Elkmont Campground is located between Gatlinburg and Cades Cove on the Tennessee side of the park. As these are some of the busiest parts of the park, Elkmont provides an opportunity to be near both attractions while being slightly less crowded. The campground is in a beautiful setting with Little River running through it. Elkmont is also the largest campground with more than 200 sites, most of which can be reserved and about 20 first-come first-served. Amenities at the campground include tent pads, fire pits, flush toilets, cold running water, and bear-proof dumpsters. There are no showers or electrical hookups at this campground or any within the park, however. Remember that this is bear territory, so dispose of all trash properly and keep all food and similar items safely locked in the car. The rangers strictly enforce these rules. There is also a small store on site that sells ice, snack food, basic camping supplies, and firewood.
The best amenity of this campground, however, is its central location. Close to Gatlinburg, Sugarlands, Newfound Gap Road, and Cades Cove, yet far enough away to forget about the traffic and crowds.
There are three group campsites at Cataloochee, each which camp accommodate up to 25 people. Since the three sites are very close together, we rented all three for our annual fall foliage trip and there was plenty of room for about 60 of us. The group sites have limited amenities - vault toilets (fairly nice and clean for vault toilets), tent pads (all tents must be on the pads), picnic tables, bear-proof garbage containers, and fire rings. There is no potable water, but there is a creek nearby to filter water or its a short drive to the individual campsites to get water. But the site is in a great location, nestled in Cataloochee Valley, just up the road from Palmer House. This area is home to elk and they're pretty common around the area, especially in the fall during mating season. Sometimes you can hear the elk bugling in the evenings. And since its possible to book all three sites, you can have a pretty large group altogether.
The location in Cataloochee Valley, near many historic old buildings and the elk. Also, having three group campsites together, it can accommodate a large group size. And its far enough away from anything that there's no need to worry about being reasonably noisy if you book all three sites.
Cosby Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located on the northwest side of the park on the Tennessee side. There is a group campsite and over 150 individual campsites. A few of the sites takes reservations, but most are first-come first-served. Amenities include parking for 2 vehicles, a good size tent pad, fire ring, picnic table, restrooms with flush toilets and cold running water, and bear-proof dumpsters. The area is bear habitat, so all waste must be disposed of in the dumpsters and food must be kept in a closed car. The rangers strictly enforce this rule. You should also put anything else that might smell like food - deodorant, toothpaste, medicine, etc. - into your car. There are a couple trails that can be accessed from near the campground - the Low Gap Trail that leads to the Appalachian Trail, the Lower Mount Cammerer Trail, and the Gabes Mountain Trail that leads to Hen Wallow Falls. Just outside the campground is easy access to Cosby and Hartford, Tennessee. There are a limited number of gas stations and restaurants in the area as well as some attractions like whitewater and zip-lining.
Good location with easy access to areas near Galinburg, TN.
I do not think there is any lodging available inside the park, but there are a variety of accommodations available in nearby towns. I stayed one night at an average Super 8 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and a very nice but a little expensive Comfort Inn in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Big Creek campground is one of several campgrounds within the park. It is conveniently located just a few minutes off I-40 near the North Carolina/Tennessee state line. There is a group campsite, individual campsites, and horse camp. The campsite has indoor bathrooms with flush toilets and running water. Someone got bit by a bear the previous weekend so rangers were onsite with a bear trap and tranquilizer guns, although we never saw the bear while we were there. The camp hosts and rangers were friendly and helpful.
The campground has easy access to some nice trails. The Big Creek Trail leading to Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls runs through the campsite as well as the Baxter Creek Trail leading to Mount Sterling and the Chestnut Branch Trail leading to the Appalachian Trail and Mount Cammerer.
Heintooga Camp - Arriving at Campground (1959). The campgrounds are all modern, unless you hike into the backcountry.
Lots of the national parks have rustic old inns with huge stone fireplaces but how many of them have as their only in park accommodation wooden cabins accessible only by foot? Well, the LeConte Lodge fits that bill as the only non-camping facilities in the park. I unfortunately have never stayed here though every time I've seen it I say to myself "next time..."
Well, first off the fact that you have to walk a minimum of 5.5 miles to get there and that is the steepest of the five trails that will bring you there-The Alum Cave Trail. Once there you are in for a rustic but homey treat. The cabins feature kerosene lamps rather than electricity and outhouses rather than en-suite baths. Meals are served family style in the main cabin where a hearty fire will keep the chill off on those misty mountain nights.
Cabins are $93 per person per night but that includes breakfast and dinner.
This campground is located on the NC side of the park off US 441. It boasts 140 sites and is located at 2200 feet in elevation. I stayed at this site in April and was in love!!! It was our first time ever to camp. The sites are located along a river and there are many trails to hike on. One trail takes you to a old ampitheater and church. It is open year round and prices range from $14-17.
Nice trails and large pads with fire rings and grills.
Although I have not had the pleasure of staying at this lodge, I highly recommend it!!! It is only accessible by trail, about a 5mi hike. It has small cabins with no electricity. There are restrooms and they serve you dinner and breakfast. It is located on the top of Mt Leconte and has spectacular views!!! For reservations check link below.
The best views in town!!! Reservations are hard to come by. Try at least a year in advance!!!
The backcountry shelters stay booked up year round. Make sure you make reservations one month in advance to be safe. No less than two weeks in advance.
Karen is so wonderful. She actually got more of a kick out of staying in this rustic 10x10 cabin at LeConte Lodge than when we are at a Marriott or Hilton - and I did too. As we were being shown to our cabin by the friendly staff, a whitetail doe poked her head from behind the building and her two frisky spotted fawns ran out and frolicked in the sunshine.
Our cabin, # 9, was furnished with a straightback chair, a small table, an oil lamp, a propane heater, and a double bunk bed. Air conditioning isn't necessary since the highest temperature ever recorded on top of Mt. LeConte was in the high 70s. We were provided a galvanized bucket and a basin for sponge baths. The flush toilets were about 150 yards away.
Once when we were out for an afternoon hike we left a window open and a red squirrel entered, unzipped our backpack, and helped himself to some peanuts. We caught him in the act upon our return. At night the stars were brighter than we had ever known them to be, and the lights of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge could be seen a verticle mile below. The only sounds were the wind in the spruce and fir trees, and the creatures of the night. We didn't miss television at all.
This is the only hotel or inn actually within the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it predates the establishment of the National Park in 1930. The only way to reach it is by a strenuous hike along one of five trails, the shortest being a grueling 5.5 miles.
LeConte Lodge is not a single structure but a cluster of small rustic buildings which can accomodate up to 50 guests. There is an office with a central lounge area, a dining hall, small rough hewn cabins, and larger group sleeping lodges. The lodge is open from late-March through mid-November.
Reservations for the next season can be made beginning October 1. We were lucky to get a spot on a July weekend by dialing repeatedly beginning at 9 a.m. on Oct. 1 of the year before. Weekends are usually booked solid within a matter of days, and it may be impossible to find any availability at all after a few weeks, unless there is a cancellation. Obviously, this place has a VERY high demand. Many people who visit once are hooked and return year after year. On our recent stay at LeConte Lodge we met others who were returning for their 25th annual visit.
Once or twice each season a helicopter airlifts heavy supplies such as propane tanks and building materials to the site. For regular supplies of fresh food and linens a llama pack train makes the trek to the lodge on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during the season, weather permitting.
There is no electricity. Lighting is by oil lamp. There are unisex flush toilets, and running water is available from a central pump. Hot water may be obtained from a spigot on the outside wall of the kitchen. All guests are provided with a galvanized bucket and a basin.
A hearty dinner and breakfast are included in the price of your stay. For those who remain more than one day, lunch is also provided and can be taken either in the dining room or the very helpful staff will provide a box lunch for those who want to carry it with them on a day-hike. Free coffee and/or hot chocolate is available throughout the day.
Both mornings we were at LeConte Lodge, we got up early and treked the .9 mile to Myrtle Point for the sunrise, then in the evening made the .2 mile hike to The Cliffs for the sunset. Views from both points had us gasping in awe.
Several backcountry camping shelters may be found along major trails throughout the Smokies. A free permit is required to use them and may be obtained at ranger stations and visitor centers within the Park. Reservations may be made by calling the number listed below.
These spacious shelters provide space to spread up to 14 sleeping bags on a double-deck sleeping platform. There is also a covered area in front with wooden benches and tables. Camping in the shelters can be a fun experience and an opportunity to meet fellow backpackers.
In addition to the shelters, there are 14 designated backcountry tenting areas, each with a place to tie up your provisions away from the bears. These also require a free permit, which keeps any of them from being overcrowded.
All of the shelters and designated tenting areas are located near a natural spring as a source for clean drinking water. The shelters do not have restroom facilities. Many of them have chain-link fences across the front which are to be closed at night to keep out unwanted wildlife - especially bears.
The best way to experience the Smokies is camping there at least a couple nights. My favorite campground is actually right outside the park. Mile High Campground is a privately owned campground just yards away from the park's border. It is located on Heintooga Ridge Road in North Carolina, right off of Blue Ridge Parkway. Just a few miles up the road is the park's Balsam Mountain campground and picnic area, which has plenty of hiking trails nearby.
Mile High Campground is better than Balsam Mountain Campground because it has electricity and hot water showers (power lines don't run that far up the mountain). Mile High is also a great place to camp because of its remoteness and it views. The owners have cleared out just enough plants and trees to make the roads, campsites, and to give spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Most of the campsites here are right on the edge of the mountain. The campsites are only $12 per night, just like the campsites inside the park.
Mile High also has a few cabins for only $26 per night. These are very primitive cabins that only offer walls and a ceiling to keep you dry. If you don't like sleeping with bugs, however, you are better off in a tent that can completely zip up. We only stayed in a cabin here once because our tent began to leak in a heavy downpour, and it was a welcome relief from the rain. The bathrooms are also very nice for a campground. Overall, Mile High is one of the best campgrounds I've ever been to anywhere!
Of the main campgrounds in the interior of the park (I know nothing of the less-visited campgrounds on the perimeter), the most heavily visited are Smokemont on the Carolina side, and Cades Cove and Elkmont on the Tennessee side. Smokemont is among the largest, but is situated near the Cherokee NC entrance, and thus is not a good jumping off point for Gatlinburg and Cades Cove.
Unlike Cades Cove campground, which is heavily touted because of its nearness to the pioneer houses and the preferred range of the black bears in the park, the campgrounds at Elkmont and Smokemont are scenic and even beautiful, resting under the shade of towering poplars, maples and hickories, and both enjoying the addition of considerable streams.
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