The Boogerman Trail Hike, first and foremost, takes you away from the traffic and population of the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It takes a bit of trouble to get to Cataloochee (see the directions on the map below), but I’ll bet my last dollar you’ll enjoy the Cataloochee area—and you’ll be back.
The Boogerman Trail is named for Robert “Boogerman” Palmer, whose homesite you’ll pass as you complete this moderately challenging 7-mile loop trail, which can take between 2 and 3 hours to complete. You will gain nearly 850 feet on your way to 3,600 feet at the trail’s highest point.
The trail is well maintained and this hike offers up views of some of the largest trees in the area, old homesites (including Palmer’s) and mountain streams. This area was spared from the logging operations which dominated much of the Smokies area before the land was purchased for the Park.
After following the directions from I-40, NC 276, and Cove Creek Road, navigate your way to the Caldwell Fork Trail (follow the signs). Cross Cataloochee Creek on a footbridge and you’ll enter a stand of white pines. When the trail splits, stay right and climb a narrow edge along Caldwell Fork. You’ll cross Caldwell Fork on a footbridge and enter an area of old-growth trees. You will pass through a gap, and traverse an area dominated by white pines. At mile 2.8, you will encounter the Palmer (Boogerman) homesite.
At mile 3.8 of your loop, the trail turns down to the right alongside Snake Branch, around a rock wall, and across a small stream. Here you will see some clearings, old fence posts and piles of stone, which indicate where homesites previously existed near the creek.
Nearing the five-mile point you will cross Snake Branch , and in an area of towering hemlocks you will begin crossing Caldwell Fork several times via log footbridges. The stream offers up picturesque views of both quiet, deep pools and noisy falls. 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 Cataloochee area can be described as North Carolina‘s answer to Cades Cove. Though the old homesteads are not preserved as well as those in Cades Cove, the remains, combined with the overpowering beauty of the area, give you a good sense and feel for those old times when things were simpler. The “Boogerman” Trail hike was a great way to introduce myself to the Cataloochee area, and I came away feeling stronger and more fulfilled than when I arrived.
If your trek to Alum Cave Bluff is a day-hike, take a knapsack and carry a few extra items. Include some bottled water and a snack. Never drink the water from a Park stream without boiling it first. Though the streams in the park are invitingly cool and deceptively clear, they contain bacteria that can wreck your trip and a substantial period thereafter, if you succumb to the temptation to drink from them. You might even include a camera in your knapsack too. If you are making an overnight trip to LeConte Lodge, you’ll be carrying a backpack, and we assume here that you have included all the necessary items and arranged for the required reservation at the lodge. A backcountry permit is required for overnight stays in the backcountry. Certain campsites are reserved in advance. Permits are available at visitors centers or by calling (865) 436-1231.