Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Boogerman Hike

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Boogerman Trail Hike - Smoky Mountain Hiking


The Boogerman Trail Loop Hike

Summary: This is a fairly challenging 7.4 mile (round-trip) hike that takes you by picturesque streams and falls, some old growth forest and what remains of a few early settler's home sites. The hike itself should take around three hours, depending on your pace and whether or not you are bringing children. You'll depart from the Cataloochee section (the North Carolina side), which is a bit tedious to access (see map and directions), but definitely worth it.

Elevation: You'll reach 3,600 feet after climbing 800 feet.

Point of departure: Follow the directions from I-40, NC 276, and Cove Creek Road, then navigate your way to the Caldwell Fork Trail (follow the signs).

The Boogerman Trail Hike is by far the trail to take to really get away. This hike takes you away from the combustion and overcrowdedness of the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a bit of a trek to get to Cataloochee (see the directions on the map below), but I'm sure you'll enjoy the Cataloochee area, and you'll be back.

Boogerman Trail Loop Hike Map - Cataloochee

Named for Robert "Boogerman" Palmer, whose home (or where it used to stand), you'll pass on your way around this somewhat challenging 7-mile loop trail. In all, The Boogerman Trail can take between two and three hours to complete. On your way to 3,600 feet - the trail's highest point, you gain nearly 850 feet.

Not only is it a well-maintained trail, this hike provides views of some of the largest trees in the area, mountain streams, and even some old homesteads (including Palmer's). Logging operations were prevalent in the area at the time, though this area was spared.

Follow the directions from I-40, NC 276, and Cove Creek Road, then navigate your way to the Caldwell Fork Trail (follow the signs). Next, you'll cross Cataloochee Creek by a footbridge and you'll enter a stand of white pines. Continue right after the trail splits and prepare to climb a narrow edge along Caldwell Fork. You'll then cross Caldwell Fork on a footbridge and come upon an area of old-growth trees. Passage through a gap is next, followed by a walk through an area populated by white pines. You will finally encounter the Palmer (Boogerman) homestead at mile 2.8.

At loop mile 3.8, the trail takes a right turn down alongside Snake Branch, navigates around a rock wall, and across a small stream. You'll come upon a few clearings, piles of stone and old fence posts – a clear indication that this was once the site of a few homes that previously existed near the creek.

You reach Snake Branch close to the 5-mile point. Towering hemlocks surround the hiker before crossing Caldwell Fork several times via log footbridges. The stream affords picturesque views of both noisy falls and deep, quiet pools. The remains of a cabin and barn built by Carson Messer appear several hundred yards before crossing Cataloochee Creek at the 7.4 mile mark, and the completion of the trail.

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If you're looking for North Carolina's answer to Cades Cove, the Cataloochee area can be described as that. Though the old homesteads are not preserved as well as those in Cades Cove, the overpowering beauty of the area, combined with the remains, offer a glimpse of those old times when things were simpler. The "Boogerman" Trail hike is a good way to get to know the Cataloochee area. I came away feeling more fulfilled and knowledgeable than when I arrived.