Blog for Zipline Attraction in the Smoky Mountains

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


Tent Camping In The National Park

By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on July 6, 2021

Last week, we served up a quick overview of RV camping opportunities in the Smokies area, including those inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This week, we're going to get a little more primitive and introduce you to good old tent-camping locations, and we're going to focus exclusively on the national park instead of incorporating private campgrounds.

There's still a lot of summer left, so if you have vacation time on your calendar, consider roughing it in one of the most beautiful locations in the country. It's fun, it's natural, and it's a lot less expensive than staying in conventional accommodations. You can rent campsites for as little as $20 per night. Of course, the national park is still pretty close to all the attractions, restaurants and shops of Gatlinburg, so make sure you allow some time to head into town and enjoy the natural wonder of our Gatlinburg zipline. Just give us a call at Smoky Mountain Ziplines to schedule your tour.

Now back to camping…

For our purposes, we won't be talking about back-country camping, which is the domain of backpackers. This usually involves hiking a number of miles to a remote and very primitive campsite off the beaten path. Instead, we'll be focusing on front-country camping, which accounts for the majority of camping locations in the national park.

Front-country campgrounds allow you to drive to your campsite, pitch a tent on a level spot and enjoy such amenities like a picnic table and a fire grate for grilling. Most of the developed sites also have community restrooms with cold running water and flush toilets. In some cases, the campground will have a camp store where you can stock up on essentials like forgotten toiletries, camping gear, firewood and snacks.

Speaking of firewood, here's an important tip: Only heat-treated firewood that is certified by the USDA or state department of agriculture can be brought into the park. Why is this such a big deal? Because bringing in outside wood can introduce harmful and unwanted pests to the park, such as the emerald ash borer. Such species can wreak havoc with natural vegetation in a short amount of time. So please follow the campfire guidelines.

Front-country campgrounds are located at Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Look Rock and Smokemont. Some of these are located on the North Carolina side of the park. Cades Cove and Smokemont are open year 'round, while the others are open seasonally only.

Which campground should you pick? It all depends on what you want to get out of your Smokies experience. If you want to camp in a season other than summer, then obviously, you're limited to Cades Cove or Smokemont. Cades Cove also allows easy access to the Cades Cove loop and all its hiking trails and historic structures.

Camping in Cosby will take you a little farther away from most of the crowds and also has some cool hikes and scenery to be enjoyed. Elkmont is the largest and busiest campground in the park, and at an elevation of 2,150 feet, it enjoys more moderate temperatures in summer. It's also close to the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area for those who want to plan an extracurricular daytime outing.

A maximum of two vehicles (two cars or a car and a trailer) are allowed to park at each site, and a maximum of six campers per site are allowed. Hammocks are allowed within the campsite footprint, and pets are allowed on a leash no longer than six feet. Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.


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

Powered by StoneOakPress