Camping and Great Smoky Mountains National Park seem to go hand in hand. The park is home to mountains, valleys, streams, and history and is the east coast version of Yosemite or Yellowstone. A vacation destination for millions each year Great Smoky Mountain National park is an ideal location to go tent or RV camping. In this webinar recording founder and CEO Mark Koep provides insight on planning you trip to this park and suggests places to stay. The 13 minute long video is packed with useful information to help you plan your next trip to the smokies and find a RV park or Campground.

The following is the transcribed text from the video:
Hello my name is Mark Koep I am with
Today we are going to talk about Great Smoky National Park and ideas on where you should go camping in
your RV or tent. First-place I’ll start is
actually not at but
at the National Park Service and pull up
their park map the reason I am going to do this is
Great Smoky Mountain National Park is an
enormous park but the reason I pull
up there map because I want to show you that to drive to it is there are really only a few main access
points into the park. Now the park itself
is bounded by I-40 on the East and this US129
on the West. Then on the north and the south are your two main access points. In the
North you have Gatlinburg Townsend and Pigeon Forge on the south side you have Cherokee
Bryson City. Other then the small parks that we’ll talk about in a little bit that’s
the main part of Great Smoky National
Park this interior areas on both the western and
eastern side of the park are accessible
only by foot so the main parts of the
park are accessible for hikers only
otherwise you’re limited to these main
access points. and when I say limited its not limited in a bad way its just for
planning purposes it’s just you need to
be aware of that So now we’ll go over to
and take a look at what there is
to do and see and where to stay inside
Smoky Mountain National Park we’ll start
out with Gatlinburg Tennessee
Big thing with Gatlinburg Tennessee is that it is the northern access point into the park
The big thing with Gatlinburg is that there’s
not a lot of RV parks and campgrounds
inside the town. The closest one is Twin
Creek RV Resort and I’ll pop that one up real
fast and is located right here
the advantage to this location is a free trolley that takes into downtown Gatlinburg
Downtown Gatlinburg is cool to see
they’ve got a lot of little shops
little restaurants all along on a walkway
very walking accessible town and it’s a
fun tourist destination as you can see this Twin Creek has the trolley stop there they
have a pool for in-season, playgrounds
big huge sites for RVs and small sites
for tents and smaller trailers over all
a well kept Park really nice highly
recommended. One thing I will point out is
they are not an advertiser if anybody is an
advertiser I will mention it when I
promote them in that case they’re not just
want to point them out. Outside of that
one there’s another park right up here this
Camp LeConte which is a newer RV
Park. I point that out because it is new
and it is nice
They’ve got everything kind of setup right
pull throughs cabins and tent sites nice
looking campground
not too far outside it’s actually in
Pigeon Forge… I mean in Gatlinburg right near the
high school so for the community it is not
too far away it is just a little ways off of downtown
otherwise your closest National Park
Campground to the entrance here is
Elkmont Campground which is accessible for both RVs and tents
zoom in here for a satellite view and
you get an idea of the overall shape of
in fact the map view is better because it can give you a better view of it
Elkmont Campground is really treed very large trees that does limit access to some
RVs a lot of tents but kind of limited for
RVs just because of maneuvering in
the park they are long sites if you get
into it any size RV will fit. It is a little limited just
getting in there. The other limiting factor
for this park campground is the road
leading into it is a winding narrow road so there is a lot of tight turns and such and that
tends to limit people when they’re
driving on the road we’ll take a quick street
view of the road and you can see what I
you see it has a mowed shoulder but the road itself is very narrow… perfect we have a
pickup truck right behind us. You notice his mirrors are the width of the road.
Essentially about a ten-foot road base
so it’s a bit narrow and as you go down
here… down the road a little bit you
can see this turn right here it’s
nothing crazy you know but it’s
nonetheless a little bit of a limiting
factor if you are nervous about driving. So that is Gatlinburg north of there
is Pigeon Forge you see this bulk of
icons here if we actually search Pigeon
Forge you’d see that even more pop-up I
want to say off the top of my head
there are 35 campgrounds and RV parks in
Pigeon Forge that may be a bit
low but there’s just a ton… I mean look at that…
that’s Pigeon Forge/ Gatlinburg there’s a
bunch here right at the end of Pigeon
Forge fromit’s a two lane actually part
of the National Park. Notice the green
areas that takes you right up into the
park up to gatlinburg and into the park
there are some other ones out on this
321 One I’ll mention is this Kings Holly
The reason I mention that one is it is
right next door to the city park if you
have kids you’re on a budget this is
reasonably price park right next to the
city park. So you can… there is a fence
here you can hop but there is a short walk to
walk right up here and cut over and go into the park they have a playground up two play
grounds out by the road here you got this
big area here iand there are trails that go around it
So you can do a nice little jog and head back to the nice little campground right there. There’s a
whole bunch of nice ones in the area
just wanted to point that one out if you
have family and your on a budget. The next
place to look at will be Townsend
Townsend Tennessee this is a true
small-town feel over in Townsend
there’s a nice KOA actually really nice
KOA located here in Townsend they have
really large sites They are also right
next to the access point here to this Townsend
entrance access point into the park
great thing about Townsend is it gives
you access to
this Laurel Creek Road right here
takes you over to Cades Cove. Cades Cove Campground is a very popular campground
inside the park
reservations highly recommended. Reason
why it’s so popular is this Cades Cove Loop
Road. It is a very scenic drive it loops
through the valley here there’s a number
of stops along the way with historic
interpretation centers and so forth its
a one-way loop road and what makes it
notably special especially if you’re
cyclist is that on certain mornings the
road is closed to vehicle traffic you
can ride this road it is one way and do a loop even if it’s open to traffic if you’re a
reasonably fast rider the speed limit is
low, people aren’t hauling along the road you
can easily ride it without too much
worry and then you can stay right
there at Cades Cove
We do have video of the park you can check it out on the website but you can see this
is a large rig you can kind of see how tight it is but it’s a really accessible park
let’s see if I have an angle of it in these photos.
see all the roads are very straight all
these roads are in fact if we go back
over here you notice the straight lines
it’s very easy to get into. You drive in
this road hop in and they’re just one
ways this is very accessible for any
size rig you just drive down the road and back into the site plenty of space any size
rig can fit into Cades Cove very easily The
sites are pretty close together not
too bad
Um Interesting Smoky Mountain National Park tends to pack them in there pretty tight
in the different campgrounds
so that’s Cades Cove accessible from
Townsend that’s the closest access point to it
you can also access it from Gatlinburg
just a longer drive along this road that
goes by Elkmont. Now we will jump over to
Cherokee. Cherokee is accessible via this
US441 that goes through the
park Clingman’s Dome is at the very peak
of it and then you drop down a long
descent into Cherokee below. Cherokee is
on the Cherokee Indian Reservation so
there’s heritage and there is heritage
museums and the such if you wanna learn
about the culture it’s a great
destination to go there is a town here
there’s a casino in Cherokee a nice
casino restaurants food and fuel and all
that stuff
RV parks all around the location
The problem with Cherokke is if you start staying at
these further out RV parks it’s a
bit of a drive to get to here so its
something to keep in mind. There are
destination campgrounds up along this
Big Cove Road. Um it is deceiving because you see the parks at it
looks like they are next to Cherokee but
the reality is you have to drive all the
way back down this road and then back up it’s not “all” this way but there is traffic
on it especially during a popular times
KOA and Jellystone where is Jellystone it is a bit
further out it’s not popping up in my
search results here over on the next page
those two your destination parks up in
there really family-friendly a lot going
The Cherokee Smoky Mountain KOA is
very popular spot there’s a Jellystone
again another very popular spot and then
on this side you also have Smokemont Campground
Smokemont is a National Park
Service campground accessible to tents
and smaller RVs
So we have the Smokemont Campground on the East side along US 441 this is a gradual
climb up to the top of the ridge not
quite as steep as the northwestern side
The other National Park Campground
accessible to Cherokee is Deep Creek
this is best suited to smaller RVs truck
campers and tent campers. Deep Creek is
very popular for folks that are more
local they use it for tubing. You can
take a tube out on the water
the river you hike up trail hop in your tube and float back down. Very nice campground
green… it’s a lower elevation so if its
warm it’ll be warm here but you are
camping in the trees so there’s lots of
shade. Again we have video on that just
outside of that entrance there are a
couple other camping options along the
road here that also rent out tubes
inner tubes and go out onto the water
and so this a popular spot here this
Deep Creek there are a number of campgrounds we have more pictures and video to see what they
look like and actually pick them out that’s another good spot to camp. Now we’ve covered
Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Townsend and
Cherokee where else can I go camping in
this area?
A quieter region to go is up along the
Cosby Tennessee area this is in the
northeastern part of the park
it’s a little bit more remote now you’ll
notice this is 321 coming along
Gatlinburg to Cosby, Cosby is right
there’s the actual city there’s kind of
it’s more of a community than a city
So there’s houses and a few shops
along here. Nothing big it’s really kind of a remote area of the park. There is a number of RV
parks and campgrounds along this 321. There is a private park right here at the
entrance and then you have the Cosby
Campground. Cosby Campground is seasonally open best
suit to tents and small RVs and then you
have this highway 32 a very windy road
you’ll notice looking at the satellite you notice how the roads are all windy that’s
because they follow the bottoms of the
valley floor so you’re basically
navigating along a flat area with the
mountains peaking up above you. This 32
comes over here to Big Creek Campground
again a tent campground truckcampers
at best very very small rigs. Once you’re
here if you wanna do a little bit of off
roading you can hit this 1397 as marked
on this Google Map Mount Sterling Road
if I zoom in that is over here outside
of Big Creek. You notice this road right here youll be
following that that’s a gravel road and it
heads over Cataloochee. Cataloochee you
need to make reservations before going
to camp they require reservations in
advance. they require them in advance
the reason being is there’s no cell or
Internet service in that valley and
because of that, I searched Maggie
because of that they require
reservations in advance so that the camphost
knows who’s coming and they can kinda
limit traffic from coming in uninvited
The Catalochee Campground is a nice little campground located in the trees next to the river it is a scenic
spot it’s a bit tight um meaning you’re
right on top of your neighbors so it’s
probably a little bit more comfortable
if you are in a small RV instead of tent
camping but nonetheless its a pretty
location in a remote area
Tip here is that whatever you’re
driving there is going to get dirty the
gravel roads are very very dusty even if
you idle along them everything you own
on the outside is going to get dusty so your RV your trailer anything you have strapped to the
back of the car or pickup truck cover it up
so that you don’t arrive and have it
all dirty.
Catalochee is a very pretty campground and it’s definitely worth the trip and that gives
you a taste of the interior of the park cause
it’s really located far from anywhere else. On the
other side over here by this I’ll search Topoco
North Carolina probably pronouncing that
wrong . This is the southern side of the park
less traffic less crowded less people kind of hop over to hit Abrams Creek and there is Cades
Cove again. That is Smokey Mountain National Park not a lot to it from the surface there is
a ton of campgrounds around it inside of
it the National Park Campgrounds tend to be
pretty crowded and a little tight they are best suited to smaller rigs other than for example Cades Cove
which is pretty accessible to big
rig as long as you can get back there
your best bets if you’re looking for a
family trip Pigeon Forge is your area if
you’re looking to get away from it all
some of the areas round Cherokee around Catalochee
kind of the corners… you can almost think of it as the four corners. You go to Townsend down here by this dam area
Cosby and the Maggie Valley those would be kind of your rural areas
The main areas will be Cherokee, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge. If you have any questions hit our site
up a we have all
these campgrounds mapped out for you… you can plan
it out
find and contact them and see video pictures of the park’s and really plan your trip
If you have any questions feel free to email us and remember to subscribe to YouTube as we
put more of these videos out there as we
complete the webinars. I’m Mark Koep with Thank you for your time good bye.

  1. Superslif

    Something I can add here, or just an opinion. During prime season (June – Aug) and Oct leave season, the park and surrounding areas can get crazy busy especially the weekends.

    An example #1: Laurel Falls not far from the Sugarlands Visitor Center has paved parking space for maybe 50 cars. What happens when 150 show up on the weekend to park and hike the trail to the falls. The cars park all over the place, up to 1/2 mile along the side of the road in each direction….There are traffic jams because people are waiting in the lanes of traffic for a closer spot to open up as they scout out families coming back to their cars. Either do it early in the morning, later in the day or plan to do it midweek.

    Example #2: Cades Cove Loop. Yes it is a single lane road with some parking every mile or so. Here the problem is, someone sees a deer, and they stop as if they have never seen a deer before. You have to realize you have 100 vehicles behind you, with you stopping and not getting off the road that causes everyone to stop behind you. So it can be a Sloooooow go.

    Example #3: Chimney Tops Picnic area located about 5 miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center is a nice spot to have a family picnic. You should arrive by 10am if you want to get a parking spot with a table. Shortly after that parking is at a premium and so is a table. Many of the tables are very private where there might be a single parking spot for that one table and the next parking spot and table are 50′ away. Many back right up to the small river where the kids can play in the water.

    You had said Cades Cove Campground is big rig friendly. Yes it is but, you said the park road from Sugarlands / the Gatlinburg area is not bad. I would totally disagree. Besides being narrow, it is very curvy, “very”. Most of the curves there will have a rock wall to you south side. So if your towing a 35′ RV trailer. your going to have to “cheat” the middle part of the road to keep your RV on the road and not hit rocks or trees sticking out. But with so much traffic, your going around a blind corner half way into the other lane, risking a collision. The only option is come in from Townsend on route 73. From there (route 73 / Townsend Entrance Rd.) to Cades Cove is not too bad.

    Example #4: The road from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the Elkmont campground is not bad, even for large rigs. The hardest park is from the main park road along the Elkmont access road, which is only about a mile. Not bad at all, there is not much traffic on that mile section, so a larger rig can cheat the middle some. One more point for the Elkmont campground, there is “No” dump station in this campground, you can use the one across the road from the Sugarlands VC, but it’s a small loop up a hill, around a 180 degree bend and then downhill to the actual fresh water fill and dump station. The problem is your at a fairly steep angle facing downhill, and your RV’s tanks usually empty towards the rear of your RV. So you may not get all your sewer waste emptied.

    1. admin
      admin Listing Owner

      #3 Road to Cades Cove. It is winding but not very narrow. Everyone is different but I believe that road is doable for most drivers. As for us we have a 44′ fifth wheel… could I make it? Yes. Would I want to try? No for the reasons you made.

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