The Boogerman Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains has it all – old growth forest, picturesque streams and waterfalls, and what’s left of a few early Smoky Mountain homesteads. Now that you know that, a challenging 7.4 mile round-trip doesn’t seem all that bad.
You’ll find the trailhead in the Cataloochee section of the park, which is located on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and can be a little more difficult to reach, but well worth the effort. From Interstate 40, NC State Route 276, and Cove Creek Road, navigate your way to the Caldwell Fork Trail (follow the signs).
During the Boogerman Trail hike, you’ll gain approximately 800 feet and reach an altitude of 3,600 feet. The trail gets its name from Robert “Boogerman” Palmer, whose old homestead in seen along the trail, as well as some of the region’s largest trees and various mountain streams. The Boogerman Trail also passes through some pristine wilderness that was untouched by logging companies who made their way through the Smokies before the land was purchased by the federal government and subsequently designated for use by the national park.
Upon arrival at the Caldwell Fork Trail, cross Cataloochee Creek by footbridge before coming across a slew of white pines. You’ll stay right when the trail splits before crossing Caldwell Fork on a footbridge.
At mile 2.8, you will encounter the Palmer homestead.
The trail turns to follow Snake Branch at 3.8 miles into the loop, before turning again around a rock wall, and traversing a small stream. Old fence posts and piles of stone now dot the landscape, indicating an area of early homesteads which once stood by the creek.
Snake Branch is crossed at nearly 5 miles into the hike. Towering hemlocks are also seen before the path takes you across Caldwell Fork a hand full of times via log footbridges. Several hundred yards before crossing Cataloochee Creek at approximately mile 7.4–and completion of the loop–you will see the remains of a cabin and barn built by Carson Messer.
The Boogerman Trail hike is a wonderful way to get to know the Cataloochee area of the national park, and I came away feeling stronger and more fulfilled than when I arrived.