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Smoky Mountains Camping & RV Guide

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the biggest treasures of Tennessee. Home to more than 187,000 acres of forest and more than 800 miles of hiking trails. This park that stretches across two states and encompasses more than 520,000 acres is a true gem. A hikers and wildlife lovers paradise, it is the most visited National Park in America with more than 11 million yearly visitors. If you love wildlife, forests and history the Smoky Mountains are for you, and there is no better time to visit than the summer months.
One of the best ways to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National park is by RV. With more than 380 miles of roadways and seven campgrounds suitable for RV’s over 12′ traveling through the park in your motorhome or rented RV is a great option and one you will never forget. Renting an RV has also never been easier with companies like RV Share. RV Share  offers the largest selection of trusted RV rentals in the country. You can search through thousands of options including Luxury Class A Diesel Pushers, Class B Camper Vans, Class C Motorhomes, and Travel Trailers.
Here’s how you can see the Smoky Mountains by RV 
The National Park Service maintains ten camping locations inside the park seven of which can accommodate RV’s longer than 12′. None of the campground locations in GSM have hookups but they do offer bathrooms and water. Below you will find a guide of what you can expect at each site and best things to do in that area: 

Smoky Mountains Campgrounds

Elkmont Campground

Sites Available: 220′
Max RV Length: 35′
Cost: $25

Dump Station: No
Hookups: No
​Amenities: Toilets, water and a camp store.
More Info 

Elkmont Campground is located just eight miles outside Gatlinburg, TN, it is the largest campground in the park as well as the busiest. Camping here puts you close to park headquarters as well nearby Gatlinburg amenities and generations of campers continue to return to this campground year after year to enjoy it’s babbling brooks, quiet forests and variety of activity choices. Little River and Jakes Creek run through the campground, offering easy access for fishing or cool summertime splashing. Trailheads for Little River Trail, Jakes Creek Trail, and Elkmont Nature Trail are located adjacent to the campground. Historic remnants of Little River Lumber Company’s logging camp and old buildings from the Elkmont resort community offer campers a glimpse of life at Elkmont nearly a century ago.

Abrams Falls – Smoky Mountain National Park

Cades Cove Campground

Sites Available: 159
Max RV Length: 40′
Cost: $25

Dump Station: Yes
Hookups: No
​Amenities: Toilets and Running water

Cades Cove is one of the most popular areas in the Great Smoky Mountains it is made up of a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains, and showcases some of the best historical sites in the park as well. It also offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the park with deer, black bear, coyote and turkey often roaming around.  To explore the area by vehicle travel on the 11-mile one-way loop road which circles the cove. This usually takes between 2 and 4 hours, with numerous trails to walk on along the way.
Another great way to explore Cades Cove is by bicycle which can be rented at the Cades Cove Campground. You also won’t want to miss the Cades Cove Nature trail or the 5 mile hike to Abrams Falls.

Balsam Mountain Campground

Sites Available: 46
Max RV Length: 30′
Cost: $17.50

Dump Station: No
Hookups: No
​Amenities: Toilets and Running water

Balsam Mountain Campground is located in a more secluded area of the park at an elevation of 5,300 feet the cool mountain air rarely passes 70 degrees in the daytime. It gives visitors are fantastic experience with fewer crowds. Elk are often seen in the area in Spring and fall, and you will enjoy the picturesque mountains ranges and flowing streams nearby. You won’t want to miss taking a stroll on part of the Balsam Mountain Trail which takes you through old growth forest of oak and fir. For those looking for a real adventure you can hike all 24 miles on a 2-3 day hiking trip.

Cades Cove Historic Building – Pixabay

Cataloochee Campground

Sites Available: 27
Max RV Length: 31′
Cost: $25

Dump Station: No
Hookups: No
​Amenities: Toilets and Running water
​Advance Reservations Required BOOK HERE 

Cataloochee Campground is located on the Southeast section of the park. This area is one of the lesser visited areas of the Great Smokies, and making the drive on the twisty road will you give you a quieter experience to take in the many Elk and other wildlife in the area. Located in an isolated valley, it is surrounded by rugged mountains with some excellent hiking trails. It is one of the most picturesque regions of the park and has many historical buildings that have been preserved from when this area was a once thriving farming community. Popular buildings you will want to see in Cataloochee are the Palmer Chapel, the Will Messer Barn, and Caldwell Place. Many of the buildings are located along the roadside, and some can be reached via the Little Cataloochee Trail.
Several great hikes are also in the area: 

  • Boogerman Trail is a moderate 7.4 mile round trip hike which takes you through old growth forests, past the remains of historic home sites, and past streams and falls.
  • Caldwell Fork Trail is a moderate 5.8 mile round trip hike which crosses several streams.
  • Rough Fork Trail is 6.5 mile hike past several restored old farm houses.
  • Cataloochee Divide Trail is a moderate 11.5 mile round trip hike which runs along the southeast border of the national park.

Image by bdjernes from Pixabay

Cosby Campground

Sites Available: 16 – RV’s 141- Camping
Max RV Length: 25′
Cost: $17.50

Dump Station: Yes
Hookups: No
​Amenities: Toilets and Running water
BOOK HERE 

One of the larger campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains, Cosby Campground is in a forested area and all the sites offer a quiet wooded seclusion you won’t find anywhere else. Most of this campground is for campers but there are 16 sites for RV’s with a max length of 25′. This campground is a favorite among locals and long time visitors and is almost never full. While the seclusion is great it’s the hiking that draws people to this area. Hen Wallows Falls is a great hike located just 2.1 miles from the Cosby Picnic Area, you may also want to try the Sutton Ridge Overlook for some spectacular views. For avid hikers you will want to try the strenuous hike to the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower or the brutal but gorgeous Low Gap Trail that comes in at 13 miles.

Deep Creek Campground

Sites Available: 96
Max RV Length: 26′
Cost: $21

Dump Station: No
Hookups: No
​Amenities: Toilets and Running water
More Info 

Located just a few minutes from Bryson, North Carolina, Deep Creek Campground has several sites for RV’s and trailers and is celebrated for its tubing, waterfalls and biking. While the Park service does not promote tubing or swimming in the waters inside the park, just outside the perimeter you can rent inner-tubes and float down the creek for some exciting summer time fun on the river. While outside the park in Bryson you can catch a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for some one of a kind mountain views or grab an ice cream at an old-timey ice cream and soda fountain called Soda Pops. There are also some excellent hikes around the Deep Creek area like the 4.6 mile Deep Creek Loop Trail which takes you to three waterfalls. Or the Lakeshore Tunnel loop which is just 3.2 miles and takes you past some old homesteads and ends with a journey through a 1,200 foot tunnel. 

Smokemont Campground

Sites Available: 142
Max RV Length: 40′
Cost: $25

Dump Station: Yes
Hookups: No
​Amenities: Toilets and Running water
Reserve Online: More Info 

Smokemont Campground is located 6 miles from Cherokee, North Carolina. Situated on the Bradley Fork River, it is one of the best RV Sites for fishing enthusiasts. It’s location gives you easy access to the amenities and stores within Cherokee. The campground also allows access to the Bradley Fork Trail, located at the end of D loop, which leads to numerous other trails nearby. You will also be close to Smokemont Stables, where you can book a horseback ride to nearby waterfalls.  You can also learn about the Cherokee at nearby Oconaluftee Indian Village and Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, located in Cherokee, NC, provide cultural and historical information about the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Campsites at Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Cosby, Elkmont, and Smokemont may be reserved online or by phone at (877) 444-6777. Advance reservations are required at Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, and Cataloochee Campgrounds.

This post is a paid collaboration between myself and RV Share. All thoughts and suggestions as always are 100% my own. If you would like more information on renting an RV or trailer or renting out your RV to others you can visit . 

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