream and creek crossings. It makes for a superb Smoky Mountain hiking experience. Most of the crossings take place on log footbridges, although a few of the footbridges can wash away on occasion. Anticipate that you might need to walk through the water in one or two places.
Even if you are not required to walk through a creek or two, a few sections of the trail occasionally get muddy. In addition, horses frequent this trail, adding to the list of things (manure) you must carefully go around.
Flowers and Old Growth Trees
One payoff for this hike is the amazing hemlock and rhododendron growing here. The rare old-growth forest is another reason you want to hike this loop. Some of the largest trees in the Smokies are located here. Lastly, the historical remnants will take you back to a time when America’s pioneers actively settled the area.
Boogerman Loop Trail reconnects with Caldwell Fork Trail 4.9 miles into the hike. Turn right and walk 2.7 miles back to the trailhead.
Boogerman Loop Trail Historical Highlights
One of the highlights of this trail is the former Palmer home site. Only a chimney remains. However, if you love history, the site stimulates your imagination for what it may have been like to live here long ago.
A small footpath leads to the Palmer cemetery with only one grave. It is unmarked and it is unknown who is buried there.
Farther up the trail, the Carson Messer homestead, or what is left of it, sits behind a stone wall. The only visible evidence is a hole where the home used to be and an old door frame.
The Messer Cemetery is down a short trail with four unmarked graves.
Along the Boogerman Loop Trail, you can see remnants of old buildings that used to make up the Cataloochee community. It is hard to discern what most of these buildings used to be, although it is interesting none-the-less.
Nearby Points of Interest
Little Cataloochee Trail runs north of the Cataloochee Valley and is a wonderful place to explore historical remnants. Mouse Creek Falls is another beautiful spot not too far from Cataloochee Valley.