A Guide To Camping In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Do you desire to get away from the hassle of urban life to a more natural environment? Do you wish to dive deep into nature and explore it in its complete glory? Do you feel the urge to go camping in the Smokys but are unsure when and how? This article will surely help if your answer to all these questions is a “yes.” So get ready to bask in the beauty of nature, and explore the enchanting waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A Guide To Camping In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Renowned for its diverse flora and fauna, ancient peaks, and beautiful hiking trails, the Great Smoky Mountains National park is the most visited national park in the USA. The park straddles the borders of North Carolina and the state of Tennessee and is enveloped in the mighty Appalachian peaks. The main entrance to the national park is Gatlinburg, a beautiful small town in the east of Tennessee.

Despite many lodging options in the Smokys, camping is the best way to enjoy leisure time with your family and friends or even alone. Besides, you will find all the tips you need to know in this article if you are planning to go camping in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Campgrounds

The Smoky Mountain camping experience is a significant reason behind the popularity of this park. Apart from the divine scenic views and incredible wildlife, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park campgrounds offer privacy, safety, and all the facilities you’d need. All the campgrounds provide cold running water, toilets, picnic tables, and fire gates.

Moreover, there are many campground options to choose from when you plan your visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park caters to the needs of all its visitors and offers campgrounds based on individual preferences.

  • Group Campgrounds: group campgrounds are the best option if you go with a large group of friends or family. The large campsites are suitable for a group of up to eight people. The group campsites accommodate tents only. The seven campgrounds where sites are available for groups are Cades Cove, Deep Creek, Cosby, Cataloochee, Elkmont, Big Creek, and Smokemont.
  • Backcountry Campground: for trekkers, the park offers campsites that require several miles of hiking to a place located in the backcountry of the park. As of February 2013, all backcountry camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park necessitates a permit and pre-booking.
  • Horse Camps: accessible by car, small campgrounds with hitch racks for horses, and basic camping amenities. There can only be a maximum of six people and four horses at a given campsite. More than six people or four horses will require reserving an additional spot.

Rules and Regulations of the Campgrounds to abide by

It is crucial to remember the laws of the campgrounds and abide by them under all circumstances. Any attempt to violate the rules may put you in great trouble.

  • Food – Storage and disposal: all the food containers and equipment used to prepare food must be stored in your car trunk or in a camping unit constructed of solid material when not in use. Leftover food items and garbage are to be dumped into the dumpsters. Failing to follow the rules will require you to pay the penalty.
  • Length of the stay: you are only allowed to stay at one campground for fourteen consecutive days. After fourteen days, you will be asked to shift to another campground. In addition, only six people per group can stay in an individual campsite.
  • Parking of the vehicles: only one car is allowed per campsite. However, you can park it on the pavement if you have more than one vehicle.
  • Fire and firewood: lighting a fire anywhere except in a fire gate in Smoky Mountains National Park is strictly prohibited. Also, you may collect the firewood in the park only when it’s dead or on the ground. Or, you can take the heat-treated firewood bundled and approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with you. These bundles are packaged carefully and are marked with a state seal. The concessioners sell the packaged bundles in their operating season, typically from March through October or November.
  • Stay quiet in the quiet hours: 10 pm till 6 am is called the quiet hours. Put all the noisy alarms and equipment to rest during those hours. Also, if you plan to take a generator with you, finish all the chores before 8 pm, as the generator timings are from 8 am – 8 pm.

Keeping A Camping Checklist

It is vital to make a checklist of all the things you will need before your visit. Although the weather is quite moderate throughout the year, it can rain anytime, so be prepared and pack accordingly:

  • a raincoat, an umbrella, a weather protection shield for your tent, an insect repellent, a flashlight, and some extra clothing are definitely recommended;
  • hiking boots are a must, regardless of the season, you plan your trip in;
  • also, keep in mind that the Smokys do not offer electronic charging. So it is best to bring a portable power source to charge your devices with;
  • lastly, do not compromise your health and safety, and carry a first aid box with you on the trip to be on the safe side.

Best time to plan a trip to the Smokys

Even though the park is open all year round, the best time to plan your trip to the Great Smoky Mountains is in the summer. June, July, and August have perfect weather. During the summer, the waterfalls are flowing, the wildlife is active, and the trials are open. However, the park is quite crowded during this time.

If you want a less busy camping experience, visiting in September and October is best. You can witness the stunning fall foliage with fewer crowds during these months. The entire Smokys is painted with the colors of autumn.

Wrap Up: Camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The majestic view of the Appalachian range, the wildlife, long hiking trails, waterfalls, foliage, and unique campgrounds make The Great Smoky Mountains National Park an excellent choice for a camping getaway. Planning before your visit, keeping a thorough checklist, and keeping yourself informed of the rules of the park will enable you to enjoy every moment of your stay and ensure an experience that you will remember for a lifetime.

What about you, have you ever camped in the Great Smokys? Feel free to share any tips & advice below!

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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