After our long 7.4 mile hike along Boogerman Trail a week ago, we were looking for something a little more relaxing and easier for this weekend. We elected to head back to Cataloochee Valley and hike up the two mile roundtrip Rough Fork trail to the Woody house. Turned out to be a really nice trail. Beautiful woods, creeks to cross and wade in, and a really nice home and home site.
Rough Fork Trail – Cataloochee Valley
Location: Cataloochee Valley in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Roundtrip Distance: 2 miles to the Woody Home Site
Features: Creekside, historic home site, beautiful forest
Directions: From I40, take exit 20 for Maggie Vally, and make an almost immediate turn right onto Cove Creek Road. Follow Cove Creek and continue on it even after it becomes a gravel road. Once your reach pavement again, turn left and follow the road into Cataloochee Valley. Go all the way to the end, where you enter a parking lot for Rough Fork Trail. You’ll see a gate at the trailhead. Just a heads up, Cove Creek Road is considered by most to be a crude dirt/gravel road, full of twists and turns and large pot holes. The road is also very narrow, and only wide enough for one car, so go slow and take your time.
The trail head for Rough Fork trail is right at the parking lot, you really can’t miss it. There is a metal gate at the entrance to keep car traffic out. The trail is very wide all the way to the Woody Home site. Shortly after passing the gate, this is what you’ll see ahead as you walk up the trail towards the Woody home.
The area is a very clear of underbrush, allowing you to explore some. We went off the trail a number of times to get closer to the creek that’s on your left. There are some really nice photo opportunities along the creek.
We hiked this trail on Labor Day weekend, and a result it was fairly busy. We encountered 30 or so people on our way up and back.
After about a .5 mile, you’ll come to your first bridge to cross the creek. This is the first of a few crossings you’ll make on the park standard log bridges.
These bridges are always fun to cross and break up the trail some. Our kids always get excited when they see them. We took our time, and stopped to take photos of the creeks and enjoy the cool water. We saw many families with kids doing the same. Many children, including ours were in bathing suits and water shoes.
As you are hiking, take your time, there are lots of small things to see along trail, including unique wildflowers, possible wildlife, including Elk and Black Bear, and other items of interest, such as this hollowed out tree. See the spooky face?
After crossing a few more bridges, you’ll see the white of the Woody house in the distant. A really beautiful creek will be on your right as you approach the house.
The Woody House
Shortly after the Civil war, Johnathan Woody moved into Big Cataloochee, a late arrival compared to most. The Woody house was built in 1880 by Steve Woody, the son of Johnathan. The house was originally a one room log cabin, but was later expanded and paneling and siding was added, as lumber from nearby Waynesville became more available.
There is a also a spring house nearby and visible from the front of the house.
The house is open and you can go in and walk around. We strongly encourage you to do so, as the quality, architecture and details are pretty amazing. Warning though, if you don’t like bats, you might want to stay outside. We saw three bats on the ceiling in 2 different rooms.
Johnathan Woody was a widower and married a widow. They combined their families when they were married, providing them with lots of children and one of the main driving reasons for increasing the size of the house.
The children slept upstairs, together, in what is called “The Old Soldiers” room. It’s the unique looking room on the end. I am not sure why they called it this.
The Woody’s really established their own little part of the world. Walking around the grounds, you can see signs of the old farm: old farm equipment and barbed wire to hold in the livestock. You can even see where their gardens were. The Woodys, like many others in Cataloochee, took advantage of the tourism. They stocked the creeks with trout, and charged fisherman to fish in them. They also rented out rooms in the house and barn, and the Woody’s fed them. The rooms in the upstairs of the home were rented out.
As a parent, I can’t imagine having strangers staying upstairs where my kids slept, but I guess times have changed.
Rough Ridge Trail continues on past the house for another 5.4 miles to Polls Gap where it meets up with Hemphill Bald Trail. You can also catch Caldwell Fork Trail before reaching Polls Gap.
If you’re just visiting the house, you’ll return to the parking lot on the same path that you walked up.
If you’re looking for an easy, beautiful and relaxing hike, with an interesting historic destination, Rough Fork trail is a great option. The trail is really good for families with kids or senior citizens due to it being very flat and wide.
We definitely recommend it.