Blog for Zip line Attraction in the Smoky Mountains

Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.


Camping In Great Smoky Mountains National Park

By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on June 23, 2015

There's a lot to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, from hiking and picnicking to fishing and touring historical sites. However, one of the most popular activities that visitors like to undertake each year is camping. This week, Smoky Mountain Ziplines wants to pass along some basic information about camping in the national park. We'll give you a quick overview of some of the main campgrounds on the Tennessee side of the park as well as some general information about the dos and don'ts of camping.

The Tennessee side of the park has five frontcountry campgrounds: Abrams Creek, Cades Cove, Elkmont, Big Creek and Cosby. (Note, however, that as of this week, 6/22-28, the Cosby campground, picnic area and trailheads are closed due to flash flood damage. You might want to check back at to stay up to date on the status of the Cosby area.)

The frontcountry sites are located along well-traveled routes like Little River Road and U.S. 321, making them easily accessible by car. These campgrounds generally allow you to park at your individual campsite, and each site features a fire grate and a picnic table. The campgrounds include restroom facilities with cold running water and flush toilets. No showers are available at the campgrounds.

The number of sites available at each campground varies widely, from only 12 at Big Creek to 220 at Elkmont. Cades Cove has the second most with 157. All of the frontcountry campgrounds except for Abrams Creek allow group camping for parties of eight or more, although the number of those sites at each location is just a handful.

You should also know that camping is one of the few things in the national park that you have to pay money to do, but the fees are still very reasonable, ranging from $14 to $23 per night, depending on the location and time of year. You can make reservations for Cades Cove, Cosby and Elkmont – and it does help to make reservations, especially in summer. Otherwise, you're taking the chance that your preferred campground will be booked up for the nights you're interested in.

Once you're at the campsite, there are some very important rules to keep in mind. One of them is that you're discouraged from bringing your own firewood from outside the national park. You might think that this is just so the park can clean up on selling firewood to tourists. Not so. It's because the park's ecosystem can be drastically upset by outside species of bugs that are not native to the park. It's a big deal.

Your options are to bring in only heat-treated firewood that is bundled and certified by the USDA (which you can also purchase inside the park) or to collect dead and down wood found in the park. That's fair game.

Another important set of guidelines involves food storage, and this is primarily in the interest of protecting the native black bear population (not to mention the careless campers who might be visited by these bears). All food and equipment used to prepare and store food must be kept sealed in a vehicle, preferably the trunk. If that's not doable (say, if you're on a motorcycle), many of the campgrounds have storage lockers for rent.

And be sure to dispose of all food and garbage in the onsite dumpsters provided. Otherwise, you're asking for a bear to come sniffing around, and when bears become dependent on human food, it's bad for their health and it creates nuisance bears that don't have a healthy fear of human interaction.

While you're enjoying your camping trip, we hope that you can work in some ziplining too. And though it's one of the area's most popular things to do, Gatlinburg and Sevierville don't have what we have to offer at our Pigeon Forge outpost. We hope to see you soon.


This content posted by Smoky Mountain Ziplines. Visit our home page, for more information on zipline adventures in the Smoky Mountains.

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