Welcoming more than 11 million visitors annually, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular national park in the United States. What’s so great about it? Well, that depends on who you ask.
Some will say it’s the gorgeous smoky haze that hangs over the towering mountains. Others might point to the majestic elk and diverse native wildlife, the excellent hiking, the scenic drives, or just the chance to escape civilization and explore this stunning terrain.
Whatever type of outdoor adventure you desire, you’ll find it when you go camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So book an RV rental in Swain or Haywood County in North Carolina, or Sevier, Blount, or Cocke County in Tennessee, and set out to explore this untamed wilderness.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers a vast area — we’re talking more than 800 square miles — so you can enjoy endless outdoor activities when visiting in a rental RV.
Hiking is a particular favorite for many visitors, with trails offering diverse scenery and experiences at any time of year. For example, the eight-mile trek to the craggy summit of Charlies Bunion will reward you with sweeping vistas of the region’s mountains and valleys, while the three-mile hike to Rainbow Falls is always popular (not to mention extra special in winter if the falls are frozen).
This biodiverse park is also home to an array of creatures, so wildlife watching is another excellent way to pass the time. While much of the park’s wildlife is hidden away in densely forested areas, you can also catch a glimpse of elk, black bear, white-tailed deer, and turkeys at Cades Cove and Cataloochee.
One other quintessential experience in this much-loved national park can only be had in fall, when the autumn foliage is truly spectacular. The fall color changes in the park can start as early as September and tend to peak between mid-October and the early days of November, so try to time your visit accordingly.
Camping at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Once you find a rental RV near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can take your pick of several campgrounds. However, if you’re looking for a campground with electrical and water hookups or mod-cons like showers, you won’t find these anywhere in the park.
The following campgrounds are worth considering for your Great Smoky Mountains National Park RV camping vacation:
- Abrams Creek. This remote campground features flush toilets and drinking water, and leashed pets are allowed. However, please note that the maximum permitted RV length is 12 feet.
- Balsam Mountain. Open May through October, this 42-site campground offers flush toilets and drinking water. The maximum RV length is 30 feet.
- Cades Cove. This campground is open year-round and features a dump station, flush toilets, and drinking water. Maximum lengths are 35 feet for trailers and 40 feet for motorhomes.
- Cataloochee. Open from April to October, this campground requires reservations. Flush toilets and drinking water are provided, and the maximum RV length is 31 feet.
- Cosby. Open April through October, Cosby Campground has a maximum RV length of 25 feet. It offers more than 150 shaded sites, but most are suitable for tents only.
- Deep Creek. Deep Creek Campground has 92 sites and is open April through October. Maximum RV length is 26 feet.
- Elkmont. Open from March to November, this 220-site campground welcomes trailers up to 32 feet and motorhomes up to 35 feet. It’s only eight miles from Gatlinburg and is therefore quite busy, and restrooms and potable water are available. There’s also a dump station near the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
- Smokemont. A 142-site campground that’s open year-round, Smokemont features a dump station, flush toilets, and drinking water. The maximum length is 35 feet for trailers and 40 feet for motorhomes.
Exploring the Area
If you’re camping with an RV at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, make sure you allow ample time to see everything you want to see and do everything you want to do. For example, if you’re visiting in spring, take the time to explore the park’s famous wildflowers — there are several walks to help you see the best of them.
Alternatively, maybe you’d prefer to admire the historic homes and churches at Cades Cove, book a horseback ride at one of four concession horseback riding stables, or fish for trout or bass in one of many streams.
Then, once your Great Smoky Mountains National Park camping adventure is complete, you can set out to explore a host of other excellent attractions nearby. The charming and historic city of Knoxville is just a short drive to the north, or you can head east to Asheville to check out the architecture and thriving cultural scene. Or if you’d prefer to explore more natural scenery, check out Chattahoochee National Forest or Dupont State Forest.
You’ll find something worth visiting no matter which way you turn, so load up your rental RV and see where your sense of adventure takes you.