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Smoky Mountains State Park Camping

Paint Rock Farm Glamping Retreat

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camping Campgrounds and RV parks

Image from The Dyrt camper William D.

Paint Rock Farm Glamping Retreat is the perfect backcountry campsite for those who arent quite willing to give up the creature comforts of modern life. Located in Hot Springs, North Carolina, Paint Rock Farm is still a great place to disconnect and decompress in the comforts of your own furnished cabin.

The average price for a night at Paint Rock Farm varies from $100-$125 and you will need reservations. Each site has easy access to running water, electricity, and flushing toilets.

Paint Rock Farm has a rich history and was initially established for farming tobacco. The old barn where they dried tobacco is now a stunning wedding venue. In 2019, Paint Rock Farm became an organic hemp farm for use in CBD. You and your friends or family will love touring the hemp fields and learning about the many innovative ways hemp products are changing the health and beauty industries.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park In The Winter

Winter in Great Smoky Mountains National Park runs from mid-November through February. As you gain elevation in the park, extreme weather becomes more likely. The lower elevations, however, typically experience relatively moderate winters.

At lower elevations, more than half of all winter days experience daytime temperatures in the 50s and lows at, or just below, freezing. The lower elevations only receive snowfalls in excess of one inch a handful of times each year.

Most of the higher elevations in the park are blanketed in snow for much of January and February. Its not uncommon for up to two feet of snow to fall in a single storm at high elevations and temperatures as low as -20 have been recorded on the parks high peaks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camping Highlights

Now designated a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site, Great Smoky Mountains first became a national park in1934.

Today, the park is most notable for its rolling hills, dense old growth forests, lush river valleys, springtime wildflowers, and remarkable biodiversity.

In addition to large mammals like black bear and elk, camping in Great Smoky Mountains also brings you into close contact with countless other wild animals, including fireflies and salamanders .

But the biodiversity doesn`t stop with animal life in fact, the Great Smoky Mountains are perhaps even better known for their wide-ranging diversity of plant life.

The ancient mountain range boasts thousands of plant species, including more than 100 native trees, 100 native shrubs, 1,600 flowering plants, 450 bryophytes , and 50 ferns.

And in addition to all these natural wonders, Great Smoky Mountains still contains numerous historical remnants from Appalachian mountain culture, including log cabins, churches, and even a working grist mill.

All of these natural and cultural wonders are shrouded inthe iconicblue smoke-like haze from where the national park and the surroundingmountain range draw their curious name.

Many visitors simply complete an auto tour of the park to take in must-see destinations like Cades Cove without venturing far from their vehicle. But camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along with hiking and backpacking, are key for the more authentic wilderness experience.

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Why Youll Love Smoky Bear Campground & Rv Park

Its no surprise that this campground made it onto this list it received a perfect score from Good Sam Club and receives numerous sparkling reviews from past guests. For good reason too! A heated pool, hot tub, clubhouse, community area complete with fire pit, playground, and even a book and DVD library are among the options for entertainment, and thats not including the opportunities for hiking, fishing, and more in the National Park. Along with these amenities, the campground provides a camp store, laundry facilities, and clean bathhouses for campers.

Norris Dam State Park

Camping last April at Cosby campground in the Smoky Mountain National ...

This one is fairly close to our home base here in the Smokies. It’s also located at Norris Lake, regarded as one of the most beautiful and pristine reservoirs in the TVA system. Guests of the park can take advantage of cabins ranging from rustic to deluxe, and picnic areas on the east and west sides of the park have features like tables, grills, playgrounds, pavilions and restrooms. Also look for a seasonal pool and ample boating and fishing opportunities along the lake’s 700 miles of shoreline.

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Elkmont Campground On The Parks North Side

Fall asleep to the gurgling sounds of Little River at the Elkmont Campground where the riverside campsites are extremely popular.

Just eight miles from Gatlinburg, Tenn., Elkmont is an extremely popular campground because of its size its the parks largest with 220 sites proximity to Gatlinburg and its access to three trailheads and fantastic fishing, relaxing and wading in the Little River. It also offers interpretative programs and has a general store.

Because of the varied length and slopes of campsite driveways, some sites are better for tents than RVs. Get out and assess the site before you try to park your RV. Sites can accommodate motor homes up to 35 feet and trailers up to 32 feet. Theres no dump station here. The campground has restrooms with running water and flush toilets. Each individual campsite has a fire grate and picnic table. There are no showers or electrical or water hookups in the park.

For those who truly want to get away from it all, Elkmont has 20 walk-in sites for tents only. It also offers nine wheelchair accessible sites and three have 5 amp hook-ups for medical equipment.

Dont miss out on this campground. Advance reservations are required from early March through the end of November. Make your reservation at

The The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Boondocking Investor Gap 4wd

AddressElevation: 5808

Management: Forest Service

The road in is 4×4. Investor Gap 4WD is open mid-August until January 2nd. The maximum RV length at Investor Gap 4WD is 15 feet. You may stay 14 nights at Investor Gap 4WD.

Best Review:

If you are in a fairly capable off road vehicle there is a FS road off the parkway where you can drive into the back country a bit to camp.

Its called Investor Gap, and is up near graveyard fields. The gate for FS road 816 is open August January. Beware as this trail is not maintained, and the last time I was up there a section of road was washed away forcing us to turn around right as DENSE fog rolled in. And its not exactly the place to be in low visibility.

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Smoky Bear Campground & Rv Park

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Hidden among the beauty of the North East section of Great Smoky National Park, Smoky Bear Campground is a living testament to the serenity of the mountains. The park is beautifully landscaped to fit into the mountain scenery and offers a quiet refuge to campers looking for a family getaway. Plus, its less than 20 miles from both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, so theres no shortage of dining, shopping, or entertainment.

History Of The Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains officials identify body found in backcountry campsite

The The Great Smoky Mountains were home to indigenous people for thousands of years. It used to be the home of the historic Cherokee who lived in the various towns in the river valleys in the Appalachian mountains. The European Americans started settling here in the 18th century owing to their desire to acquire land in the deep south. in 1830 the then-president Andrew Jackson signed the Indian removal act that expelled the Indian tribes and the Cherokee from the region. The white settlers who were entrepreneurs made logging in the major industry in the mountains hence building the little river railroad to transport timber from the region. At the end of the 19th-century residents were concerned about the logging activities and started advocating for the preservation of the area. Much of the land was acquired by grassroots fundraising and the national park was officially dedicated in 1940.

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How To Get To The Great Smoky Mountains

The McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee is the closest airport in the area. It is a 30-minute drive from the park making it the most convenient. The Asheville regional airport is about an hours drive from the park and is the best option for someone wanting to visit the Maggie valley and Cataloochee

Pigeon Forge Landing Rv Resort

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Pigeon Forge Landing RV Resort is excited for its inaugural year as of March 2021. Offering brand new amenities and accommodations along the West Prong Little Pigeon River, there is no denying its excitement to welcome all types of campers. The close proximity to Pigeon Forge allows endless entertainment while you stay here.

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Best Campgrounds In Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There are ten developed campgrounds in Great Smoky MountainsNational Park.

All ten of these are car campgrounds. All but one accept RVs, although most do have RV length restrictions. Each campground has running water and flush toilets. There are no showers or RV hookups available in the park.

Eight of the ten campgrounds accept advance reservationswhile the other two campgrounds are first-come, first-served. Abrams Creek,Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, and Cataloochee Campgrounds all requirereservations.

Here are the best campgrounds in Great Smoky MountainsNational Park.

The The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camping Harmon Den Dispersed Camping

Great Smoky Mountains Backcountry Camping  Campsite 4

AddressCold Springs Road Hot Springs, North CarolinaElevation: 2795

Management: Forest Service

The road in is Gravel. You may stay 14 nights at Harmon Den Dispersed Camping. Roadside camping is generally allowed beside most gravel roads. However, along Cold Springs Road in Harmon Den, roadside camping is permitted only at sites with a camping symbol.

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These sites are designated to minimize damage to Cold Springs Creek. At primitive camps, you must provide your own water, bury all human waste and toilet paper, and take out your trash. Use existing fire rings, and never wash in a creek.

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Other Great Smoky Mountains National Park Campgrounds

There are plenty of places to camp in addition to the tencar campgrounds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Backpackers are allowed to stay at several backcountrycampsites, including overnight shelters along the Appalachian Trail. Other optionsinclude group campsites for large parties and small horse campgrounds forequestrians.

Here are the best additional places to go camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Smoky Bear Campground And Rv Park

RV camping in Great Smoky Mountains doesn`t get much betterthan Smoky Bear Campground and RV Park. Pull-thru RV sites with full hookups,private tent sites away from the RVs, comfortable cabins complete with AC, anda convenient location just minutes from the park make this a fantastic place tostay on your GSMNP camping trip.

Learn more about Smoky Bear Campground and RV Park.

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The The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camping Sunburst Roadside Campsites

Elevation: 3127

Management: Forest Service

There are 1-5 campsites at this location. You may stay 14 nights at Sunburst Roadside Campsites.

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Ten miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and nestled between Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness within Pisgah National Forest. Two designated free campsites along the road near Sunburst Campground. Camping is only allowed in designated sites in this area. No facilities. If you need facilities, you can pay $15 and stay at nearby Sunburst Campground.

What To Bring And How To Prepare

Abrams Creek campground – Boondocking – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • A limited selection of groceries, snacks, firewood, ice, and other concessions are available at Cades Cove Campground, Elkmont Campground, and the Smokemont Riding Stables. The majority of your perishable goods should be bought outside the park and packed in your RV refrigerator or an insulated camping cooler.
  • There are no gas stations or other related services in the park. There are numerous communities outside the park, but the closest services are in Cherokee, NC, Gatlinburg, TN, and Townsend, TN.
  • Bring a pet leash and keep your pet on it at all times when outside your RV. Pets are only allowed on certain roads and trails in the park but check here to see pet restrictions for all 62 national parks.
  • Hiking clothes. Many hikes in the park may require a light shirt at the bottom and an insulated jacket as you climb in elevation.
  • Yellowjacket wasps can be extremely aggressive in the park in the fall. Insect repellents and bug sprays will help, as will lanterns and candles. But allergic persons should carry Benadryl or an Epi-pen in their first aid kit. If stung on the hand, it is recommended to remove any and all rings before swelling occurs.
  • There are no swimming or tubing areas in the park and climbing waterfalls is strongly discouraged due to algae growth that causes rocks to be extremely slippery.

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The The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Boondocking Weaver Bend

AddressElevation: 1237

Management: Forest Service

Weaver Bend is open year round. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay 14 days at Weaver Bend.

Best Review:

These campsites are legit. Im not a very experienced camper but I thoroughly enjoyed this spot. The directions are super easy to follow. At first I wasted ALOT of time trying to understand the written directions others had written, but idk if yall just dont use google maps or what.cause if you just type Weavers Bend, Del Rio, Tn, it takes you right to it. The road you turn off to is all gravel and well maintained. It did have some low spots that we bottomed out in but we got through it just fine. The gravel road to the campsites is worth the drive in itself. It hugs the side of the mountain with no guard rails, so fun. Its a few miles back, basically all the way to the end. The designated spots have a small tent sign and are pretty easy to spot.

Food Storage And Wildlife Safety

The Great Smoky Mountains are home to a wide range of potentiallydangerous wildlife.

Black bears are perhaps the most dangerous to human visitors. But you should never any wildlife, including elk and deer. Stay at least 50 yards away when viewing wildlife. Never feed any wildlife in the park.

Proper wilderness food storage is equally important, especially for backpackers. Always properly store food and use a bear-resistant container as necessary.

At certain times of the year, it`s even more important to becautious around wildlife. Case in point is during the fall breeding seasonfor elk, in which the male elk, known as bulls, become much moreterritorial and aggressive than normal.

Many hikers and backpackers carry bearbells, bearhorns, and/or bearspray while hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains.

You should also familiarize yourself with what to do in a black bear encounter.

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Best Overnight Backpacking Trips

The ultimate backpacking trip in Great Smoky MountainsNational Park is undoubtedly the 71-mileportion of the Appalachian Trail that passes through the park.

Join Appalachian Trail thru-hikers and hike this entire section of the trail. Most hikers need around a week to complete the trek while serious backpackers can complete it in as little as three or four days.

Another option is to hike a small portion of the Appalachian Trail. For example, the 13.3-mile one-way trail from Davenport Gap to Max Patch Road is one of the best sections for a short backpacking trip. Either bring two cars or plan on an in-and-back hike.

Other excellent Great Smoky Mountains backpacking tripsinclude the 21.5-mile BigCreek Loop through an area of the park known for its many creeks, the28.2-mile Deep CreekLoop through another creek-heavy section, and the 13.7-mile SpenceCreek Loop for a scenic ramble through open meadows and dense forests.

For a completely unique backpacking experience, hike up to the LeConte Lodge, a collection of cabins atop Mount LeConte, to stay the night in rustic comfort. Although not exactly backpacking in the traditional sense, a stay at the park`s only lodging facility requires a long hike in .

Remember that all overnight camping in the backcountryrequires a backcountrypermit .

*Check out our guideto planning a backpacking trip for the best tips to make your Great SmokyMountains backpacking trip one for the record books!

Campgrounds Near Smoky Mountains National Park: The North Carolina Side

Cades Cove Campground

Although the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountain National Park gets a lot less press, theres a ton to see and do over there as well. The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is packed with educational opportunities, and family-friendly hiking is around every corner. Explore Native American history in Cherokee. And youll also want to go tubing at the Deep Creek Picnic Area near Bryson City. The cell phone service in this area is notoriously bad, so be prepared. Here are our favorite campgrounds near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA Holiday

The Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA Holiday is open year round and offers a true camping resort experience. Theres an indoor and outdoor pool, jump pillow, go cart rentals, snack bar, community fire pit, and tons more. Youll also find a packed recreation schedule during the peak travel season. Some of the best RV sites back up right to the river, and guests can enjoy tubing right onsite.

Yogi Bear in the Smokies

Right up the road from the KOA, this Jellystone Park focuses on the family camping experience. Many of the RV sites and cabins are located right on the river. Theres a pool, playground, activity center, and well-stocked camp store.

When planning a trip to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, youll have so many amazing campground options to pick from. In fact, it can almost be overwhelming. Here are a couple of tips

  • Visit our interactive map to explore these campground further!
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