The Cherokee/great Smokies Koa
This campground is open all year round unlike most other campgrounds and offers a real camping experience. It offers a couple of amusement activities to its visitors, including pools, go-karts, snack bars, and various other facilities. The peak season offers packed recreation schedules. The Cherokee offers some of the best RV sites right next to the river.
Cosby Campground Best For Traditional Camping
Cosby Campground gives you the best, but most simple services out there. If youre looking for a no-frills campground, with all of the basic amenities that they traditionally offer, then this is your best bet. This is the place to come to simply set up your tent, without any of the added features that are offered in some of the other places. Its quieter than many of the others and has a fire ring, picnic table, and a forest that offers shade and comfort. Youll get tent pads, grills, and tables, making it an ideal place to roast some hotdogs and tell stories around the fire. Nearby attractions include river rafting trips, an aquarium, and skiing during the wintertime.
Great Smoky Mountains Camping Regulations
The following list of regulations is from the parks official website. Make sure you follow these regulations carefully during your visit.
- Do not bring firewood into the park. You could unintentionally bring pests or invasive insects with you. Collect dead and down wood in the park or use heat-treated firewood only.
- Fires are only permitted in the fire grates provided.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park is bear country. Follow all food storage guidelines to store your food properly. Worried about camping among bears? Read our bear safety guide.
- Campsites are limited to six people or fewer.
- Pets cannot be left unattended in park campgrounds. Pets are also not allowed on park trails. If youre bringing a pet, be sure to read the pet rules.
- Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and generator use is prohibited between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
For more details about regulations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park campgrounds, .
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Directions & Travel Info
Directions from Knoxville, TN
Take US-441 South for approximately 20 miles. Take a right at Pleasant Hill Rd in Sevier County and then take River Divide Rd to Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Turn right onto Pigeon Forge Parkway , continue on, then turn right onto Conner Heights Rd/Indian Cir Dr . In 0.5 miles continue onto Mill Creek Rd. In 0.7 miles, just after passing the Smoky Mountain Ziplines, turn left at the bridge to stay on Mill Creek Rd. You will pass some horse stables on your left, just over the bridge. **note you may lose cell service from here. Continue straight on Mill Creek Rd which become Laurel Lick Rd. Follow the Under Canvas signs. Take a left at the big red shipping containers and follow the pebble driveway up the hill and through the forest to arrive at camp.
Directions from Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Head North on Wear Cove Gap Rd toward Little Greenbrier Trail. Continue on to Line Springs Rd and then turn right onto US-321 N. Turn right onto Bryan Rd, continue on for about half a mile and then take a left onto Valley View Rd. Take a right on Little Cove Rd, and then another right on Little Cove Church Rd. Little Cove Church Rd turns slightly right and becomes Laurel Lick Rd. Turn right on Bruce Ogle Rd. and follow the signs to camp.
Elkmont Campground North Best For Riverside Camping
Elkmont Campground is nestled next to the gushing Little River, making it one of the best places for riverside camping. This also means its one of the busiest places to stay in the Great Smoky Mountains. Its at 2,150 feet and encompassed by a thriving forest. You can go hiking, swimming, and fishing in one of the many streams and nearby rivers. You have a good chance of spotting wildlife like elk and bear, and you can also hike to the nearby Laurel Falls, an 80-foot waterfall. Its also a great place to come if youre traveling as a group, as theres tons of space and a lot to do in the area. It can accommodate anywhere between 15-30 guests per site. Hikers will get a kick out of their numerous maintained trails nearby, so get your best trekking shoes on and get going.
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Cades Cove Campground West Best For Wildlife Spotting
This is where you can wander on the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Route and try to spot wildlife like white-tailed deer, black bear, turkeys, raccoons, coyotes, groundhogs, birds, and skunks. You can also do a 5-mile roundtrip hike to Abram Falls, with a beautiful deep pool at the base of the waterfall. Come here to relax and truly enjoy the tranquility of the great outdoors. Explore the nearby rhododendron forests, pine-oak forests, and creeks. There are numerous streams and rivers you can go backcountry fishing at. If youre a wildlife enthusiast, then you definitely have to stay at Cades Cove to truly give yourself a good chance to spot some beautiful wildlife of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Balsam Mountain Campground Best For Campsite Selection
With over 40 sites to choose from, the Balsam Mountain offers some of the best options in the Great Smoky Mountains for site selection. There are no lights in the restrooms, so if you choose to stay here, make sure you bring your head torch. There are flush toilets and drinking water on site. During the spring and fall, you have the chance to see elk. Its located at 5,310 feet, so daytime and nighttime temperatures are cool. There are pleasant hiking trails nearby, like the Flat Creek Trail. If youre looking for a more adventurous hike, then you can take the Hemphill Bald and Rough Fork trails, located across a 14-mile loop. This is also one of the best spots in the national park for trout fishing.
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How To Reserve A Campsite At Elkmont
Go to recreation.gov website for Elkmont-
Elkmont has one of the more thorough recreation.gov websites. When you click on a specific campsite, you will find multiple pictures and the boxes at the top will tell you max length of RV/motorhome that can be parked at that site or if it is for tent only.
What you will see when you click on a specific campsite from the main list.
Scroll all the way down and at the bottom of the Need To Know section and it will tell you about any restrictions or specifics for that individual site as well as the campground in general.
Example of specific campsite descriptions from recreation.gov website for Elkmont. The little blue i at the bottom tells you about this site specifically and that it is not good for an RV.
The Elkmont reservable season is generally March/April to the end of November and you can reserve sites 6 months in advance. The only hiccup to this is that they sometimes dont release next years reservations until January or even later. This year, the recreation.gov website says they will release Aprils reservations in November so lets hope that is the new system.
Other Great Smoky Mountains National Park Lodging Options
Options for overnight stays aside from camping in GreatSmoky Mountains National Park are minimal.
LeConte Lodge, the only lodge in the national park, is accessible only by foot on a hiking trail that varies from 5.5 miles to 8 miles, depending on the route. Luckily, plenty of Airbnb`s, cabins, and hotels are located just outside of the park`s borders and you won`t have to hike in to them!
Here is the best lodging in Great Smoky Mountains NationalPark.
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Do I Need Camping Reservations
Reservations are recommended for camping in Great SmokyMountains National Park.
In fact, four of the ten car campgrounds requirereservations. These are Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain,Big Creek,and CataloocheeCampgrounds.
Four additional car campgrounds allow reservations to bemade. These are CadesCove, Cosby,Elkmont,and SmokemontCampgrounds.
Campsites at these eight Great Smoky Mountains campgroundscan all be reservedonline.
The final two car campgrounds are first-come, first-served. These are Deep Creek and Look Rock campgrounds.
We recommend making camping reservations for Great SmokyMountains National Park if you plan to visit during the busy summer months.
Backpacking and backcountry camping also required advanced reservations. A limited number of Great Smoky Mountains backpacking permits are available so make your reservations well ahead of your trip.
Camping In The Summer
The best time to go camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in the summer.
The months of June, July, and August typically have the bestweather , although these are also themost crowded months of the year.
Camping reservations are recommend, especially for familycampers, during the busy summer months.
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There Are Amenities Included
Even though tent camping is the most primitive form of camping, that doesnt mean that you have to go completely without modern amenities. Youll be tucked back in the woods for the private feel youve been craving, but when you need a little touch of civilization, our Smoky Mountain campground has charcoal grills for enjoying a cookout with your friends and family, a bathhouse close by so that youre never too far from a toilet or a shower and we even have laundry facilities in case you need some clean clothes for your ride home!
Rv Camping In Great Smoky Mountains National Park
There are no RV hookups in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The longer your RV is the more limited your camping option. Not every campsite in a campground can accommodate the maximum length trailer.
The following Smokies campgrounds can accommodate RVs or travel trailers:
- Balsam Mountain Max length is 30 ft
- Cades Cove Campground Max length is 40 ft for RVs and 35 ft for trailers
- Cataloochee Campground Max length is 31 ft.
- Cosby Campground Max length is 25 ft.
- Deep Creek Campground Max length is 26 ft.
- Elkmont Campground Max length is 35 ft for RVs and 32 ft for trailers
- Look Rock Campground No limit
- Smokemont Campground Max length is 40 ft for RVs and 35 ft for trailers
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Backcountry Camping In The Great Smoky Mountains
Backpacking and backcountry campsites are abundant throughout the Great Smoky Mountains. With hundreds of sites available, this is the best way to get away from the crowds and sleep off the beaten path.
Permits are required for all backcountry camping. Fortunately, these are easy to obtain and cost just $4 per person. Reservations can be made up to 14 days prior to your trip. Shelters are provided and fires are permitted at designated campsites.
In the Smoky Mountains, there are over 800 miles of hiking trails including a portion of the Appalachian Trail. That means wildlife is abundantincluding bears! Youll need to pack in and pack out all of your equipment, leave no trace, and most importantlybearproof your campsite!
- You can find additional information about backpacking in the Great Smoky Mountains here.
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.
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Horse Campsites At The Great Smoky Mountains
Horseback riding is another fun way to experience the National Park. Fortunately, there are 5 areas within the park where you can tie up your stock overnight without having to leave the area. Anthony Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Round Bottom, and Tow String are all horse camps.
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How To Decide Which Smoky Mountains Campground To Stay At
There are affiliate links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission from this.
The best campground in the Smoky Mountains for YOU to stay at will depend on what is it that you want to do in the Smoky Mountains!
So first, it could be helpful to know what it is you want to do during your Smoky Mountains vacation.
In short, I recommend getting this Great Smoky Mountains National Park map for step 1 in planning your Smoky Mountains camping trip!
Also buy small stickers like these.
I think among the easiest ways to visualize the national park and where much of the activities you want to do are centered will be to mark it out on a map.
This is a water resistant map, so any stickers you place on the map will come off reasonably fine.
Place a sticker on the map of the things you want to do!
You can start with this big list of things to do in the Smoky Mountains and start marking the map. Or have a looking at the Smoky Mountains waterfalls list or the Smoky Mountains hiking list.
I also wrote on the stickers the length of the hike. Depending on the length of the hike, I could decide if it may be reasonable to do 1 or 2 hikes in one day.
Also mark all the different campgrounds with a sticker so you can easily see where they are located.
This can also make for easy reference during your Smoky Mountains trip so you can refer to your map as you are trying to decide what to do for the day.
ALL THAT SAID
Best campground for hiking in the Smoky Mountains?
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The River Front Sites
These are hands down the campsites of choice at Elkmont.
Our favorite campsites in Elkmont are the ones along the Little River. But they tend to book up immediately after opening up for reservations so good luck. Or go in the shoulder months of April and November.
All of the river sites tend to be really close to each other but luckily the river is pretty loud, especially in spring, so can dampen noisy neighbors.
The walk to sites B2, B3, and B4 are grouped right next to each other and a little away from everyone else so get some friends and get these if you can.
The river sites in G and H loops can get some road noise from the Little River Road across the river from the campsites. The road leads not just to the campground but also to the trailheads for the popular Little River Trail and Jakes Creek trails so you can have lots of people during the day plus a surprising amount of early morning hikers. But these G and H loop riverfront campsites also tend to have great access to the river whereas some of the ones on the K, L, M, and N loops can have steep drops down to the river.
M4 and M6 in the background. The river is about 10 ft down just beyond the edge of the tent pad seen on M6.
Campsite L 14. This is a wonderful site as there aren’t immediate neighbours on either side and the river is just beyond the tent pad.
Walk to campsites B2 and B3. They are quite close together so get a group and reserve both.
Big Creek Group Campground
Big Creek Group Campground is located near the Tennessee-North Carolina border within the far northeastern corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, sitting on the banks of gently-meandering Big Creek. The campsite is a great choice for group camping excursions, accommodating up to 25 guests. Modern conveniences offered at the campsite include flush toilets, potable water, and running sinks. Outside, visitors can make use of barbecue grills, fire rings, and tent pads. The campsite is surrounded by a beautiful forest canopy that provides ample shade. Nearby sites within the national park include stunning 35-foot Mouse Creek Falls, which is located at the confluence of picturesque Big and Mouse Creeks. A handful of lovely trailheads are located within walking distance of the campground, making it a great choice for hikers of all ability levels.
Big Creek Entrance Rd, Newport, NC 37821, Phone: 865-436-1261
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Best Time To Visit The The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This depends on when one has got free time to have a holiday. Given this, the most ideal time to visit the The Great Smoky Mountains are the summer months of the year and the fall. The park has a diverse topography hence different altitudes so visitors should visit packed with all types of clothing anticipating varying temperatures in different parts of the The Great Smoky Mountains boondocking sites.