This drive takes you to one of the most beautiful valleys in the Smokies, and to one of the most interesting destinations. The first 7 mi of Cove Creek Road is a mostly paved, winding two-lane road through a scenic rural valley. As you enter the park, the road becomes gravel. Although in the park this is a two-way road, in places it is wide enough only for one vehicle, so you may have to pull over and let the oncoming vehicle pass. At points the curvy road hugs the mountainside, with steep drop-offs, making it unsuitable for large RVs or travel trailers. As you near the Cataloochee Valley, suddenly you're on a nice, paved road again. Follow the paved road, as it is a short cut to the historic old buildings of Cataloochee. (You can also continue on the unpaved Cove Creek Road toward Crosby, Tennessee, and in about 5 mi you can enter Cataloochee from the back side.) Follow the signs for a driving tour of the old houses, barns, churches, a school, and other buildings that are all that remain
of the once-thriving Cataloochee community, which at its peak in 1910 had about 1,200 residents. You can stop and walk through most of the buildings. Keep a lookout for elk, wild turkey, deer, and other wildlife here. If you haven't had enough driving for the day, from Cataloochee you can continue on the unpaved Cove Creek Road to Big Creek campground near the North Carolina–Tennessee line, where you can reconnect with I-40 at Exit 451 on the Tennessee side.