From the Rough Fork Trailhead parking area, hikers will follow Rough Fork Creek. This is also considered a horse trail, so expect portions of the trail to be muddy.
At around 1.1 miles is the Steve Woody House. It was built around 1880. While originally built of logs, it was eventually replaced with lumber once saw mills gained more of a foothold in the Smokies. Steve Woody and Hiram Caldwell (the namesake for Caldwell Fork Trail
) were both residents of the Cataloochee area in the 1870s.
At about 1.5 miles, hikers will reach the Big Hemlock Campsite (#40.) The trail begins to get steeper as it ascends towards Caldwell Fork Trail
, offering at various times nice views of the Cataloochee Divide. After that junction, the trail climbs a bit more through the thick woods as it eventually comes to a stop at the Polls Gap parking area. From here, hikers have access to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Segment 1A
and the Hemphill Bald Trail
The Smokies are home to more than 1,600 species of plants, most of which produce an abundance of flowers in the spring. These species include mountain laurel, rhododendron, azalea, and many others. Spring wildflowers peak from early April through late May. To learn more about the plants of the Smokies and even get a trees and shrubs checklist, visit the park's website
As for local fauna, black bears are common in the area, along with white-tailed deer and 31 species of salamanders. Birdwatchers can spot a variety of species, notably the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) and red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus). For more information on black bears, refer to this webpage