Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a beautiful location, with so much to see and do that you’ll want to be as close to the action as possible! This park spans across two states, Tennessee and North Carolina, so no matter where you come from, you can find a spot to hunker down for the night and get closer to nature. There are no showers or electrical hookups in the park, so keep that in mind when planning your stay.
Everyone likes to camp differently. Whether you are a traditional tent camper, or you want to just pack everything into your car and drive, there are tent campsites to fit your needs. If you’re someone who wants to camp in a little more comfort, with your RV, there are spots for that too!
If you are someone who wants a really rugged and adventurous experience, there are also backcountry options available. Do you have a horse? There are even accommodations for that!
Just answer one question: What type of camper are you? Are you a traditional camper, an RV camper, or do you prefer backcountry? Regardless of your preference, Great Smoky Mountains has a campsite for you.
I’m a Traditionalist
Here are a few of our favorite spots for traditional car or tent camping within the park’s boundaries.
Deep Creek Campground – South
Deep Creek is a beautiful campground, surrounded by beautiful streams and waterfalls. There is access to two of the mountain biking trails in the park, Deep Creek and Indian Creek, so if you are interested in mountain biking this might be a good spot to stay! The campground is open from April to October, and has 92 individual sites. This campground offers running water and flush toilets (a luxury in the national parks world!). This site can also accommodate RVs up to 26 feet long. This is a first come first serve campground, and costs $17 a night.
Smokemont Campground – South
Smokemont Campground is located on the southern end of the park, and is surrounded by different activities and locations. From this site, you have access to the Oconaluftee and Bradley Ford, as well as a number of hiking trails. This is also within a short distance to the Mountain Farm Museum and Oconaluftee Visitor Center. As you can imagine, this is a pretty popular site! Smokemont has 142 sites and is open year round. The price varies depending on season- peak season is $20 a night, and off season is $17 a night. It offers flush toilets and running water, and can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet. This campground also has a dump station.
Cades Cove Campground – West
Cades Cove is open year round, and is well situated around a variety of activities and resources. This campground is the most developed in the park. You will be surrounded by incredible views, historic buildings, and even wildlife viewing opportunities. This campground has running water and flush toilets, and has 159 individual sites. It can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet long and is equipped with a dump station. Depending on the season, prices can range from $17 to $20 a night. Reservations are required for this campground, and can be made up to six months in advance, so be sure to book early if you can!
Cataloochee Campground – East
Cataloochee is a much smaller campground than most, with 27 individual campsites that can be reserved for $20 a night. This campground is open from late March to late October, and must be reserved in advance. Cataloochee is pretty secluded, and has access to a number of less used trail. If you are looking for a more private camping experience, this might be a good campground for you to check out. One of the reasons it is so secluded is the road that leads up to it- it is long, winding, and purely gravel, which isn’t for everyone. It has running water and flush toilets.
Elkmont Campground – North
Elkmont is a beautiful, riverside campground, located along the shores of the Little River. This is the park’s largest campground, with 220 individual sites. As you can imagine, this is a very popular campground! It has access to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, many different trailheads, fishing opportunities due to the proximity of the river, and more. The campground has running water and flush toilets, and does not offer a dump station. If you want to be close to the river, but a bit farther away from the crowds, Elkmont has 20 walk-to campsites, which offers a more private camping experience. There are also nine wheelchair accessible sites! You can reserve campsites from $17-$23 a night. This campground is very popular, so be certain to book in advance.
Camp in style with your RV
For those who like to camp in style, don’t worry- the Smokies have a spot for you, too! Here are some of the RV compatible campsites. 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 motorhomes up to 35 feet and trailers up to 32 feet.
Smokemont Campground with Dump Station
Smokemont is a combination tent and RV campground. They can accommodate motorhomes up to 40 feet long. There are no hookups, but there is a dump station available at this campground.
Cades Cove Campground with Dump Station
Cades Cove is also a combination tent and RV campground, that can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet long. This campground is open year round, and offers a dump station.
Elkmont Campground with No Dump Station
Elkmont is a third combination tent and RV campground, though this one has no dump station available. There are restrooms offered with flush toilets. Remember, there are no electrical or water hookups in the park, so be sure to keep that in mind when reserving your site.
For any of these campgrounds, see more details under traditional camping.
Is your horse your travel buddy? No problem!
Big Creek Horse Camp
There are five horse camps in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The one we most highly recommend is Big Creek. This campground has drinking water and flush toilets available, and has five individual campsites. This is a slightly primitive campground. It is open from April to October. This campground has access to miles of horseback riding trails, river access, and a ranger station. If you want to explore the northeastern side of the park with your horse, this is a really good option for your camping experience. This area also offers plenty of shade, which both you and your horse will appreciate. To accommodate for your horse, there are hitching posts and horse stalls, though they are not allowed in the actual camping area. Up to six people and four horses can stay in each individual sites. Advanced reservations are required for all of the horse camps in the park, so be sure to book as far in advance as possible.
It’s Backcountry for Me
For the most adventurous of campers, the Smokies has backcountry camping options as well.
Forney Creek Trail via Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is one of the most prized achievements of hikers and backpackers everywhere. If you want to hike a section of the trail when you are staying in the park (which many people want to do), one of the best ways to do this is to plan for backcountry camping. You can spend a couple of nights on the Forney Creek Trail. You have two options for this part of the trail- an 18.6 mile out and back trek, or a 20.6 mile loop. There are four backcountry camping sites along this hike. Remember that you need a permit in order to camp in these sites, as well as reservations in advance.
This trek is well worth the extra effort that backcountry camping takes. Clingmans Dome and Andrews Bald are both main points on this trek, which are two of the most beautiful vistas in the park. If you want a truly rugged, back to nature experience, coupled with bragging rights and incredible views, we highly encourage you to check out this option!
To get to the trailhead, turn off Newfound Gap Road .1 mile south of Newfound Gap and follow the 7-mile-long Clingmans Dome Road to the large parking area at the end.