A trip to Oconaluftee is always fun. It’s all about getting away and enjoying the lifestyle of the mountains. This area borders Cherokee, NC, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. A little history about this nation within a nation—

“The Cherokee were hunters and gatherers, foraging the Great Smoky Mountains and the lowlands of the Southern Appalachians for food while hunting, fishing, and trapping game. By 2000 BC, Cherokee culture had spread over hundreds of miles of mountains, governed by their clan system and town leaders. They passed on their history and religious beliefs through storytelling, ceremonies, and dances. Their agriculture, medicine, and spirituality sustained them. The Cherokee tribe was one of the largest tribes in the southeastern United States and controlled a vast land base.”

The Oconaluftee River Trail is one of two dog friendly walking paths in the Great Smoky National Park. This trail is 1.5 miles one-way from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to the outskirts of the city of Cherokee, NC. It runs through a dense forest and alongside the Oconaluftee River! Very cool . . . and it’s beautiful, so we’ll be back when it’s not raining.

Wessy gives it ‘five paws’! It has plenty of river views(!) and access points where a little brown dog can jump in the water and chase native trout. Yikes! “Wessy, put that back.”

This is the main field where you see Elk in the evenings. We saw a large herd nearby but did not get a chance to pull out our cameras to photograph them because rain was coming fast. If you want to see Elk, here is the place or a couple of other nearby locations early in the morning or late in the day.

It has been years since I walked through the village, and I have never walked the River Trail. I was in for a treat!

Here’s the pathway. This is just a quick shot using a post on a directional sign. I struggled with ISO settings on my camera. Rain was falling, light was low, and I did not have a tripod. Beyond this, Wessy wanted to go for a swim, which she did just a little.

Here’s the Oconaluftee River at a place where you can often see Elk crossing. We could “smell” them—like cattle—but we didn’t see them.

The goal for Wessy was to stand in the river. The goal for me was not to fall down, especially since rain was building and the rocks were super slick! No Elk at this location!

But, we saw plenty evidence of their presence like their pathways out into an open field where they could graze on sweet grass.