Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Guide

Share your visitation dates

Introduction

Straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee is one of the most beautiful and popular parks in the country, a prime destination for your next RV getaway: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From the calling of the ancient mountains to the glistening of its waterways, there’s a reason why this is the most visited park in the nation. In fact, it gets more visitors than Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite combined.

If you want to park your rig and get out into the great outdoors, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect place. You can hike along blooming wildflowers and majestic mountain waterfalls at the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, ascend to the top of Chimney Tops, or visit remnants of the early pioneers at Cades Cove. Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a plethora of diverse scenery, whether you want to take a serene drive through rolling mountains on the roller-coaster-like Newfound Gap Road or take stunning photography at the rolling waterfalls of Grotto Trail.

When you visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park with an RV, there is something for the whole family to enjoy year-round, with its hot summers and relatively mild winters. Elevations in this mountainous park vary from 875 feet to over 6,000 feet. You can take in panoramic views of the incredible hilly landscape from the observation tower at Clingmans Dome, which is the highest point in the park. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a diverse habitat of native plants and animals from American Black Bears to Snapping Turtles. From fishing and biking to waterfall walks and backpacking, this magical national park is the perfect place for your next RV vacation.

Park Alerts (2)

[Park Closure] Road Closures Due to Weather Conditions [+ Info]

Weather and road conditions can vary greatly in different elevations. Go to https://twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps for the latest road and facility closures.

[Park Closure] Trillium Gap Trail Closure

Trillium Gap Trail Closed/ No access to Grotto Falls through July 18, afterward closed Monday -Thursday (excluding federal holidays) July 19 - November 15, 2019

RV Rentals in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Transportation in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Driving

Driving a car or RV to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is easy with access from major local highways. If you are driving an electric car, your can charge up right in the park with stations available at the Sugarlands and Oconaluftee Visitor Centers. There are over 384 miles of scenic drives to explore once you are in the park, including Newfound Gap Road and Cades Cove Loop Road. RVs are not permitted on some of the windier and narrow roads including Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Balsam Mountain Road, Greenbrier Road, Heintooga Ridge Road, and Rich Mountain Road. You’ll want to check weather and road conditions during the winter months. There are no gas stations in the park, but there are fuel services nearby in Cherokee, NC, Gatlinburg, TN, and Townsend, TN.

Parking

Parking is available around the park including at visitors centers and some campgrounds. There are also parking lots at most of the most popular attractions including Newfound Gap, Cataloochee Cove, and Clingmans Dome. RV parking may be limited at certain sites, especially during the crowded summer season.

Public Transport

While there is no public transportation to the park, you can take commercial bus service from nearby cities such as Asheville, NC and Knoxville, TN. During the summer and fall you can take a trolley service to the Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont from Gatlinburg, TN. Rental cars are also available from private companies in nearby towns.

Campgrounds and parking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Campsites in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Reservations camping

Townsend / Great Smokies KOA

Visit Townsend, TN for tubing, fly fishing at the Little River or golfing at Laurel Valley. The Townsend/Great Smokies KOA can accommodate rigs up to 60 feet on semi-sunny sites or heavily wooded and secluded sites featuring water and electric only or deluxe patio sites with full hookups, up to 50-amp service and a built-in firepit. Firewood and propane are available on-site. Stay connected with free Wi-Fi and cable TV. At the campground, go swimming in the pool or rent a bike to explore the area. Bring the pup! The campground offers a dog park on-site.

Quebec City KOA

All are welcome at the family and pet-friendly Quebec City KOA. The campground is just a short drive away from Old Quebec, Montmorency Falls, the National Battlefields, the Musee de la Civilisation, and the Changing of the Guard. There is a shuttle available for visits to Old Quebec and campground hosts are happy to help arrange tours and facilitate activities. At the campground, guests can enjoy gold mining, Wi-Fi, a heated pool with a slide, a hot tub, laundry facilities, a pavilion, a playground, a jumping pillow and a clubhouse with movies and free popcorn.

Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg KOA

The Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA campground puts you in the heart of everything including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, theme parks, plenty of live music, big-city attractions and amenities, nature and outdoor recreational activities, and more. The Pigeon Forge trolley picks up and drops off right at the campground and the concierge desk provides information and facilitates ticket purchases. The campground itself has plenty to offer including a heated pool and sauna, fishing and bike rentals, a pavilion, a dog park, recreational facilities and planned activities, a jumping pillow, a Kamping Kitchen, and a snack bar/café.

Newport / I-40 / Smoky Mountains KOA

In the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Newport/I-40/Smoky Mountains KOA makes for a majestic visit filled with spectacular views and southern hospitality. A nature lover’s dream, it’s worth the visit to this region just to catch a sunset. Hit the trails and hike through Cherokee National Forest, or enjoy the flavors and culture of the charming southern town. Newport/I-40/Smoky Mountains KOA also delivers on amenities such as cable TV, Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, and a dog park. Firewood and propane are available on-site for purchase, and pull-through sites can accommodate rigs up to 75 feet.

Murphy / Peace Valley KOA

The aptly-named Murphy/Peace Valley KOA is a great place to stay if you are looking for a serene getaway with tons to see and do. You can enjoy the beautiful nearby natural sites like the Great Smoky Mountains and Valley River, or live it up at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River casino. Delicious local cuisines, southern hospitality, and dynamic views make Murphy/Peace Valley KOA an ideal spot to stay. This KOA offers tons of amenities, like Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, cable TV, a dog park, and stocked river for fishing. Sites can accommodate rigs up to 66 feet and offer hookups with 50-amp service.

Montreal West KOA

With a location that puts you only a short drive away from downtown Montreal, Montreal West KOA gives you the best of both worlds as far as your journey between nature and the city of Montreal. With many sites to see, the natural ecoscapes of the Biodome, and countless shops to peruse throughout the Montreal metro area, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during a trip to this culture-packed region. Montreal West KOA offers amenities like Wi-Fi, fishing, bike rentals, and sites that can accommodate rigs up to 90 feet, to help ensure that your vacation runs smoothly.

Clinton / Knoxville North KOA

Whether you’re here to visit the University of Tennessee, the Knoxville metro area, or the Great Smoky Mountains, Clinton/Knoxville KOA is conveniently located near them all. Even the biggest rigs can set up easily with the access on and off the spacious and level pull-through RV sites. No RV? Then camp beneath the mountains in one of the sites for tents or in the convenience of one of the cabins. There’s plenty to do at Clinton/Knoxville KOA, with the spacious pool and wading area for toddlers, exercise room, and playground area for kids and adults. The expanded kitchen and pavilion are adaptable for large groups and gatherings.

Gatlinburg East / Smoky Mountain KOA

If an easy walk to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is what you have in mind, then Cosby, Tennessee makes for a perfect base. The Gatlinburg East/Smoky Mountain KOA connects right to the hiking trails of the Smokies and the many adventures it has to offer, like rafting and off-roading. Big rigs are welcome in 100 foot pull-through sites featuring deluxe patios with full hookups, up to 50-amp service, cable TV and a fire pit. Cool off at the pool, and keep warm by your campfire with firewood and propane available for purchase on-site. Pets are welcome.

Cherokee / Great Smokies KOA

Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, is in the heart of Cherokee tribal country and bordered on one side by the Raven Fork River and on the other by three trout ponds that are perfect for fishing. Being near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, this is the place to be for adventures. Outdoor activities near the campground include horseback riding, tubing rentals, zipline tours, and whitewater rafting. At Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA, you can enjoy the swimming pool, hot tub, dog park, pavilion, cable TV, Wi-Fi, and much more!

Asheville West KOA

Some of the best that Appalachia has to offer can be found in and around Asheville, North Carolina. The Asheville West KOA in Candler is a convenient location just off I-40 for your next stay in the region. Just minutes from the Biltmore Estate as well as downtown Asheville, there is no shortage of fun or excitement when staying at the Asheville West KOA. The campground offers big rig-friendly RV pull-through sites that are large and level, as well as tent sites and cabins. Wi-Fi and cable TV allow you to stay connected, and the RV sites include 30- and 50-amp max hookups. Although the Pisgah National Forest and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park are both nearby, you can also take in beautiful views surrounded by the flora and fauna in on-site nature trails easily accessible from any of the campsites. Other amenities at the campground include a pool, Kamping Kitchen, and a dog park. Firewood is available for purchase along with propane.

Abrams Creek

This pet-friendly campground, open from April to October, offers 16 sites that can accommodate tents and RVs up to 16 feet in length. Although this is one of the smaller campgrounds in the park, it offers easy access to grocery stores and restaurants in the area. You can use the picnic tables, fire grates, and restrooms available on site. Advanced reservations required up to six months in advance.

Cataloochee

Open from March to October, this campground provides 27 campsites for tents and RVs up to 31 feet long. While Cataloochee is close to all the scenic views, it’s often less crowded, making it a quiet place to camp. You can use the picnic tables and fire pits at your site and enjoy easy access to flyfishing. The entrance road to Cataloochee Valley is narrow and windy so it’s not recommend for RVs longer than 32 feet or trailers longer than 25 feet. Advanced reservations required up to six months in advance.

Balsam Mountain

This campground is open from May to October, offering 46 sites tents and RVs. Balsam Mountain is the highest campground in the park, offering majestic views of mountains and lush hardwood forest. RVs up to 30 feet long can be accommodated, although there are no pull-offs, so RVs and trailers may use sites along the road. This campground provides picnic tables, fire grates, and a dish washing station. Advanced reservations required up to six months in advance.

First-come first-served

Smokemont

Open year-round, Smokemont offers 142 sites for tents, trailers up to 35 feet long, and motorhomes up to 40 feet long. You can relax in this campground with stunning views of mountains and wildflowers. This large campground features a dump station, restrooms, and vending machines. Reservations are available, but not required.

Elkmont

Open from March to November, Elkmont has 220 sites available that can accommodate tents, trailers up to 32 feet long, and motorhomes up to 35 feet long. You can camp with a waterfront view of the Little River with easy access to hiking and fishing. Elkmont is just 9 miles from Gatlinburg, TN where you can stock up on groceries and gas. This large campground features restrooms, a general store, and vending machines. Reservations are available, but not required.

Deep Creek

Deep Creek is open from March to October and offers 92 sites open for tents and RVs up to 25 feet in length. This campground is popular for those who are interested in aquatic activities due to its proximity to water. It features restrooms, a dump station, and grills.

Cosby

This large campground is open from March to October with 157 sites available for tents and RVs up to 25 feet in length. While more than 100 campsites are available on a First-Come First-Served basis, reservations are recommended for RVers since RV sites are more limited. This campground features restrooms, a picnic area, and a dump station. It’s also conveniently located near gas stations and grocery stores in nearby Cosby, Tennessee. Reservations are available, but not required.

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is a large campground with 159 sites open year round that can accomodate tents, trailers up to 35 feet long, and motorhomes up to 40 feet long. This campground has convenient amenities including a camp store, restrooms, bike rentals, and a dump station. Hikers and fishers will love this location. Reservations are available, but not required.

Alternate camping

Private Campgrounds

If you want to be near to the serenity of nature but closer to the big city, you can stay outside of the park at a private campground or RV park. Located on both the Tennessee or North Carolina side, there are many different campgrounds to choose from that may offer modern amenities like wireless internet, cable TV, and a swimming pool.

Horse Camps

If you are an equestrian you can bring your horses camping at one of the park’s six horse camps that are open from March to October or November. Each site accommodates 6 people and 4 horses. These campgrounds offer picnic tables, fire rings, and water for horses with easy access to backcountry trails for horseback riding. Advanced reservations are required.

Backcountry Camping

If you’re up for an adventure away from your RV, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a haven for backpackers. With over 800 miles of trails to explore through shady forests, majestic waterways, and wondrous waterfalls, it’s a perfect place for being out in the great outdoors. Backcountry shelters are dotted throughout the park. A permit and reservations are required for all backcountry camping.

Big Creek

Big Creek is a small tent-only campground with 12 sites available. Open from March to October, this pet-friendly campground is great for backpackers and hikers. The campground features restrooms, picnic tables, and food storage lockers. Reservations are required up to 6 months in advance.

Group Campgrounds

If you would like to stay at the park with a large party, there are seven areas that can accommodate group camping. Open from March or April to October, all of these campgrounds are tent-only, but they do offer restrooms and picnic areas.

Seasonal activities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Spring

Hike to Ramsey Cascades

The strenuous 8-mile hike to Ramsey Cascades Trail is well worth the trip since you’ll wind up at the tallest and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the park. You’ll be greeted by winding rivers and whispering streams along this scenic hike. Make sure you bring water and comfortable shoes—this round trip hike can take 5 to 7 hours.

Picnic at Collins Creek

If you want to enjoy a relaxing picnic amidst wildflowers and lush forest, Collins Creek is the perfect place. Under the shade of ancient trees you can unwind at picnic tables and take in the sights of this serene setting. This shady spot offers a quiet respite during your RV getaway.

Bird Watching and Wildlife Viewing

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to over 65 species of mammals, 200 varieties of birds, and 67 fish species. Bird watching enthusiasts should get out those binoculars to see a myriad of amazing birds including the Northern Saw-whet Owl, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and Downy Woodpecker. You might also get to see the spectacular wild animals that live at the park like wild Elk, Black Bears, and Otters.

Biking

The spring is a great time to get out of the big rig and onto your bicycle, thanks to the refreshing temperature and beautiful spring blossoms cascading around the park. You’ll cycle through magnificent views of mountain ranges, lush forests, and mystifying waterways. You can bike on most roads in the park, although you’ll want to use caution on steep, windy, and narrow roads. The exception is Cades Cove Loop Road, which is only open to bikers during limited hours from May to September.

Ascend Clingmans Dome

If you want to conquer the highest peak on the Appalachian Trail during your RV trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Clingmans Dome is the place to be. Late spring is a perfect time to hike or climb this majestic peak. There are several trails you can take to hike to higher ground, where you can soak in stunning panoramic views at the observation deck.

Summer

Fishing

If you love fishing you’re in luck with an RV trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park—fishing is permitted in all of the park’s 2,900 miles of streams. There are many different varieties of fish that call this raw wilderness home, from smallmouth bass to headwater trout. If you’re not from the area you’ll need to buy a Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license, which can be purchased online or in nearby towns.

White Water Rafting

One of the best ways to beat the heat in the summer is to go a wild adventure by white water rafting in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. During your RV trip to this enchanting landscape, get out from behind the wheel and hire a private company to splash through big waves and coast down gorgeous rivers with the help of an expert guide.

Hike to Rainbow Falls

You won’t want to miss a hike to Rainbow Falls. You can enjoy a magical view of a rainbow due to mist from this 80-foot high waterfall on a sunny summer afternoon. The hike to this majestic sight is 5.4 miles round trip on the Rainbow Falls Trail. This moderate hike is well worth the trek to get some stunning pictures of nature’s glory.

Ranger-led Hikes and Walks

If you want to park the RV and explore the park with the help of an expert, you’ll love the ranger-led hikes and walks that are regularly scheduled in the summer months. From hiking the Sugarlands under a starry night sky to venturing to Andrew’s Bald, these tours are led by the experts so you’ll learn about the amazing natural history and cultural heritage of this majestic environment.

Horseback Riding

The summer is a great time of year to get out of the RV and on the horseback riding trail. There are four stables that run horseback riding programs from March to November in the park. You’ll ride past striking views of wildflowers, towering forests, and magnificent waterfalls unlike any place else in the country.

Fall

Hike Up Chimney Tops

During your autumn RV vacation to this amazing park you won’t want to miss a hike on one of its most popular trails: the Chimney Tops Trail. While some of the trail is steep, the trek amidst spectacular streams is well worth it to ascend to the top of one of the park’s most recognizable peaks. You’ll be in for a treat for some incredible views of the mountainous countryside you can’t get anywhere else in the park.

Hayrides

A fun way to soak in the autumn season and colorful foliage is to take a ranger-led hayride through this mountainous oasis. You’ll enjoy open air views of the beautiful Cades Cove Loop Road. If you want more unique ways to explore the area, take a horse-drawn carriage ride or wagon ride through the wondrous natural trails of the park.

Take a Waterfall Tour

If you don’t want to miss the magnificent waterfalls dotted around the park, hire a private company to take a guided tour. You’ll hike through idyllic scenery, hop over mountain streams, and learn about the incredible natural history of this beautiful landscape. A fall RV trip to this region is a perfect time to take a waterfall tour and get some great pictures of the colorful foliage all around you.

Auto Tour of Cades Cove

Once home to early Appalachian settlers, Cades Cove is now a great place for RVers and drivers to take an auto tour of one of the most scenic areas of the park. You can soak in gorgeous views of grassy valleys and lush mountain forests. View local wildlife right from the car, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, and black bears.

Photograph Fall Foliage

The autumn is an amazing time at Great Smoky Mountains National Park when the park bursts to life with colors of yellow, orange, and red. Mid-September to early November is the best time to see the drastic colors of many different native trees, from the Mountain Maple to the Scarlet Oak. Some of the best sites to take some stunning fall pictures during your RV trip to the park are Clingmans Dome, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Foothills Parkway.

Winter

Cross Country Skiing

When the snow is deep enough, you can cross country ski through a winter wonderland at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Popular routes include the Clingmans Dome Road and Blue Ridge Parkway, since they are closed to vehicles during the winter months. Get out of your travel trailer and coast along snow-blanketed trails, snow-capped trees, and icicle-filled rock faces to soak in the winter magic of the Smoky Mountains in a way unlike any other.

Photography at Mingo Falls

If you want to take some of the incredible winter photographs, park your motorhome and head to Mingo Falls. When it gets cold enough, Mingo Falls freezes into a stunning sight of a frozen waterfall. The hike to reach the falls is just under half-a-mile so it’s a perfect stop to take some amazing shots.

Hike Alum Cave Trail

If you want to see a gorgeous winter wonderland you won’t want a miss a chance to hike on Alum Cave Trail where you’ll be greeted by snow-covered forest and mystical icicles in Alum Cave. While you’ll want to be cautious depending on the weather this time of year, Alum Cave is a magical concave bluff, making it a perfect backdrop for some amazing pictures during your RV trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Visit the Sugarlands Visitor Center

Open daily, except on Christmas Day, the Sugarlands Visitor Center is a great place to learn about the natural history of the park and the early settlers of the Appalachian region. You will enjoy an educational orientation movie and tour through some interesting exhibits that highlight the amazing heritage of this beautiful area. You can grab a souvenir at the gift shop or take a walk on one of the nearby trails afterwards too.

Explore Historic Buildings

A winter RV getaway is a great time to explore the over 90 history structures dotted around the park including barns, mills, and cabins. Some of the best spots to see them is to head to Cades Cove, Cataloochee, and Oconaluftee. Learn about the amazing history of the early settlers of this land thanks to self-guided tour booklets at each site.

List Your RV

Make Money Renting your RV

Outdoorsy RV owners make up to $32,000 a year renting their RVs.

List Your RV
Search Now

Find Your Perfect RV

Your next adventure starts here by searching thousands of available RVs for rent.

Search Now