We visited Cataloochee, which is in the North Carolina section of the park, in search of elk. In 2001 and 2002, two separate herds of elk were relocated from Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area to Cataloochee in an effort to re-introduce them to the national park. We did manage to see one of the herds.
This is not the first time Rachelle and I have seen elk. While we were visiting Yellowstone National Park in September 2003, we saw a male elk and his harem on a trail in the Old Faithful Area. We heard the elk bugle, and as we passed a wooded area between Geyser Hill and the Castle-Grand Area, we could see elk up in the trees. So we stopped and waited on the boardwalk, watching the elk through the trees. The male elk surprised us by walking out of the trees and pausing on the boardwalk for a few moments, about 12 feet away from where we were sitting.
I’d like to go back to Cataloochee in the fall to see if we can spot any elk during the rut, and to see the autumn colors. If you are planning a visit to Great Smoky Mountains, I’d suggest a stop in Cataloochee. It’s not as accessible as Cades Cove, so it’s also not as visited, but in many other respects Cataloochee and Cades Cove are very similar.