NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cataloochee Elk Viewing

My ankles were still a bit sore after our hike up and then down the Chimney Tops Trail so on Wednesday we needed a sit-down plan.  Ever since we were in the park last year we wondered about the elk viewing in Cataloochee.  So we loaded up the truck and we headed over the mountain.  Our first stop was the Visitor Center where I bought a copy of "Hiking Trails of the Smokies".  Outside a park employee was showing visitors the difference between the summer and winter hides of elk.

From there we hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Maggie Valley exit and had lunch at Maggie Valley Restaurant before heading into Cataloochee Valley.  Food was mediocre even though the parking lot was jam packed.  Any tips for quality food near the park are appreciated!  We didn't have much luck in Gatlinburg last year, but we did try the Firefly Cafe in Townsend and give it a thumbs up.  Mostly we cook ourselves, but long days auto touring require a lunch stop.

The turnoff to Cove Creek Road is right before the I-40 exit and it wasn't long before we had reached the gravel road into the park. It's a little wider than one lane, but most of the tight curves are blind so take it super slow and easy!

Once you arrive at the entrance things are a lot smoother going, but the road is still very narrow and not everyone parks where they should.  Some people think it's okay to haul over to the side as long as they are a foot over the edge of the road.  That's fine for your average sized car to get by, but we are in a Chevy 3500 and in addition to being wide we make wide turns on curves so if you don't want your car pushed off the road quit parking it where you feel like instead of in designated areas!  My biggest problem with these rule breakers is that I have to hear Wayne grumping about it over and over all day long.  Maybe I should invest in ear plugs and then just nod along.

Worried you won't see the elk if you make the trip?  Not likely since they were all over the place at 3:00 in the afternoon.  I told Wayne I was a bit disappointed because they seemed hemmed in and were wearing collars.  Too much like going to the zoo for me.  In the Tetons it was a bit more challenging and exciting to see a herd of elk.  Yes, I'm picky.

Not every elk had a collar on, and if it's like the Badlands it may be only the females that they tag.

This young bull seemed fairly calm until he noticed a human in his path.

He only hesitated long enough to make sure the human was staying put before moving on to better grazing.  Visitors are supposed to stay out of the fields, but at this particular spot there is a crossway for a cemetery in the woods to be accessed.

Just as we were preparing to leave this pretty cow posed near the edge of the road for me.

I was happy to get some use out of that lens I rented, but I don't think this is a $75.00 shot, do you?  One thing I've learned from my rental experience is that a 70-200mm lens is not as versatile as I was hoping it would be.

Well, that's it for the elk viewing on this trip.  It was nice on the North Carolina side of the Smokies, but we prefer the larger variety of options on the Tennessee side and wouldn't make RV reservations on the North Carolina side of the park.  For us just a daytrip or two is sufficient, and at this time of year the ride is no hardship with all the fall color to appreciate!

As for Pigeon Forge, we ventured in yesterday and went to the Titanic museum which is the only attraction there that tempted us.  We both were in agreement that it was not worth the time or the money.  You don't see anything you can't see by watching the movie.  The advertising makes it seem as if there will be a lot of artifacts from the salvage of the wreckage, but that is not the way it is at all.  Our opinion is watch the movie, it's more satisfying and much cheaper.


  1. Great tip on the Titanic Museum. I'll let my daughter know as she was considering that for her upcoming trip and she'll appreciate not wasting her time or money.

    The fall colors are beautiful. Love the shot of the posing elk.

    I say take a paint ball gun and splat paint on the badly parked cars. LOL!

  2. Regarding the collars, that's females for you. Must always must have the latest in fashion. As for Pigeon Forge, I couldn't get out of there fast enough!

  3. Can't comment on the places to eat as I usually make sandwiches for us to take places. I found the 70-200 was great for taking portraits of people when they were not watching

  4. Nice elk shots - especially the last two. I own a 70-200 lens and hardly ever use it. It's too big and heavy to schlepp around in my backpack and I find I'm usually going for the scenery shots anyway. I do have a 24-105 L lens that is on my camera 90% of the time. Very versatile for scenery or close-ups.

  5. Wayne sounds like Al. If a driver does something stupid, he can't get over it and I have to hear about it for miles and miles. I like the idea of earplugs!

    We went there last year and saw the elk. We had to go early and not long after we got there, they had headed back into the woods, so it was not easy to find them. I guess the collars are since they are trying to re-introduce them into this part of the country.

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