The Best Places to Camp in the Smoky Mountains this Fall

Camping in the Smokies is a tradition for many RVers, and a must-do bucket list item for even more.

But it can be difficult to figure out where, exactly, you should be setting your GPS coordinates. The Smokies are a big place, after all; the national park covers more than 800 square miles!

Depending on which sites, activities, and hiking trails take top priority on your itinerary, as well as what kind of camping experience you’re looking for, you could find yourself best served by any number of Smoky Mountain campgrounds, both inside and outside the park proper. Along with offering a range of different amenities, various campground options also come at different price points, so it’s a good idea to do at least a little bit of research ahead of time.

In this post, we’ll show you some of our favorite Great Smoky Mountains campgrounds, both inside and outside the park boundaries. We’ll also talk about what you might be looking for in your Smoky Mountains camping experience, and how to determine which of the many types of camping accommodations out there will work best for your specific travel needs.

Ready to plan one of the most epic trips you’ve ever been on? Let’s get started!

RV Camping in the Smoky Mountains: What You Need to Know

Before we get into the specifics about the various campgrounds available, let’s lay some quick groundwork. Why would you want to visit the Great Smoky Mountains in the first place?

Well, for one thing, it’s one of the only national parks that doesn’t charge a gate fee to enter. (Score!) But there are a lot more reasons that millions of visitors find themselves in this pristine Appalachian wonderland each year.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is, indeed, the most popular of all 61 parks in the roster, a superlative probably due at least in part to its relative ease of accessibility. With so many of the big-name national parks west of the Mississippi River, for the many Americans who call the eastern seaboard home, the Smokies are definitely more approachable for a road trip.

The sheer size of the park also adds to its wonder; straddling Tennessee and North Carolina, there really is something for everybody in this monolith of a landscape. From easy day hikes through the wildflowers and babbling brooks to challenging treks along the continental divide, you and your family will be able to satisfy everyone’s vacation desires.

But enough about what’s so great about Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: where should you stay when you visit?

What to Look For in Smoky Mountain RV Parks

Trying to find camping near the Smoky Mountains is kind of like trying to find a great pizza place in a new city. There are a whole lot of options out there, and you’ll hear lots of different testimonials claiming one is way better than another. But at the end of the day, it all depends on your preferences: deep dish or thin crust? Tennessee or North Carolina? Full hookup sites with a campground swimming pool and live entertainment, or a rugged boondocking spot close to the heart of the action?

Below, we’ve listed some of the many RV resorts and campgrounds both in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including details about what kind of camping experience you might expect if you stay there. But don’t forget that at the end of the day, some people just like deep-dish better than New York style — and it’s impossible for us to predict which campground will offer the best experience for YOU. Only you can do that!

Great Smoky Mountains Camping Inside the Park

Many of the best campgrounds in the Smoky Mountains are actually in the Smoky Mountains — by which we mean, inside the boundaries of the park proper. Of the 10 developed front country campgrounds, nine are open to RVs, though length limits and available amenities vary.

Here’s what you need to know about on-site Great Smoky Mountains National Park camping.

Abram’s Creek Campground

This small campground is tucked on the extreme western end of the park near Foothills Parkway in Tennessee. Although it has only a few dry sites, they’re inexpensive and convenient for sights on the west end including the popular Cades Cove.

  • Maximum Length: 12 feet
  • Open: Between April and October; reservations required
  • Price: $17.50 per night
  • Amenities: None

Balsam Mountain

Off a spur road from the Blue Ridge Parkway toward the southern end of the park in North Carolina, the Balsam Mountain campground offers reservations-only accommodations.

  • Maximum Length: 30 feet
  • Open: Between May and October; reservations required
  • Price: $17.50 per night
  • Amenities: None

Cades Cove

This uber-popular park site is a great place to make your home base… if you can get reservations in time. Although it’s open year-round and walkup are technically welcome, we wouldn’t count on finding a place to stay if you’re traveling during the busiest times of the year!

  • Maximum Length: 35 feet for trailers; 40 feet for motorhomes
  • Open: Year-round; reservations are not required but HIGHLY recommended
  • Price: $25 per night
  • Amenities: Dump station, as well as a campground store offering basic groceries, firewood, hot coffee, etc.

Cataloochee

The Cataloochee campground is in the extreme eastern end of the park, close to its boundary with the Pisgah National Forest, giving you the opportunity to experience some off-the-beaten-path sights.

  • Maximum Length: 31 feet
  • Open: Between May and October; reservations required
  • Price: $25 per night
  • Amenities: None

Cosby

On the northeastern end of the park, the Cosby Campground is approximately midway between Mount Guyot and Mount Cammerer.

  • Maximum Length: 25 feet
  • Open: Between April and October; reservations NOT required
  • Price: $17.50 per night
  • Amenities: None

Deep Creek

On the southern border of the park close to Bryson City, Deep Creek is a good choice for those coming up from North Carolina and the states further south.

Max 26, April to October, strictly first come first served, $21 per night

  • Maximum Length: 26 feet
  • Open: Between April and October; strictly first-come, first-served
  • Price: $21 per night
  • Amenities: None

Elkmont

One of the most popular campgrounds in the entire park, Elkmont is the closest in-park campground to the Gatlinburg area entrance and the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Reservations strongly recommended.

  • Maximum Length: 32 feet for trailers; 35 feet for motorhomes
  • Open: Year-round; reservations are not required but HIGHLY recommended
  • Price: $25-$27 per night
  • Amenities: Dump station and campground store offering basic groceries, firewood, hot coffee, etc.

Look Rock

Unfortunately, this campground is closed until further notice.

  • Maximum Length: none

Smokemont

This horse-friendly campground offers amenities and a developed campground option on the southern end of the park.

Store (at the riding stables), max 35 trailer 40 motorhome, open year-round, dump station, $25 per night.

  • Maximum Length: 35 feet for trailers; 40 feet for motorhomes
  • Open: Year-round; reservations are not required but HIGHLY recommended
  • Price: $25 per night
  • Amenities: Dump station and campground store offering basic groceries, firewood, hot coffee, etc.

For up-to-date information on Smoky Mountain National Park camping, refer directly to the NPS website.

Smoky Mountain Campgrounds Outside the Park

If you want to camp with hookups or aren’t able to snatch up one of the limited on-site camping spots, don’t worry: there are plenty of Smoky Mountain RV campgrounds in the surrounding communities. For those who are looking for glamping, check out these campgrounds near the Smoky Mountains.

Smoky Bear Campground and RV Park

Situated in the fun-filled Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Smoky Bear Campground and RV Park offers proximity as well as a host of amenities including a swimming pool, club house, laundry facilities, and a lending library as well as full-hookup sites. Prices start at a surprisingly affordable $48 per night.

Little River Campground

If you’re looking to stay on the Tennessee side but you’d rather avoid the super-popular destination that is Gatlinburg, Little River Campground may be the answer. It’s tucked in the quaint village of Townsend, Tennessee and offers full hookups, Wifi service, and extras like a swimming pool and game room.

Stonebridge RV Resort

Not all the best campgrounds are on the Tennessee side! For those looking to see the park from its North Carolinian vantage, the 18-acre Stonebridge RV Resort property in Maggie Valley offers laundry facilities, a private bath house, and an upgraded, renovated game room — along with full-service hookup sites, of course.

Teaberry Hill RV Campground

Although it’s only got 12 sites, you’d be happy to get one of them! Teaberry Hill RV Campground in the small community of Robbinsville, North Carolina is known for its beautiful surroundings and friendly atmosphere, and offers full hookups as well as wifi and other amenities.

Alright, now that you’re all ready to go — enjoy your trip to the Smokies!

This post may contain affiliate links.

 

What do you think?