If you’d like to have a truly unique time in the great outdoors, you should consider Smoky Mountain camping. Whether you’re a camper who likes to camp in the backcountry or someone who prefers public campgrounds, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park can easily accommodate you. The great thing about Smoky Mountain camping is it can be done year-round. Unlike other national parks, the Smokies has no off season.
Smoky Mountain backcountry camping is truly back to basics. You won’t find developed campsites or shelters in the backcountry. You must come equipped with everything you need to survive in the mountains such as food, water, windbreakers, hats, foot gear, dry clothes, bedding, and more. Anyone who is considering camping in the backcountry of the Smokies should know that it requires some hiking and major planning. It’s not something you do on a whim, and it is best suited to those who are in good physical condition.
The backcountry camping sites are located approximately 10 miles from populated areas. To camp in the backcountry, you must have a permit. These free permits can be picked up at most ranger stations, visitor centers, and campground offices. These permits allow the national park the ability to monitor campers in the backcountry. After looking at a map, you are required to list the shelter or campsite you’ll be lodging at each night. All of this planning is done for safety reasons. If you don’t arrive at the site you’ve designated on your permit, the national park will assume you are lost or injured.
If camping in the backcountry doesn’t sound like your ideal Smoky Mountain camping adventure, there are 10 developed campgrounds in the park. Each of these has running water, cooking grates, picnic tables, and restrooms. However, you won’t find showers, electrical hookups, or any laundry facilities at these campgrounds.
The largest developed campgrounds in the Smokies are Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont. All three of these campgrounds are open year-round. Due to their popularity, it’s best to reserve your spot ahead of time, especially in the summer and fall. You can make reservations by calling the National Park Service Reservation Service at (877) 444-6777. The remaining campgrounds in the national park are open from late March through October. These are rationed out on a first come-first serve policy.
The park wants your Smoky Mountain camping experience to be relaxing and fun. To ensure that your time camping in the Smokies is a positive experience, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has rules and regulations in place for all campers. Before you head to the Smokies, pull this list off of the park’s website. It includes information such as how to store your food so you aren’t attracting bears and other wildlife to your campsite, as well specific rules and regulations for both backcountry campers and campers in the developed campgrounds.
No matter the season, Smoky Mountain camping is truly an adventure. It should be on every camper’s short list of potential camping spots. Once you’ve experienced the sights, sounds, and fragrances of the Smokies, it’ll probably become one your top camping destinations.