Soaring old-growth trees, lonely stone walls and stories of a shy hermit lend a fairy-tale vibe to this 7.5-mile lasso loop that begins near Cataloochee Campground. The mature trees that mark this hike are here thanks to the hermit, Robert 'Boogerman' Palmer, who did not allow logging on his property. He requested the nickname in elementary school, we hear.
The hike begins with a creekside ramble on the Caldwell Fork Trail, open to hikers and horseback riders. After 0.8 miles the path intersects with the 4.1-mile Boogerman Trail, open only to hikers. From here, you'll climb through a forest wonderland, passing eastern hemlocks, oaks, maples, tulip trees and white pines. The trail rises and falls, passing Palmer's old homestead (although we couldn't spot it) before a final long drop to a series of mossy stone walls – all that's left of abandoned homesteads. The trail rejoins the Caldwell Fork Trail for a 2.8-mile return.
After a storm, downed trees along the entire loop and washed-out footbridges on the Caldwell Fork Trail can turn this ramble into an epic adventure, so check the trail status with the camp host or read the signage at the trailhead after bad weather. On a couple of our creek crossings, the fast-flowing water hit above the knee and could prove dangerous with younger kids. If you have a hiking pole, bring it.