Fall Trip to Cataloochee Valley ~ Great Smoky Mountains National Park - NC


Fall is here! It's simply the best! The color around Charlotte has been really popping this week.

Back in October Matt and I took our annual fall trip to Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains. Each year we always take a big trip or two somewhere to spend a long weekend enjoying the fall color. We love a good vacay where we just sit around and relax but our vacations are usually ones where we are on our feet getting awesome shots and seeing cool stuff.

We normally like to go to Roan Mountain in the Fall but we've been there a million bazillion times and even though it's ah-mazing, this year I really wanted to go back to Cataloochee Valley. The last time we went was 3 years ago and we had such a blast. I had to go again this year.



Cataloochee Valley is such a unique place because it's home to hundreds of wild Elk. I cannot believe I had never heard of this place until a few years ago! They are magical and just graze in the fields and on the roads.

They move in herds and move fast so one minute you are taking a picture of them in the field and the next thing you know they are coming your way, fast. They tolerate people and are really accepting of the visitors getting pretty close to them, but you always have to remember they are wild animals and you need to move out of their way pronto.

The Elk are gorgeous animals and it's spectacular to see them up close and in their natural state. There is nothing like hearing the call of the male elk - check out my travel video I made at the bottom to hear it! :)





Another thing, I don't know if many people even realize this but we actually have a National Park here in North Carolina. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the border of NC and TN. It's the most visited National Park in the USA. Wow! I found that out by watching a National Park's documentary on Netflix. Cataloochee is just a small part of the Park but it's a very popular tourist spot for sure.

There is a lot of history here too. Old buildings from centuries ago when families occupied the lands. There is nothing inside the structures but it's pretty neat to peak inside and see how people used to live.






In 2001, Elk were released in Cataloochee Valley to reintroduce elk to the park. This was an experimental project and has proven wonderful for the animals and the community. The herd can be seen regularly in the fields of the valley. A ranger told us that 3 baby elk were born this season. They are beautiful especially the male elk.

The best time to see them are early morning and late afternoon. The elk do not like the heat or high noon time of day so they usually nap in the woods during the daytime.

We also saw deer and wild turkeys running around. They are everywhere!







For the trip we rented a huge zoom lens from Borrow Lenses (the Nikon 200-500mm) to get some good up close shots of the elk. We took tuns using it so while one of us was using that one, the other was using the Nikon 80-200mm which we own and is also really good for portraits and wildlife. We spent about $50 to rent it for 3 days. Totally worth it!

We camped each night up at Pretty Hallow Gap trail with lots of other campers and brought all of our food for the weekend. We had picnics by the river and got our workout hiking some colorful trails and taking pictures along the way. It was a lot of fun!

I'm so happy with all the beautiful photos we got and the memories we made.








I made a short video of our trip so check it out! Also subscribe to my YouTube Channel, Ginny Williams! Thanks so much! :)



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Hey! I'm Ginny! I'm a published photographer and blogger from Charlotte, North Carolina.  I share healthy & nutritious vegan recipes, lifestyle inspiration, & inspiring nature and travel photography!

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