From a visitor’s standpoint, Bryson City is the ideal of what Western NC small towns can be: It’s walkable, wild, and packed with a mixture of wonder and whimsy.
The town is perched on the southern boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a few miles from Lake Fontana, and just as near to Nantahala National Forest.
Just outside of town, you’ll find an abundance of beautiful North Carolina waterfalls, rivers for whitewater rafting, amazing hiking trails, and historic sites.
Downtown Bryson City is a charming place filled with souvenir shops, antique outlets, interesting museums, historic buildings, and excellent restaurants.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot (established in 1885) is right in the heart of downtown, and the ever-popular railroad still runs daily out of Bryson City.
For those who want to visit the town, but also crave that “getting away from it all” feeling, there are an array of Bryson City campgrounds and campgrounds near Bryson City that offer perfect weekend getaway opportunities.
Read on for our in-depth guide to camping in Bryson City NC, including RV parks right in town, primitive tent sites in GSM National Park, and resort-like campgrounds less than 15 minutes from downtown.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Bryson City NC & Swain County
Campgrounds in Bryson City NC Guide
- Big Bear’s RV Park
- Deep Creek Campground
- Deep Creek Tube Center and Campground
- Ela Campground
- Ridge Top Motel and Campground
- Smoky Mountain Campground
- Smoky Mountain Meadows Campground
- Timberlake Campground
- Tsali Recreation Area
- Turkey Creek Campground
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Campgrounds in Bryson City NC
1. Big Bear’s RV Park
855 West Deep Creek Rd, Bryson City NC • 828-407-0509
Located on the road that connects Bryson City to the most popular of all US National Parks, Big Bear’s RV Park is just one mile from downtown and one to the park.
Big Bear’s RV Park is actually comprised of two small RV parks, with one on the banks of Deep Creek and the other just across the road. Each park has about 15 sites.
In addition to RV sites, there’s also a 2-bedroom, 1.5-bath cabin for rent on site. It includes a full kitchen, washer/dryer, Wifi, and streamed TV.
Like other campgrounds on West Deep Creek Road, Big Bear’s offers guests access to the creek, including river tubing rentals and easy access to the hiking paths in the park.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Cabin Rentals in Bryson City NC
2. Deep Creek Campground
1912 East Deep Creek Rd, Bryson City NC • 828-488-3184
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a first-come, first-served campground at Deep Creek. The grounds have 92 sites, none of which can be reserved in advance.
Deep Creek Campground is located right inside the park and sprawls along Deep Creek, providing easy access to hiking trails and come of our favorite Western North Carolina waterfalls.
This campground doesn’t have showers or RV hookups, but it does have flush toilets and drinking water, as well as fire rings and picnic tables at each site.
The campsites here are only available in season (April 15 to Oct 31). The camping fee is $25 per night.
Though it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the other facilities for camping in Bryson City, staying here is actually in the wilderness of the beloved Smoky Mountains Park.
READ MORE: Hiking the Deep Creek Trail to 3 Waterfalls in Bryson City NC
3. Deep Creek Tube Center and Campground
1040 West Deep Creek Rd, Bryson City NC • 828-488-6055
In addition to being a top spot for Bryson City tubing rentals, the Deep Creek Tube Center and Campground has over 40 campsites available.
There are 5 tent-only sites, 10 creekside sites with full hookups, 16 RV sites with full hookups, 3 sheltered sites with water and electricity, and 10 big rig sites with full hookups.
The campground features a picnic pavilion, camp store, Wifi, laundry facilities, and a playground. There’s also a large bathhouse, with hot showers and individual rooms.
The same company has 26 cabin rentals available, including everything from no-frills log cabins to modern accommodations and even group lodges.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for River Tubing in North Carolina Mountains
4. Ela Campground
5100 Ela Rd, Bryson City NC • 828-488-2410
Located right by the Tuckasegee River (which is famed for whitewater rafting), the Ela Campground has tent camping sites as well as full-hook-up RV sites.
There’s a cool, old-time country store at the campground that sells camping and hiking essentials, fishing supplies, groceries, and hand-scooped ice cream.
The campground has a pool, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, a large bathhouse, laundry facilities, a basketball court, and plenty of river access.
The campground is about 5 miles from Downtown Bryson City, and it’s the same distance to the town of Cherokee NC in the other direction.
In addition to tent and RV sites, the Ela Campground has camping cabins (with access to the campground’s shared bath) for rent and a few riverside cabins as well.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Cherokee NC & the Qualla Boundary
5. Ridge Top Motel and Campground
390-416 Arlington Ave, Bryson City NC • 828-488-6363
For those hoping to camp in Bryson City proper, the Ridge Top Motel is located within walking distance from downtown and has an RV campground.
Each of their 26 sites has full RV hook-ups, a fire pit, and a picnic table. All guests also have access to a bathhouse, Wifi, pavilion games, a swimming pool, and laundry facilities.
This is a great location for getting far enough out of nature to have conveniences right next door, but the nearby mountain ridges are still within sight.
The motel itself has 30 rooms, a retro appeal, and stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
READ MORE: The 20+ Best Western NC Christmas Events in Asheville, Bryson City & Beyond
6. Smoky Mountain Campground
1840 West Deep Creek Rd, Bryson City NC • 828-488-3302
Connected to the Deep Creek General Store, the Smoky Mountain Campground has sites for tents, pop-ups, trailers, and RVs, as well as several cabin rentals.
It’s located just outside of the Deep Creek entrance to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and right next to Deep Creek itself.
The general store has all of the basic camping needs, as well as supplies for river tubing and playing in the creek and nearby rivers.
This is a family-owned business, which was run by the same family for over 50 years. It recently changed hands to a new family hoping to continue the tradition.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Campgrounds in the North Carolina Mountains
7. Smoky Mountain Meadows Campground
755 East Alarka Rd, Bryson City NC • 828-488-3672
Located just south of Bryson City proper, the Smoky Mountain Meadows Campground is open seasonally from April through October.
This campground has full hook-up sites, pull-through sites, pop-up camper spots with electricity and water, and tent sites strung along the creek.
There are also a few rustic cabins available for rent.
Smoky Mountain Meadows is family-oriented, with playgrounds, sports fields/courts, and games for guest use.
This place has all the necessary amenities, including supplies for sale, hot showers, a laundry room, Wifi, and more.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Bryson City Restaurants for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Camping Near Bryson City NC
8. Timberlake Campground
3270 Conleys Creek Rd, Whittier NC • 828-497-7320
Located in Whittier NC, the Timberlake Campground has huge tent sites, RV sites with electric hookups, and comfy cabins for rent.
Wifi is available throughout the entire campground, which also has multiple bathroom/shower facilities.
The property includes a fishing pond, as well as a recreational lake for swimming and canoeing.
The season for camping at Timberlake is from May through October, and it’s great for quickly accessing Great Smoky Mountains NP, the Nantahala National Forest, and Fontana Lake.
Bryson City is only 10 miles northwest of the campground, while Cherokee NC is 10 miles to the northeast.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Lakes in the North Carolina Mountains
9. Tsali Recreation Area
NC 28, Almond NC • 828-479-6431
A beloved part of the Nantahala National Forest, the Tsali Recreation Area is renowned for having top-flight mountain biking trails.
The area is also open to horseback riding, fishing (lake and pond), motorized boating, kayaking, and camping.
The 42-site campground is first-come, first-served and is open to tents, trailers, and RVs (though no hookups are provided). Flush toilets and showers are available from April 15 through October 31.
The Tsali Recreation Area is only nine miles from Bryson City and adjacent to Lake Fontana. The recreation space is open year-round, but the campground itself is seasonal.
READ MORE: The Cataloochee Valley Elk in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
10. Turkey Creek Campground
135 Turkey Creek Rd, Almond NC • 828-488-8966
Turkey Creek babbles, bubbles, and bumps its way to the confluence of the Nantahala River and Little Tennessee River, (a.k.a Lake Fontana).
It also meanders right through the Turkey Creek Campground, which has tent sites with electrical service, water access, fire rings, and picnic tables.
There are 9 RV sites with electric hookups. The Turkey Creek Campground doesn’t have sewer hookups, but it does have a sanitary dump station.
This set-up is located about 12 miles west of Bryson Cit near the southern banks of Fontana Lake, about 21 miles from the Fontana Dam and Visitors Center. –by Jonathon Engels; featured photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett