Post Summary: Camping in Great Smoky Mountains, Smokies Camping

Rolling mountains with valleys filled with a wispy hazy giving the appearance of smoke give the Smokies their name. This uniquely diverse place is protected by Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is one of the busiest national parks in the US and can get very crowded at times. One of the best ways to be the crowds is to camp in the Smokies. Camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park lets you be closer to the trailhead and gives you an edge over the other crowds.

There are a lot of choices when camping in the Smokies so we have broken down what you need to know and created this comprehensive guide to Great Smoky Mountains camping. This complete guide covers everything you need to know to plan a Glacier camping trip including information on the Smokies campgrounds, location, how to secure a campsite and so much more.

Are you considering camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Click HERE for the ultimate guide Smokies Campgrounds and get ready for your camping trip. 

Great Smoky Mountains Camping / Camping at Great Smoky Mountains/ National Park Camping / Smoky Camping / Smoky Mountains Campground / Tennessee Camping / North Carolina Camping / Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camping / Smokies Camping / Gatlinburg Camping / Townsend Camping / Ashville Camping

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Great Smoky Mountains Campgrounds at a Glance

CampgroundRegionReservationsSeason Sites Fees ADA SitesAmenities
Abrams CreekTennesseeYesLate April to end of October16$17.50NoF, FP, HA, W
Balsam MountainNorth CarolinaYesMid-May to early October46$17.50NoF, FP, G, HA, W
Big CreekNorth CarolinaYesEarly April to end of October12$17.50NoF, FP, HA, W
Cades CoveTennesseeYesYear-round159$25YesD, F, FP, G, HA, W
CataloocheeNorth CarolinaYesEarly April to end of October27$25NoF, FP, G, HA, W
CosbyTennesseeYesEarly April to end of October157$17.50NoD, F, FP, G, HA, W
Deep CreekNorth CarolinaYesEnd of May to end of November92$25NoD, F, FP, G, HA, W
ElkmontTennesseeYesEarly April to end of November220$25-27YesF, FP, G, HA, W
Look RockNorth CarolinaYesClosed until further notice68N/AN/A
SmokemontNorth CarolinaYesYear-round142$25YesD, F, FP, G, HA, W

Amenities Key

  • D – Dump Station
  • F – Flush Toilets
  • FP – Fire Pit
  • G – Generator
  • H – Full Hookups
  • HA – Hammocks
  • P – Pit Toliet
  • PA – Accessible Pit Toliet
  • L – Laundry
  • S – Shower
  • W – Water

Getting to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountain National Park straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The park is approximately the same distance from Knoxville, TN, and Asheville, NC. There are three main entrances to the park that connect and some side entrances that access a specific area of the park. US-441 runs through the center of the park and connects the Tennessee side with the North Carolina Side.

The park is within a 1 day drive of about 30% of the US population.

The closest airports to the Smokies are Knoxville’s McGee Tyson Airport (TYS) and Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). They are 30 minutes and an hour away respectively. Other airports include Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP), Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), Nashville International Airport (BNA), Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

There is no public transportation from nearby cities to the park. There are some shuttles that run from TYS to Gatlinburg but transportation within the park is limited to tours or the Gatlinburg Trolly. The Gatlinburg Trolly goes from Gatlinburg to the Sugarland Visitor Center and Elkmont.

Estimated Drive Time to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Knoxville, TN – 1 hour
  • Asheville, NC – 2 hours
  • Greenville, SC – 3 hours
  • Charlotte, NC – 4 hours
  • Atlanta, GA – 3.5 hours
  • Nashville, TN – 4 hours
  • Louisville, KY – 5 hours
  • Cincinnati, OH – 5 hours
  • Indianapolis, IN – 6.5 hours
  • Memphis, TN – 7 hours
  • Washington, DC – 8 hours
  • Jacksonville, FL – 8 hours

Estimated Drive time from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to nearby National Parks

Things to Know about Great Smoky Mountains Camping

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Parks had 10 campgrounds and 5 horse camps spread out across the park. Camping is only permitted in these campgrounds and in designed backcountry areas.
  • Two Campgrounds are open year-round. The other 8 campgrounds are usually open from spring to fall.
  • Reservations are available for all Smokies campgrounds.
  • Reservations can be made up to six months in advance. Reservations are limited and if you want a reserved site you need to be ready to book exactly six months in advance of the first day of your trip.
  • Three Campgrounds have reservable ADA specific sites. Reservable ADA sites are available at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont from May 15 to October 31. For reservations call 1-877-444-6777.
  • Generator use is permitted in select campground and select sites during the following hours: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm.
  • The larger the RV the fewer campsites are available and only select sites in each campground can handle longer vehicles. RV and travel trailers are limited to 40 ft in length.
  • Hookups are NOT available in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dump stations are available at Smokemont and Cades Cove Campground. An additional dump station is available at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
  • Standard campsites can have up to 6 people.  You are allowed a maximum of two vehicles and two tents. Large groups should reserve a group site in Big Creek, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Smokemont.
  • Camping in Great Smoky Mountains is limited to 14 days consecutive days and 60 days per calendar year.
  • Checkout time for all campgrounds is 12:00 (noon). If staying another night in a first-come, first-serve site re-register by 11:30 am.
  • All wood and charcoal fires are allowed unless fire danger prompts special restrictions. All fires must be contained in park-provided fire pits. Please do not transport firewood. Burn it where you buy it. Firewood can be purchased at local general stores and must be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or a state department of agriculture. The collection of dead and down vegetation for fires is allowed.
    • Please ensure that your fire out full out before leaving it unattended.
  • Store all food items in your car or bear box.  Please do NOT leave any food, utensils out, or any scented items.  This includes toothpaste, toothbrush, chapstick.  Please put everything else in your car or bear box.  Bears and other scavengers are drawn to campgrounds in search of food items. If the animals find food, they will continue to hang around and start to become an issue. Please help keep the wildlife wild by not feeding them and remember a fed bear is a dead bear.

What to pack for camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

  1. Printed Campsite Reservation: Just in case anyone asks for it. Cell service can be limited in the park.
  1. National Park Passport: The National Park Passport Book is the cheapest and best souvenir of your national park adventures. This book makes it easy to collect the National Park Cancellation Stamps. The cancellation stamps have the date of your visit and make it easy to track when you visited each national park service unit.
  1. Tent: This is one of the heaviest and most important pieces of camping gear. It is your shelter from the elements at night.
  1. Sleeping Pad: A sleeping pad is a small, packable inflatable mattress. Here is my favorite closed cell sleeping pad.
  1. Sleeping Bag: Your sleeping bag is important for a good night’s sleep and preventing you from getting to cold.
  1. Pillow: An inflatable pillow is a lightweight comfort item that can make getting a good night’s sleep much easier.
  1. Camp Stove: This portable mini backpacking stove makes car camping cooking much easier. I’d rather cook on this over a campfire any day.
  1. Fuel for the camp stove: I generally by my camping fuel at Walmart or REI on my way to the park. You can’t fly with it so it’s just easier to get on site.
  1. Cooler: One great thing about car camping is that you can keep a cooler in your car and it can keep fresh meat cold and provide cold drinks.
  1. Kitchen Set: It doesn’t take much to make an impressive camp meal but having the right tools can make you seem like a gourmet chef.
  1. Cooking Pot: Since I use a camping stove, I have this great set of folding pots that I do most of my camp cooking with.
  1. Spork: The Spork is the essential eating utensil of the campsite.
  1. Food: If I bring a cooler, I love planning easy to cook camp meals with fresh ingredients otherwise, I use a mix of dry backpacking foods.
  1. Snacks – There are limited services in the park.  So pick up all your snacks before you go.  Pack a couple of different options so you are prepared for any craving.
    • Fruit:  Pick hard fruits such as apples or pears.  These hold-up in the heat and in packs without getting squished to mush. Another option is freeze-dried fruit. Freeze-dried strawberries are the BOMB.  They are crunchy, sweet and the best part is they are lightweight and yummy.  These are my new favorite trail snack.
    • Vegetables: Cucumbers and carrots hold up well during hiking and in a hot car.
    • Granola Bars:  Take your favorite non-coated in chocolate granola bars.  Anything coated in chocolate will melt and be a sticky mess.  My favorite is a selection of Cliff Bars. They are great even when squished.
  1. Refillable Water Bottles – Do your part to reduce litter in our parks by bringing a refillable water bottle with you. A reusable and refillable water bottle can save you a lot of money and really help the environment. Here are my favorite water bottles
  1. Hydration Bladder – If you are hiking longer distances, a hydration bladder is the best way to hike with significant quantities of water. It is a rare hike when I don’t bring a full bladder with me.
  1. Sunscreen – You don’t want to get burned on your visit.
  1. Lip balm – Your lips need just as much sun protection as your skin does.
  1. Sunglasses – Similar to sunscreen, you need a good pair of polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun.
  1. Hat – Hats are another sun protection device. A hat can keep the sun off your face and neck and help minimize the need for sunscreen while on the trail.
  1. First aid kit – As with any outdoor adventure, accidents happen. It is better to be prepared and have a compact first-aid kit ready to help with any accidents.
  1. Headlamp – Always keep a headlamp handy. You never know when you might want it. It can be used for midnight bathroom runs to sunrise/sunset hikes. A good headlamp makes it easy to operate in the dark.
  1. Shoes – Shoes are probably the most important piece of gear to any hiker. Hiking shoes should be seen as an investment. On the trail, your feet are your transportation and a solid pair of hiking shoes help support your feet and can prevent injury.
  1. Hiking Day Pack – A good day pack is the best way to transport all your gear when hiking. I highly recommend getting a backpack that is designed for outdoor use. These packs come with handy pockets and straps. My 40 L day pack has a pocket for my water bladder and a clip to hold the water line in place.
  1. National Park Obsessed Shirt – Share your love of the National Parks and support National Park Obsessed with a National Park Obsessed T-Shirt.

If you are new to visiting the National Parks, check out our National Park Essentials Guide to get you started.

National Parks are on my Bucket List T-Shirts
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1 Day Great Smoky Mountains PDF Itinerary
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Great Smoky Mountains Bear Ornament
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Where to camp in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Great Smoky Mountains Campground Map

Campgrounds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Abrams Creek Campground
  • Balsam Mountain Campground
  • Big Creek Campground
  • Cades Cove Campground
  • Cataloochee Campground
  • Cosby Campground
  • Deep Creek Campground
  • Elkmont Campground
  • Look Rock Campground (Closed until further notice)
  • Smokemont Campground

Campgrounds near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Arrow Creek Campground
  • Camp LeConte Luxury Outdoor Resort
  • Camping in the Smokies
  • Cherokee / Great Smokies KOA Holiday
  • Cove Creek RV Resort
  • Creekside RV Park
  • Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground
  • Ela Campground
  • Foothills RV Park & Cabins
  • Gateway To The Smokies RV Park & Campground
  • Great Smoky Mountain Camp and RV Park
  • Greenbrier Campground
  • Honeysuckle Meadows RV Park
  • Imagination Mountain Camp-Resort
  • Little River Campground & RV Resort
  • Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg KOA Holiday
  • Pigeon River Campground
  • Pine Mountain RV Park
  • Riveredge RV Park and Log Cabin Rentals
  • Smoky Bear Campground and RV Park
  • Smoky Mountain Campground
  • Smoky Mountain Premier RV Resort
  • Townsend / Great Smokies KOA Holiday
  • Twin Creek RV Resort
  • Up the Creek RV Camp

Getting a Smokies Campsite

Smokies Camping Reservations

All of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park campgrounds offer reservations. If you are a large group camping together, group sites can be reserved as well. Campground reservations can be made online at Receation.gov. Reservations are can be made up to six months in advance.

It is highly recommended to make your reservation as early as possible this is especially true if wanting to make a June to October reservation. I’d create your account on Receation.gov and be ready exactly six months before the trip.

Great Smoky Mountains First-come, first-serve Campsites

Sadly the days of first-come, first-serve sites in Great Smoky Mountains National Park seem to be over. The NPS website mentions off-season first-come-first-serve but I can’t seem to confirm this on any of the individual Smokies campground pages.

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 (Closed until further notice)
  • Smokemont Campground – Max length is 40 ft for RVs and 35 ft for trailers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Campgrounds

Abrams Creek Campground

Abrams Creek Campground is a secluded campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This campground is located off the Foothills Parkway and the start of the Dragon. There are many hiking and fishing opportunities nearby.

Sites: 16 sites

Cost: $17.50 per night

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: N/A

RVs?: Tent Only

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: Late April to end of October

Typical Fill Time: Reservation

Closest General Store: Deals Gap or Townsend

Balsam Mountain Campground

Balsam Mountain Campground is another one of the more remote camping spots in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At 5,310 feet in elevation, this campground is the highest in the park. It is known for having very mild temperatures and is a great base for enjoying the Newfound Gap area while camping without the crowds.

Sites: 46 sites

Cost: $17.50 per night

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: N/A

RVs?: Up to 30 ft.

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: Mid-May to early October

Typical Fill Time: Reservation

Closest General Store: Cherokee

Image from Susan Ruggles, CC BY 2.0

Big Creek Campground

Big Creek is a remote campground in the northern region of the parks. It is located just off I-40 on the North Carolina side of the TN/NC border. The campground is one of the smaller campgrounds in the park. Many of the campsites are creekside.

Sites: 12 sites

Cost: $17.50 per night

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: N/A

RVs?: Tent only

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: Early April to end of October

Typical Fill Time: Reservation

Closest General Store: Newport

Cades Cove Campground

Cades Cove Campground is in the heart of many of the Smokies’ must-sees. This popular campground is located at the start of the Cades Cove Loop. Cades Cove Loop is full of hiking and biking opportunities also with many historically significant structures. The campground is a great base for seeing the park’s wildlife, the wildflower blooms, and the fall foliage. There is a camp store and horseback riding nearby.

Sites: 159 sites

Cost: $25 per night

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: There are 11 accessible sites. These are A1-5, B33, C12, C31, C50, C57.

RVs?: 40 ft for RVs and 35 ft for trailers

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: Year-round

Typical Fill Time: Reservation

Closest General Store: Cades Cove

Cataloochee Campground

Cataloochee Campground is a North Carolina campground located in the Cataloochee Valley. This campground is located near some of the park’s historic structures and is in the heart of the Smokies’ best wildlife viewing. Cataloochee Valley is the home of the majority of the Smokies Elk herd.

Important Note: The road to Cataloochee is narrow and winding. Please use caution and drive slowly. There are steep drop-offs with no guard rails and this road isn’t recommended for vehicles over 31 ft.

Sites: 27 sites

Cost: $25 per night

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: N/A

RVs?: Up to 31 ft.

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: Early April to end of October

Typical Fill Time: Reservation

Closest General Store: Maggie Valley

Cosby Campground

Cosby Campground is located in the northeast region of the Tennessee side of the park. While this Smokies camping spot is one of the larger campgrounds, the surrounding areas is one of the lesser visited sections of the park. It is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Cades Cover/Newfound Road area.

Sites: 157 sites

Cost: $17.50 per night

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: N/A

RVs?: Up to 25 ft.

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: Early April to end of October

Typical Fill Time: Reservation

Closest General Store: Cosby

Deep Creek Campground

Deep Creek Campground is a great North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountain National Park campground. The campground is a short drive from Cherokee. This campground is a great base for doing some waterfall hiking and other water recreation activities. Bryson City is nearby and has a train museum, restaurants, and river tubing.

Sites: 25 sites

Cost: $25 per night

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: N/A

RVs?: Up to 26 ft.

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: End of May to end of November

Typical Fill Time: Reservation

Closest General Store: Cherokee / Bryson City

Elkmont Campground

Elkmont Campground is a centrally located campground and a great base for exploring the park. Set in the forest by a mountain stream, Elkmont is the largest campground in the park. If you are lucky you might even score one of the desirable riverside sights. Staying at this campground can give you a jump on hitting popular hiking trails like Alum Cave.

Sites: 220 sites

Cost: $25 – $27 per night

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: Yes, there are 10 sites. These sites are A3, A4, A26, D9, E3, E13, G2, G4, G6, and H13.

RVs?: Up to 35 ft for RVs and 32 ft for trailers

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: Early April to end of November

Typical Fill Time: Reservation

Closest General Store: Gatlinburg (Onsite concessions provides vending of snacks, ice cream, firewood and beverages)

Look Rock Campground

This campground is currently closed. The campground closed in 2013 due to a water utility system failure. Due to the systematic neglect and continual underfunding of the National Park Service by US Congress, there wasn’t funding to repair and reopen the campground and picnic area. There was talk about starting repairs and upgrades in 2020 but there is no status update beyond a flurry of press releases in July 2019.

Sites: 68 sites

Cost: N/A

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: N/A

RVs?: No Size Limit

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: N/A

Typical Fill Time: N/A

Closest General Store: Townsend

Smokemont Campground

Smokemont Campground is a popular campground located on the North Carolina side of the park along Newfound Gap Road. This Smokies campground is near Mingus Mill and Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The campground is set back in the forest and many of the sites are shaded. The campground has a grassy area for activities and a short nature trail to explore.

Sites: 142 sites

Cost: $25 per night

Reservations Accepted?: Reservation Required

ADA specific sites: There are 10 sites. These are A3, A4, A26, D9, E3, E13, G2, G4, G6, and H13.

RVs?: Up to 40 ft for RVs and 35 ft for trailers

Pets: Yes, but please review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pet Policy

Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, showers, sinks, disposal station

Season: Year-round

Typical Fill Time: Reservation

Closest General Store: Cherokee (vending machines and firewood available at the Smokemont Riding Stables)

Thoughts on Camping In Great Smoky Mountains Natioanl Park

I hope this guide answers all your questions about camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you still have questions let us know in the comments below.

Pin to Save for Later: The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Are you considering camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Click HERE for the ultimate guide Smokies Campgrounds and get ready for your camping trip. 

Great Smoky Mountains Camping / Camping at Great Smoky Mountains/ National Park Camping / Smoky Camping / Smoky Mountains Campground / Tennessee Camping / North Carolina Camping / Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camping / Smokies Camping / Gatlinburg Camping / Townsend Camping / Ashville Camping

Jennifer is a long time national park blogger and the founder of National Park Obsessed. She is a dedicated National Park lover who is working on visiting all 62 US National Parks. She has currently been to 53 of the National Parks. She is dedicated to sharing her knowledge of the Parks with others and helping them learn to love the parks as much as she does.

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