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88 Entries
Peggy Fox Email

I have to admit; when my sister suggested the Cataloochee Tour I thought, "why pay to see the elk?  We can just drive in and see them."  But since she wanted to do it I went along for the ride.  Boy was I wrong!  The tour was the highlight of our trip!!  Thank you Esther for a wonderful tour and for all the great history you shared with us.  I have already recommended this tour to many people and they say they have added it to their to do list.  Take care Esther and Happy Thanksgiving.

Glenn and Mae Johnson 

Esther, we agree with all the other clients, your love for your job and the Cataloochee Valley definitely made our trip memorable. The Elk tour was a highlight of our vacation and we highly recommend it!!
You left us feeling as though we made a new friend and per our conversation, always enjoy life's moments and beauty of your surroundings. "The mountains are calling....and I must go". John Muir

Lynne Duncan 

Charlie and I totally enjoyed our tour on Oct. 16. All of our expectations were exceeded. We put the tour on our list of favorite things we have ever experienced. We look forward to taking all of the tours Esther has to offer.

Mike Nabors Email

Well, I feel like I made a new friend!  Esther, you were a wonderful host for my son Danny and my trip into Cataloochee!  Mark another one off my bucket list, but wait, I think I won't do that so I can go again!  The elk were wonderful and the pictures we took were terrific.  The trip was PRICELESS!  Best wishes!  Mike

Cathy Nichols Email

My husband and I had a wonderful evening hearing about Cataloochee and seeing the elks and turkeys!  Thanks Esther for a wonderful adventure!

Martha Bennett Rogers  Email

My husband I were blessed to find Esther and Cataloochee Valley Tours.  Esther was exceptional of her knowledge and love of this beautiful valley.  We actually just received a wonderful note from Esther with a photo she took of us on our tour.  My great, great, great grandfather (Young Bennett) was one of the first settlers in the valley and it was a joy to have Esther lead us back to my humble beginnings in beautiful Cataloochee.  - Thank you Esther!!

Johan & Katie 

We toured with Esther on Sept. 27th.  What a wonderful experience!  She is very enthusiastic about her love of wildlife and shares her wealth of knowledge during the whole tour.  We have visited the Smokies before, but it has always been to the more commercialized sections of the park.  This was one of the highlights of our vacation to the Asheville area. Seeing the elk amid the beautiful setting of The Cataloochee Valley is breathtaking.  If you are vacationing in the area, you really should make this a MUST SEE part of your trip.  You will not be disappointed!

Steve and Ellen Fix 

We had a wonderful and educational tour with Esther. It was the highlight of our recent trip. Highly recommended.

Linda Yarbrough 

We went on the Elk tour with Esther August 27th. The tour was awesome. She is just full of information about the area which made the time so much more enjoyable. We saw many elk in the valley, took amazing photos and learned things we would have never known if we hadn't been with her. Her husband was also with us and he too is full of information and funny. I could have stayed there forever! We will be back next year and plan to do your whole day hike. We didn't see any bears that day but Esther informed us she saw three the next day! We ended up seeing so many bears in Cades Cove that it was probably better there were none that day in the valley so we could just enjoy the beauty of the elk. Thank-You Esther and see you next year!

Joel & Anna Tuchfeld Email


What a great way to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Smoky Mountain National Park guided by our host, Esther Blakely fromCataloochee Valley Tours.  Esther has a myriad of folk tales and trivia which is fascinating and compliments her expert guiding. We saw Elk, Bears, Wild Turkeys and a vast variety of fauna.  What a delight! 

Mary Anne & Robert Wolf 

We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the Cataloochee Valley with Esther.  The Valley is beautiful and peaceful.  We got to see a black bear and the interaction with the elk all because of Esther's patience, experience and knowledge of the area.  Highly recommended.

Mike & Susan Floyd 

This was our 7th visit to the Swag, but our first Adventure with Esther. What a great addition to our Swag Experience to visit the Cataloochee Valley. The wildflowers, scenery, Elk, butterflies, turkeys, etc made this vacation. We would highly recommend Esther to others to make their vacations complete. Another plus is she always had her eyes open for those great memory photo opportunities. 

Art Meripol Email

I have been in love with the Smoky Mountain National Park for years. I've photographed it in all seasons. But the tour with you was an eye opener and took me to great places I would never have found on my own. The beauty of the locations was only surpassed by the great knowledge shared and the wonderful conversation. I cannot wait to come back and do it again. You are the B E S T !

Ellen and Alan Rabin 

 Imagine a beautiful evening in one of our spectacular national parks. Magnificent elk are roaming free and we are there to experience them. Esther not only made certain that we took advantage of all the Great Smokies twilight world had to offer but shared her extensive knowledge of history, botany and wildlife habits so that we not only enjoyed but appreciated the natural world. Thank you so much, Esther.

george labanca 

Yeah, we will see you soon. Ever since our first tour with Esther we have been craving to come back. We consider your tours to be absolutely the best value in all of NC, even the East Coast.  George, Kim, Gabe and Sophia Labanca

Lisa & David Grigg 


Thank you, Esther, for the wonderful Synchronous Firefly was truly magical and made all the better by our gracious and knowledgeable guide.  And the homemade cookies were delicious!  God bless!

Valdemar Leisner Email

Spending 10 days in the Smokies, filming the beautiful landscape, is one of the best experiences I have ever had. We could not have had a better guide than Esther.  Can't wait to visit again.  Greetings from Denmark, Valdemar Leisner

Pam and Rooney King Email

Our synchronous firefly tour was absolutely magical.  Esther is a terrific guide--very knowledgeable and personable.  We look forward to exploring more with her.

Allison Butler Email

What a special treat to take the Synchronous Firefly excursion!  The fact that it only occurs in two known places in the world and only during a small snapshot of time is simply unbelievable!  We also saw two elk and a rabbit...bonus!
What a special treat for Sandy's birthday.  Esther, your command and knowledge of the forest makes the tour extra special.  Thank you for making these tours continue to happen.  Allison Butler, Cynthia Serra, and Sandy Smith

Patty Davis 

 May 21, 2012     I was lucky enough to go on Esther's first ever Clingman's Dome Sunrise Watch and Cade's Cove Ramble.  The sunrise over waves of blue mountains and ribbons of cloud left me awestruck!  Safely, from the car, we watched an awkward yearling bear eating something he had caught.   Cade's Cove is idyllic -- acres of rolling green fields, historic cabins and churches, herds of deer and more bear.   The tour was the perfect Great Smoky Mountains National Park experience -- the grandeur of the mountains, wildlife up close and the human history of the tough people who made their home here, and a fabulous guide.  What a day!  I'll never forget it! 
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