Camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If your family has decided to go camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you have ten developed campgrounds to choose from in various places throughout the park. The three largest campsites are Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont. These sites are the most modern of the ten that are available. If you plan on taking your camping trip between the months of May through October, it is important that you make a reservation for a campsite. You can do this by contacting the Superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 865-436-1200.

The other seven campgrounds in the park are not open year round. They open in late March and will stay open through October. These campsites are based on a first-come first-serve policy. They are Cosby, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Balsam Mountain, Deep Creek, Look Rock, and Abrams Creek. You can contact the Superintendent at the above listed number for maps, or visit www.nps.gove/grsm for more information.

Each campground is equipped with running water, picnic tables, cooking grates, and restrooms with flushing toilets. No electrical hookups, showers, or laundries are available at any of the campsites. It is important that you come well stocked and self-sufficient for your camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Cades Cove campground is the only site that has a small store on its premises. It offers only a limited amount of supplies and food. This store is not open in the winter months.

Whenever you camp in the Smokies the main thing you will need is a tent that will keep you dry. It is best that you have a tent that is made from nylon, right down to the fabric that encases the zippers. You also need to keep in mind the season that you will be camping in and make sure you are outfitted with the proper kind of sleeping bag. It can get cold even in the spring and fall in the higher elevations. You may also want to consider purchasing an inflatable mattress. All campsites come with cooking grates. However, you may want to bring a portable gas or propane stove. A luxury item on any camping trip is a tarp to cover the picnic table and lawn chairs.

If you are going to be camping in the backcountry, you must first get a free permit. You can obtain permits at a Ranger Station or Visitors Center. You are only allowed to camp at sites designated as camping sites while you are in the backcountry. These sites are located approximately every 8-10 miles from a generally populated area. You need to telephone the Park Headquarters at 865-436-1200 to get reservations. Backcountry hiking and camping are popular and the campsites deep in the mountains are rationed out. These campsites are not like the ten sites listed above. These sites are for the true nature lover. These sites usually consist of a three-sided lean tos with bunks. Some sites offer a fourth side made of wire to keep wildlife out. It is important that you are equipped with proper foot gear, hats, windbreaker, dry clothes, and a food and water supply. You should never hike or camp in the backcountry alone. You should always make sure that someone is aware of your camping plans, as well. It is important that you do not veer off the trails. If you do become lost, stay in one place until help arrives.

Camping is a wonderful way to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You have your choice of family campsites close in, or backcountry camping sites deep in the mountains. For general information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park you can contact the Park Headquarters.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, Tn 37738

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