Trail: Little Cataloochee Trail via Pretty Hollow Trail
Type: Point to Point
Surface: Forest Trail with Rocks, Dirt & Gravel Road
Distance: 6.0 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Foot Traffic: Not Crowded
Restrooms: Pit Toilets at Cataloochee Campground (backcountry regulations)
Highlights: Historical Buildings, Horses, Elk, Wildflowers
DEFINITION: Basically, a pit toilet is an upscale outhouse.
Little Cataloochee Trail 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 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 below for further directions.*
* Drive 12.0 miles to Pretty Hollow Gap Trail Road and turn right. This road will take you to the parking area for Pretty Hollow Gap Trail. Begin your hike at the far end of the parking area.
IMPORTANT: Unless you are planning to hike out and back, you need to plan for transportation at the end of the trail. You may either drop off a second vehicle or use a hiker shuttle service, of which there are several.
Little Cataloochee Trail Background
Little Cataloochee Trail is all about history. The Cataloochee Valley was the largest farming community in the Smoky Mountains during its heyday. More than 1,200 people lived here. Residents farmed, worshiped in local churches, traded with local merchants, and built a great community.
When Great Smoky Mountains National Park came into existence, it decimated this, and other farming communities. The creation of the park forced residents to relocate. Eventually, they abandoned their homes, barns, churches, and other buildings, and moved on.
As part of the National Park Service’s commitment to maintaining historical structures for the education and enjoyment of park visitors, many of the buildings remain in great condition.
Little Cataloochee Trail provides access to several sites with historical buildings. As you hike, stop and enjoy these structures for a look into the past.
RELATED: Cataloochee Valley
Little Cataloochee Trail Description
In order to reach Little Cataloochee Trail, you must begin your hike on Pretty Hollow Gap Trail near the Cataloochee Horse Camp. The horse camp is a primitive camping area catering to equestrians. Horse stalls, horse-watering stations, hitching racks, and great horse riding trails are available here.
Pretty Hollow Gap Trail parallels Palmer Creek all the way to Little Cataloochee Trail. Stay on Pretty Hollow Gap Trail for 0.8-mile, and at the junction with Little Cataloochee Trail, turn right.
NOTE: Almost immediately, the trail begins an upward climb (900’ rise in elevation over the first 2.0-miles). After you reach the summit, the trail begins a descent all the way to the end. In addition to the elevation changes, be prepared to walk through water as you cross over creeks and rivers. Hint: wear proper hiking footwear.
The first historical site, the Messer Homestead, is located in Davidson Gap. In its prime, the Messers place was home to a blacksmith and woodworking shop, sawmill, and a gristmill. An apple orchard provided plenty of produce for trading at the store.
A little farther down the trail, take time to tour Cook Cabin and Little Cataloochee Baptist Church built in 1889. A cemetery is located next to the church, a common practice up until the mid 1900’s.
In 2001, the National Park Service reintroduced elk to this area. Nowadays, it is common to see elk roaming the grounds around the church. Wild turkeys also wander around on a frequent basis.
About 1.2 miles from the end of your hike, Hannah Cabin is situated a short walk off the main trail. Do not miss this place. It is the former home of the first settler in Cataloochee Valley.
Nearby Points of Interest
Maggie Valley, NC is the motorcycle hub of the Smoky Mountains. Bryson City, NC is known for its whitewater rafting and outdoor adventure. Both of these cities are gateway cities to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and each offer unique vacation experiences.