If you’re a fan of wildlife, stunning waterfalls and lush green valleys and you’ve always wanted to see the nocturnal dance of fireflies as they light up the sky, make sure you add the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to your camping bucket list.
Spanning two states; Tennessee and North Carolina and boasting a range of outdoor activities for the whole family including fishing, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, kayaking and horseback riding, this is the US National Park you visit to get away from it all. Of course, as you’d expect given such gorgeous surroundings, there’s a huge range of campgrounds to choose from, including those with more home comforts and those that are more primitive and fun.
Here’s a collection of our six favorite campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to help you narrow down all those choices to the best. (Don’t miss number 6- it’s the best on the list!)
1. Deep Creek Campground
Deep Creek Campground is the perfect place to stay if you love streams and waterfalls or if you want to head out mountain biking when you come. If you pick up a license, you can also enjoy a spot of fishing within the park and enjoy the perfect campground dinner!
It’s also a great place to go if you’re looking for modern conveniences such as Wi-Fi, phone service, showers, flush toilets, fire grates, picnic tables, and you’d prefer not to leave your pooch at home. Facilities such as a grocery store and medical help are also close by.
With just 92 sites, open from April to October and operating on a first come first served basis, it’s always a good idea to come early so you can secure your place as they often sell out early. You can also come in your RV if it’s under 26 feet but bear in mind that there isn’t a dump station here. And if you’re sick of camping, you can always upgrade to a cabin.
2. Smokemont Campground
With great access to some of the most fantastic trails in the area, Smokemont Campground has always been popular with hikers and nature lovers alike. Surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, flowing streams and rivers and a stunning range of colors and sceneries, it’s a wonderful place to soak up the history and get outdoors.
In addition to the flushing toilets, running water, fire grates, picnic tables, and drinking water, there’s also plenty of space to hang around with the family, play ball games and enjoy campground life which is simply brilliant. There are also enough fun activities here to keep you entertained the whole year around, including wildlife watching, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and biking.
If you’re driving an RV or motorhome, you can expect to be very happy here too; RVs up to 35 feet and motorhomes up to 40 feet are permitted. Although there aren’t hookups there is a dump station.
3. Cades Cove Campground
Cades Cove Campground is the most developed of all the campground with 159 sites. Located right on the Cades Cove Loop, it’s open year-round and will allow you to enjoy the delights of camping without asking you to go too primitive.
This is a popular place among tourists and fans of the outdoors because of its stunning location, the incredible scenery, plus the ability to rent bikes, do trails on horseback and explore the famous Cades Cove Loop. That’s why you absolutely must make a reservation before you come.
If you love wildlife you’ll be in for a real treat as this part of the park is home to black bears, coyotes, groundhogs, turkeys, raccoons, skunks and many more. Just be sure to keep your food safely locked away!
Other facilities include a dump station, flush toilets, drinking water, a general store, picnic tables, picnic tables, tables, tent pads, a vending machine, electricity hookups and even a quiet area when you need it most. Trailers up to 35 feet and motorhomes up to 40 feet are allowed.
4. Cataloochee Campground
Cataloochee Campground is tucked in the historic Cataloochee Valley and will allow you to escape the crowds, break away from the madness of everyday life and soak up the fresh air.
Surrounded by stunning mountain ranges and at an elevation of 2,600 feet, you can enjoy the extensive range of trails which are quieter and even more beautiful than those in the rest of the park. This includes Caldwell Fork, Rough Fork Trail, and Boogerman Trail. If you’re a fan of history, there are lots on offer here too including houses, churches, schools and grist mills, many of which date back to the 19th century.
Facilities include flush toilets, picnic tables, tent pads, sinks, grills, picnic tables, a fire pit, and a water hookup. Drinking water is also available during the peak season.
5. Elkmont Campground
How would you like to awaken to the sounds of a river as it flows past your campsite, step out of your tent or RV and enjoy the sounds of the wild?
Located just nine miles from Elkmont town and eight miles from Gatlinburg, it’s one of the largest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 220 sites and can get incredibly busy.
Gatlinburg town nearby offers a range of fun activities such as organized rafting trips, museum trips, restaurants, galleries, an aquarium, and even skiing, and the campground itself is right on three main trailheads. It’s a fantastic place to spend your camping trip when you want plenty going on around you.
As well as tents, Elkmont Campground offers sites for motorhomes up to 35 feet and trailers up to 32 feet plus nine wheelchair accessible sites (three of which have hookups for medical equipment).
You can expect restrooms, running water, flush toilets, a fire grate, and a picnic table, but be aware that there aren’t any showers or electrical hookups or water hookups here.
6. Big Creek Horse Camp
If you’re a fan of horseback riding and you’d love to explore the Great Smoky Mountains from a different perspective, make sure you check out the Big Creek Horse Camp.
Located 16 miles from Newport, Tennessee and with just five camping sites, this campground is open from April until October and offers a primitive yet utterly special camping experience.
The sites themselves are large, each offering space for six humans and four horses (although the horses aren’t allowed in the camping area itself but are to be taken to the hitching posts and horse stalls provided).
You’ll also enjoy drinking water, flush toilets, a ton of riding trails, river access and plenty of shade to keep everyone cool. There are no hookups or showers. Just a raw camping experience with your favorite four-legged friend.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and enjoy the lush surrounds in their full glory.
Learn more about 13 Best National Parks for Camping and Hiking.