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, this park gets more visitors than Yellowstone National Park the Grand Canyon National Park, and Yosemite National Park 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 photographs at the cascading waterfalls of Grotto Trail.
When you visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park in an RV, there is something for the whole family to enjoy year-round; the summers tend to be hot, and the winters tend to be mild. 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 (4)

[Information] Roadwork Near Cataloochee Area Postponed

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the expected closure of the main access road into Cataloochee has been postponed. The Cataloochee area will remain open and accessible throughout the fall and early winter.

[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.

[Information] Expect traffic congestion in Cades Cove, especially during summer months

While we welcome you to the Smokies, expect traffic congestion. Be prepared for multiple delays- particularly in Cades Cove.

[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 because the park is close to major local highways. If you are driving an electric vehicle, you can charge your battery 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 the 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 the different visitor centers, as well as some of the campgrounds. There are also parking lots at most of the most popular attractions, including Newfound Gap, Cataloochee Cove, and Clingmans Dome. Also, be aware that 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

Cataloochee Campground

The pet-friendly Cataloochee Campground is located in the historic Cataloochee Valley, which is a more remote section of the Smoky Mountain National Park. 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 fly fishing on the Cataloochee Creek. Open from March to October, this campground provides 27 campsites for tents and RVs with driveways to accommodate motorhomes and trailers up to 31 feet long. The entrance road to Cataloochee Valley is narrow and windy, so it is not recommended for RVs longer than 31 feet or trailers longer than 25 feet.
Food and other scented items need to be kept in a bear-proof container or trunk because this is bear country. The park provides a food storage box for those without a hard-sided vehicle across from campsite two. There is a restroom with running water located at the western edge of the campground by campsite 19. Advanced reservations are required up to six months in advance.

Abrams Creek Campground

Along Abrams Creek with a beautiful mountainous backdrop, the Abrams Creek Campground is one of the most popular in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but is secluded enough not to seem crowded, no matter how full it is. Open from April until October, 16 spacious campsites can accommodate small RVs and trailers up to 12 feet in length but do not have any utility hookups. Each site does have its own picnic table, campfire ring with a grill for cooking, and a large cleared area for sitting around the fire.
Because there are so many bears in the area, you must keep your food and other scented items in your car, preferably in the trunk or a bear-proof box. Restrooms are available just to the north of the campground between campsites 12 and 13. Pets are welcome, but they must be adequately restrained and supervised at all times during your visit. Reservations are required and can be made up to six months in advance.

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 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.

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 long 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 as well.

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 and 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 a stocked river for fishing. Sites can accommodate rigs up to 66 feet long and offer hookups with 50-amp service.

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 quickly 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 also 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 too.

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 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!

Smokemont Campground

Open year-round, Smokemont Campground offers 142 spacious sites for trailers up to 35 feet long, and motorhomes up to 40 feet long. Each site has its own campfire ring with a grill for cooking, a picnic table that seats six, and a large cleared space for sitting around the fire. Since the campground has parking pads up to 40 feet in length for your RV, it is best to make a reservation in advance because some of the spots are a lot smaller.
There are seven restrooms with running water throughout the campground, and there are a campground office and ranger station in Section A at the entrance to the grounds. Wood, ice, and vending machines are located just outside the grounds by the riding stable and camp supply store. You can relax in this campground with stunning views of mountains and wildflowers with the Oconaluftee River nearby or take a hike on one of the nature trails. You can bring your pets too, but you must keep them restrained and supervise them during your stay.

Elkmont Campground

Open all year long, Elkmont Campground 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 or Jakes Creek with easy access to hiking and fishing. The City of Elkmont is just nine miles from Gatlinburg, TN, where you can stock up on groceries and gas. This large campground features 12 restrooms with running water spaced out around the grounds for your convenience.
There is a camp supply store just south of the ranger station by campsite B2, where you can also find ice, wood, and vending machines. With all these campsites, you may not need a reservation, but if you are looking for a certain spot, it is best to reserve it early to make sure you get it. You can bring your pooch, but make sure you supervise them and keep them properly restrained while you are here.

Balsam Mountain Campground

The Balsam Mountain Campground is open from May to October, offering 46 sites for both 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 an ample cleared space for hanging out around the campfire.
You can find a dishwashing station on the western side of the campground just past campsite 38. Restrooms with running water are available by campsite 32 and by the camp host’s campsite. The ranger station is at the entrance, and there is an amphitheater at the southern end of the campground where they have activities during the summer. You are required to make reservations and can be done so up to six months in advance. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are supervised and properly restrained at all times.

First-come first-served

Cades Cove Campground

Located in the western section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove Campground has 159 sites open all year that can accommodate tents, trailers up to 35 feet long, and motorhomes up to 40 feet long. Separated into sections A, B, and C, all of the sites have their own fire pit with a grill for cooking and a picnic table that seats six. Be aware that the 76 sites in Section C do not allow generator usage.
This large campground has convenient amenities, including a camp store by Section A where you can also rent bikes. Trails, a riding stable, and a large picnic area are located north of the campgrounds, and you can find restrooms throughout the grounds. Hikers and fishers will love this location for its proximity to Abrams Creek. Reservations are available, but not required, and pets are allowed as long as you keep them restrained and supervise them during your stay.

Cosby Campground

This large campground is open from mid-March through the end of 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. All sites have their own picnic tables and fire pits, and you can find seven restrooms with running water around the grounds for your convenience. A dump station is available nearby, as well.
Equestrians, in particular, choose this park because of all the equestrian trails here, as well as the horse trailer parking section in the campground. A few of the trails meander along Cosby Creek, where you can stop to fish or cool off in the water. It’s also conveniently located near gas stations and grocery stores in nearby Cosby, Tennessee. Pets are also allowed here, but you must watch them and keep them properly restrained at all times.

Deep Creek Campground

Deep Creek Campground, which is open from mid-April through the end of October, offers 92 sites for either tents or RVs up to 26 feet in length. There is also a tent-only section right on the waterfront. All sites have a picnic table and campfire grill. You can find three restrooms with running water in the RV campgrounds section, and there are several others around the grounds. There is also a camp host, two ranger stations, a payphone, and an RV dump site.
This campground is popular for those who are interested in boating, swimming, and fishing due to its proximity to the Deep Creek. You can even jump on an innertube in the creek at Galbraith Creek Road and float down to your campsite. If you like to hike, several trails will take you to some fantastic waterfalls just north of the campground. Pets are also welcome. However, you must supervise and restrain them while at the park. Since these are first-come, first-served sites, you should get here early to get a spot, especially on weekends and holidays.

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 and the 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 the end of October. Each site accommodates six people and four 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 Campground

Big Creek is a small tent-only campground with 12 sites available. Open from mid-March until the end of October, this campground is great for backpackers and hikers. The campground features restrooms with running water, picnic tables, and food storage lockers. Reservations are required up to six months in advance. Pets are welcome, but you must keep them properly restrained and supervise them at all times.

Group Campgrounds

If you would like to stay in the park with a large party, seven areas 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. Smokemont, Elkmont, Deep Creek, Cosby, Cataloochee, Cades Cove, and Big Creek all have group campgrounds available, but spaces must be reserved in advance.

Seasonal activities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Spring

Hike to Ramsey Cascades

The strenuous eight-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 five to seven 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 unusual 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 river 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

White Water Rafting

One of the best ways to beat the heat in the summer is to go on a wild adventure. White water rafting in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is both fun and wild. 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.

Fishing

If you love fishing, you’re in luck with an RV trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park because 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 Tennessee or North Carolina, you’ll need to buy a Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license, which can be purchased online or in some of the nearby towns.

Hike to Rainbow Falls

You won’t want to miss a hike to Rainbow Falls. On a sunny summer afternoon, you can enjoy an ethereal view of a rainbow caused by the mist from this 80-foot high waterfall. 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 regularly scheduled ranger-led hikes and walks that take place during the summer months. From hiking the Sugarlands under a starry night sky to venturing to Andrew’s Bald, these tours, led by the experts, help you learn about the natural history and cultural heritage of this majestic environment.

Horseback Riding

The summer is an excellent time of year to get out of the RV and out on the horseback riding trail. In the park, four stables run horseback riding programs between March through November. You’ll ride past striking views of wildflowers, towering forests, and magnificent waterfalls, unlike any place else in the country.

Fall

Fall Photography

The autumn is an excellent time to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park because it is the time of year when the park bursts into life with colors of yellow, orange, and red. Mid-September through early November is the best time to see the drastic colors of the different native trees that grow here like 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.

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 the work it takes 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, Carriage Rides, and Wagon Rides

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 an excellent 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 or view local wildlife right from the car. You might be able to spot white-tailed deer, coyotes, and black bears.

Winter

Cross Country Skiing

When the snow is deep enough, you can cross country ski through a winter wonderland inside of 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 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 a half-mile, so it’s a perfect stop to take some wonderful, wintery shots.

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.

The Sugarlands Visitor Center

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

Explore Historic Buildings

A winter RV getaway is a great time to explore the over 90 historic structures dotted around the park, including barns, mills, and cabins. Some of the best spots to see these spots is to head to Cades Cove, Cataloochee, and Oconaluftee. While visiting some of these locations, you will learn about the history of the early settlers of this land thanks to self-guided tour booklets provided at each site.

Share your Great Smoky Mountains National Park experience

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