The 15 Best Great Smoky Mountains Campgrounds to Visit

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The Great Smoky Mountains are home to the most visited of all the U.S. national parks, and Great Smoky Mountains camping is one of our favorite to enjoy this natural treasure.

Many of the best campgrounds in the Smoky Mountains are located in the national park itself. They’re ideal for diving deeply into specific areas of the park’s half-million acres of protected wilderness.

But it should be noted that the official Great Smoky Mountains campsites have fewer amenities, and focus more on keeping the natural area pristine than on providing luxuries.

For those seeking more creature comforts, there are plenty of Smoky Mountain campgrounds just outside the park that offer glamping, with resort-like grounds and on-site recreation options.

In other words, options abound. Read on for our guide to the best Great Smoky Mountains campgrounds, including details on the best places to pitch a tent, park an RV, or rent cozy cabins.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains Campgrounds Guide

(Alphabetized by section)

  1. Cades Cove Campground (Townsend TN)
  2. Cosby Campground (Cosby TN)
  3. Deep Creek Campground (Bryson City NC)
  4. Elkmont Campground (Gatlinburg TN)
  5. Smokemont Campground (Cherokee NC)
  6. Abram’s Creek Campground (near Gatlinburg TN)
  7. Balsam Mountain Campground (near Cherokee NC)
  8. Big Creek Campground (Waterville, NC)
  9. Cataloochee Campground (Waynesville NC)
  10. Fontana Village Resort & Marina (Fontana Dam NC)
  11. Greenbrier Campground (Gatlinburg TN)
  12. Little Arrow Outdoor Resort (Townsend TN)
  13. Stonebridge RV Resort (Maggie Valley NC)
  14. Timberlake Campground (Whittier NC)
  15. Under Canvas (Pigeon Forge TN)

READ MORE: The Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in North Carolina

Deep Creek Campground in Bryson City NC
Deep Creek Campground by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camping

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has over a dozen campgrounds, including group campgrounds, backcountry sites, and horse camps.

Regardless of the campground you choose, it’s important to remember that the national park has one of the densest populations of Black Bears in the Eastern US, so proper precautions must be taken.

Also, in order to protect the beautiful trees, all firewood you bring into the park must be heat-treated. Campers can also collect downed or dead wood from the park.

None of the GSMNP campgrounds have showers, nor do they have electric, water, or sewer hookups. But the ADA-accessible campsites do have 5-amp electrical services for medical equipment.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Campgrounds in the North Carolina Mountains

Cades Cove Campground - Great Smoky Mountains Campsites
Cades Cove Campground via NPS

1. Cades Cove Campground

10042 Campground Dr, Townsend TN • (865) 448-4103

Official Reservations Page

Located in Tennessee, near one of the park’s four visitor centers, Cades Cove Campground has 159 campsites.

The campground works to keep the atmosphere of primitive camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it does have flush toilets and drinking water.

All Cades Cove camping is non-electric, with some sites that can accommodate RVs and others that are tent-only. Generators are allowed, but they’re restricted to certain sections of the campground.

This is one of only two campgrounds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that are open year-round.

The Cades Cove section of the park is famed for the Cades Cove Loop, Abram Falls, abundant wildlife, and various historical structures. It’s also a great spot for trout fishing!

READ MORE: The Appalachian Culture & History of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Cosby Campground - Smoky Mountain National Park Camping
Cosby Campground via NPS

2. Cosby Campground

471 Cosby Park Road, Cosby TN • (423) 487-2683

Official Reservations Page

Located in a secluded part of the park’s Tennessee section, Cosby Campground has 157 campsites, most of which are traditional tent sites.

There are about 20 sites that can accommodate RVs and/or campers, but they don’t have electric or sewer hookups.

This area is all about secluded camping in the Smokies. Though Cosby is the third largest campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s considerably less crowded than others.

That being said, the campground does have conveniences like flush toilets and drinking water, as well as a dump station for RVs.

This area also has some nice hiking trails, with three— Gables Mountain Trail, Snake Den Ridge Trail, and Lower Mount Cammerer Trail— departing from the campground.

READ MORE: Appalachian Folklore, Monsters and Superstitions

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camping - Deep Creek Campground
Deep Creek Campground Smoky Mountains via NPA

3. Deep Creek Campground

1912 East Deep Creek Road, Bryson City NC • (828) 488-3184

Official Reservations Page

The Deep Creek Campground is located just a few miles outside of Bryson City, a tourist-friendly North Carolina Mountain Town.

There are 92 campsites at Deep Creek, accommodating both tents and RVs (non-electric), and each site has a fire ring, grill, and tent pad.

The campground has flush toilets, drinking water, and sinks, as well as modern conveniences like wireless internet and a dump station.

Without a doubt, the big draw here is the Deep Creek waterfalls, with the 3-waterfall hike to Tom Branch Falls, Indian Creek Falls, and Juney Whank Falls among out favorite hikes in NC.

Fishing and river tubing on Deep Creek are very popular as well.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Bryson City NC & Swain County

Elkmont Campground - Smoky Mountains Camping
Elkmont Campground via NPS

4. Elkmont Campground

434 Elkmont Road, Gatlinburg TN • (865) 430-5560

Official Reservations Page

The largest campground in Great Smoky Mountains NP, Elkmont offers a whopping 220 campsites. It’s only 8 miles from Gatlinburg TN, which also makes it the busiest of the park’s campgrounds.

The grounds feature 200 RV/tent sites, as well as 20 walk-in tent sites for slightly more seclusion.

Despite its size, Elkmont doesn’t have electric, water, or sewer hookups for RVs, nor does it have a dump station. However, the nearby Sugarlands Visitor Center does have a dump station.

Like other major GSMNP campgrounds, Elkmont has flush toilets and drinking water spigots, plus utility sinks and cold water for cleaning up.

The Little River runs right through this campground, and Gatlinburg is a major attraction for tourist activities like white water rafting trips, museums, and restaurants.

READ MORE: The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in North Carolina

Smokemont Campground - Great Smoky Mountains Camping
Smokemont Campground via NPS

5. Smokemont Campground

Smokemont Campground Road A, Cherokee NC • (828) 497-9270

Official Reservations Page

Located just a few miles from the town of Cherokee NC in the Qualla Boundary, Smokemont Campground is the spot for camping near the Oconaluftee River and Visitor Center.

Smokemont has 142 campsites, a dump station, flush toilets, utility sinks, drinking water spigots, and a large grassy area for recreational use.

All campsites have fire rings and picnic tables, as well as paved parking areas. Some camping sites are located in generator-free quiet areas.

This area is great for activities in the park, such as visiting Mingus Mill, Oconaluftee Indian Village, Oconoaluftee Visitor Center, and the Mountain Farm Museum.

Just outside the park, visitors can hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway, or they can explore museums, markets and restaurants in Cherokee NC.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Cherokee NC & the Qualla Boundary


Smaller Great Smoky Mountains Campsites

Camping in the mountains - Abram Creek
Abram Creek by Warren Bielenberg via NPS

6. Abram’s Creek Campground

Abrams Creek Campground Rd, Tallassee TN (865) 448-4103

Note that the address listed above is for the Abram’s Creek Ranger Station. The campground is located approximately 0.5 miles beyond the ranger station.

TI he Abrams Creek Campground has 16 sites with access to flush toilets, drinking water, and utility sinks.

It is situated at the far eastern boundary of the park, near Foothills Parkway and Look Rock.

READ MORE: 30 Fascinating Facts About the Appalachian Mountains for Trivia Buffs

Camping in the smoky mountains - Balsam Mountain Campground
Balsam Mountain Campground Family Time, photo by Brody Boyer via NPS

7. Balsam Mountain Campground

Cherokee NC (828) 497-9270

Official Website

The Balsam Mountain Campground has 42 campsites in a fairly remote spot. But it does offer flush toilets and drinking water.

This campground is a sojourn off of the Blue Ridge Parkway or Hwy 19, between the towns of Cherokee and Maggie Valley.

You can access it via Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Black Camp Gap, and continue 9 miles to the Balsam Mountain Campground.

READ MORE: 50 Fascinating Facts About Cherokee Culture & History

Big Creek Campground Smoky Mountains
Big Creek Campground, photo via NPS

8. Big Creek Campground

GPS coordinates: 35°45’00.3″N 83°06’38.6″W (423) 487-2683

Official Website

The Big Creek Campground has 12 tent-only sites in a very remote area of the park.

It does, however, have flush toilets and drinking water.

The campground is located at the far eastern boundary of the park, just below the border with Tennessee and very close to the Appalachian Trail.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Hikes on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

Elk in Cataloochee Valley at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Cataloochee Valley Elk, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

9. Cataloochee Campground

3576 Ranger Station Road, Waynesville NC (828) 269-3161

Official Website

The Cataloochee Campground has 27 sites in a secluded spot that is best-known for abundant wildlife, specifically the famous Cataloochee Valley Elk.

It’s located near the southeastern corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where it bumps against the Pisgah National Forest.

There are also group campsites, drive-in horse camps, and backcountry camping here. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Waynesville NC & Haywood County

Newfound Gap in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee NC
Newfound Gap, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Private Great Smoky Mountain Campgrounds

There are tons of private campgrounds surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but those we’ve featured below all have something special that sets them apart.

Some of them have supercool accommodations, others are well-suited for family camping, and all of them offer a great experience while camping in the Smoky Mountains.

Note that we’ve specifically selected campgrounds that offer outside options for every part of GSMNP.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Pisgah National Forest Camping Guide

Camping in the Smokies- Fontana Village Campground
Fontana Village Campground, photo via Facebook

10. Fontana Village Resort & Marina

300 Woods Rd, Fontana Dam NC • (828) 498-2211

Official Website

Tucked along the Little Tennessee River in Nantahala National Forest, the Fontana Village Resort & Marina has lots of accommodation options, including a lodge, private cabins, and a campground.

The campground welcomes tent campers, and also offers RV sites with water and electric hookups. There’s a dump station located near the entrance to the campground.

Fontana Village Campground has a full-service bathhouse, with flush toilets and hot showers.

Guests can enjoy activities such as a lazy river, swimming pools, putt-putt, hiking trails, and more. There are also restaurants on site.

The marina on Lake Fontana has equipment rentals, pontoon cruises, and guided hikes.

The southeastern boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just across the lake, and the Appalachian Trail crosses Fontana Dam into GSMNP.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Campgrounds In/Near Bryson City NC

Camping in smoky mountains - Greenbrier Campground
Greenbrier Campground, photo via Facebook

11. Greenbrier Campground

2353 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg TN • (844) 304-CAMP

Official Website

The Greenbrier Campground has something for every kind of camper, from tent camping and riverside RV sites to private rental cabins.

It’s located on the banks of the Little Pigeon River about 8 miles east of Gatlinburg TN, right on the boundary of GSMNP.

Full RV sites have water, electric, and sewer hookups, as well as cable TV. Complimentary Wi-Fi is also available.

Guests can enjoy outdoor sports fields and courts, as well as a free game room. There’s even a private beach and swimming area, the ever-popular Flint Rock swimming hole.

With well over 100 campsites and all the amenities you could want, Greenbrier is an ideal family place and one of the premier campgrounds near Smoky Mountains National Park.

READ MORE: 20 Awesome Things to Do for Winter in North Carolina

Glamping Smoky Mountains- Little Arrow Outdoor Resort
Little Arrow Outdoor Resort via Facebook

12. Little Arrow Outdoor Resort

118 Stables Road, Townsend TN • (865) 424-3675

Official Website

Located in an elbow of the Little River, the Little Arrow Outdoor Resort is crazy with extras and offers something for all tastes of camping.

Aside from full-hookup RV and tent sites with tons of amenities, Little Arrow also has cabins, glamping tents, and tiny homes for rent.

The resort has a coffee lounge, game room, TV cabana, swimming pool with a splash pad and hot tub, and sports courts.

It also has a camp store, two luxury bathhouses, a food truck area, and a community garden.

Little Arrow is virtually like camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as it has hiking trails right along the park boundary. It also offers quick access to Cades Cove or the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

READ MORE: Camping in Asheville NC: The 15 Best Campgrounds to Visit

Campgrounds near Smoky Mountains - Stonebridge Campground
Stonebridge RV Resort, photo via Facebook

13. Stonebridge RV Resort

1786 Soco Road, Maggie Valley NC • (828) 926-1904

Official Website

For those who want to visit the Cataloochee Valley, but who also prefer a bit more luxury than the Cataloochee Campground offers, the Stonebridge RV Resort is a great choice.

The 18-acre wooded property is located along Jonathan Creek. It has full hookup sites for RVs, a recently remodeled community bathhouse, laundry services, and a covered pavilion.

Extras amenities include sports courts, playgrounds, a seasonal pool, a game room, and Wi-Fi availability.

Stonebridge is less than 20 miles from Cataloochee Valley, and just over 20 miles from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Nearby Maggie Valley is a full-service tourist town with restaurants, shopping, and tourist attractions.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Maggie Valley NC

Timberlake Campground
Timberlake Campground, photo via Facebook

14. Timberlake Campground

3270 Conleys Creek Rd, Whittier NC • (828) 497-7320

Official Website

Timberlake Campground is just a 20-minute drive from the Deep Creek section of Smoky Mountains NP in Bryson City, or a 30-minute drive to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

This 150-acre campground has large tent sites with power and water, RV sites with electric hookups, and cabins with fully equipped kitchens.

Other special amenities at Timberlake include Wi-Fi, a picturesque lake for boating, swimming, and fishing, great walking paths, and a playground for children.

Note that Timberlake Campground is a seasonal Smoky Mountains campground: It’s open from May 1 through November 1.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Bryson City Restaurants for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Under Canvas Smoky Mountains
Under Canvas, photo via Facebook

15. Under Canvas

1015 Laurel Lick Rd, Pigeon Forge TN • (888) 496-1148

Official Website

Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains is widely regarded as the top glamping experience for camping in the Smokies.

And it has the awards— including “Best Resort in the South” and “Top 20 Resorts in the US”— to prove it!

The safari-style canvas tents have wood flooring, beds and furniture, wood-burning stoves with complimentary firewood, and private decks with lounge chairs.

The beds come with nice linens, and the private bathrooms have flush toilets and showers. In other words, glamping Smoky Mountains-style can be extra luxurious!

Under Canvas Smoky Mountains is located just 12 miles from Gatlinburg and only about 20 minutes from the GSM National Park–by Jonathon Engels, featured photo of Elkmont Campground via NPS

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

After visiting North Carolina for the first time, Senior Writer Jonathon Engels and wife Emma spent 2 years exploring Western NC in search of a homestead property. They first lived in Brevard, where Jonathon taught writing at Blue Ridge Community College and extensively explored the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. For the last several years they have lived just off the BRP near Elkin, Southwest Virginia, and the NC High Country. The couple also volunteers with the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, the Elkin Valley Trail Association, and Reeves Downtown School of Music.