The Smoky Mountains is a beautiful area to go camping or hiking. The national park is located in Tennessee and North Carolina, made up of 522,419 acres and 850 miles of trails. There are several types of sites to choose from for camping and hiking.
Backcountry camping is located away from the parking area and requires backpacking several miles to the camp site. Permits are required but are free and available at several locations. Registration areas are open 24 hours a day. If you choose to backpack in, you must stay at a designated site or shelter. Reservations are required for all shelters, and certain camp sites. Maximum stay at a campsite is three nights at a camp site and one night at a shelter. No tents are allowed to be used at the shelter. Maximum group size is eight. You can download a map of park trails online. For reservations call 865-436-1231 between 8 am and 6 pm.
Front country camp sites are located near parking. Restrooms are available with cold water and flushable toilets. Each site also contains picnic tables and a fire grate. There are ten locations in the park with front country camp sites, with some requiring reservations and others first come, first serve. You can call the park ahead of time to find out which require reservations. Fees range between $14 and $23 per night. Limited groceries and supplies are available in the park.
There are seven larger areas in the park available for group camping. These sites are only open certain months of the year, allow tents only, and a minimum party of seven people. You are allowed to stay up to fourteen days. Cost per night ranges between $26 to $65. Reservations may be made by calling 877-444-6777.
The park also features five horse camps. These sites are only open certain times of the year, and feature picnic tables, grills, parking, hitch racks, and tent space. You can make reservations by calling 877-444-6777 or online at the national park website. Fees are $20 to $25 per site. There is a maximum of six people and four horses at each camp site. Horses must be kept in stalls and not at camp. Tie horses only to racks or stalls, not to trees. Do not leave feed accessible to wildlife, and use only processed feed. Must have a current copy of negative testing for equine infectious anemia for each horse. The park service asks that you stay off of frozen or thawing trails, and ride the center of trails single file. When crossing roads and pavement, dismount and lead your horse across. Don't let horses drink out of the streams. You can carry a collapsible bucket and bring water to your horse. When making reservations it is also a good idea to ask about parking availability. Some sites only have enough room for one vehicle and one trailer.
Rules for all camp grounds include keeping all food or food equipment safely and securely locked in vehicles, and disposing of all garbage in designated dumpsites. Pets are allowed on all roads and developed areas, but not on trails. The park service asks that you please take heed of quiet hours from 10 pm to 6 am, and not to use generators between 8 pm and 8 am. Alcohol is allowed in campgrounds and picnic areas. Before going camping, be sure to check ahead for road or trail closures.
Abrams Falls trail is a beautiful hike and not too difficult of a walk for beginning hikers. The trail is 2.5 miles, and estimated time of 3 to 4 hours. This trail is located inside of Cades Cove.
Laurel Falls trail is another beautiful waterfall with a fairly easy hike just a little over one mile. This trail is so popular that the park service had to pave the trail due to erosion from heavy traffic. This trail is located off of Little River Road.
There are over one hundred trails to choose from in the park, ranging from easy enough for children to difficult enough for the advanced hiker.
Cades Cove is a beautiful 11 mile paved loop that can be toured by automobile. During peak seasons it can take as long as four hours to make the drive. Visitors can expect to see an abundance of wild life during the tour. There are also several historical buildings on site such as churches, barns, cabins, and cemeteries. Abrams Falls trail is located within Cades Cove, among other trails. There is also a campground inside Cades Cove with over a hundred camp sites, and many are handicap accessible. Various grounds are available for tents or campers up to 35 feet in length. Bikes can be rented nearby for use on bike trails, and a horse drawn hay ride is available. Horses can also be rented for use on guided trails throughout the cove. The campground is open all year, with features such as flushable toilets, drinking water, dump states, emergency phone, picnic areas, and electric hook ups. Camp sites are available Nov. 1 through May 14 on a first come, first serve basis, and by reservations the rest of the year. To make a reservation, call 865-448-2472.
As with camping, it is always a good idea to call the park ahead of time to check for road and trail closures. Maps are also available online for download of hiking trails. The Smoky Mountains also include 70 miles of the Appalachian trail.
This is a beautiful park, and if you enjoy the outdoors it is definitely worth the trip. Please remove any trash from the campsites or trails that you bring in. Always leave the area the way you found it so that other visitors get the same enjoyment. Always follow the park rules, stay safe, and have fun!