Smokemont - GSMNP

Rusty2192

Super Active Member
Jul 30, 2014
1,171
Kentucky
We got to stay in the Smokemont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time this week. It’s on the North Carolina side of the park just inside the Oconaluftee entrance from Cherokee, NC. It has easy access to most things on that side of the park, just a 20 minute drive to Newfound Gap or about 45 minutes to the Deep Creek area outside Bryson City, as well as being right near the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cherokee has plenty of amenities if run out or forgot anything. There’s a nice stream running through the campground and plenty of people were fishing or playing in the cool water. The campground was always very quiet with a faint sound of the creek in the background. Compared to Elkmont with it’s roaring rapids this is much more subdued.

As with all campgrounds inside the park, there are no hookups and no showers, but there is a dump station on-site here. The bathhouses are centrally located inside the loops and have flush toilets and sinks, as well as an outside sink for washing dishes and dumping gray water. Most bathhouses have a water fountain with a fresh water tap, but the one nearest us in Loop C didn’t so the dishwashing sink was our only option for filling a water jug. I didn’t check if there was a potable water tap near the dump station to fill your tank on the way in, so if you plan on filling your tank be sure to research this before your trip.

Loops A, B, and C can get a little tight and are geared more towards tents with several of them having the tent pad on the opposite side of the parking pad, but most still have plenty of room for pups and bigger rigs. The bathhouses are kind of crounded by these sites with few access paths between sites, so there was a lot cutting through people’s sites going on. Loop D has pull-through sites which were typically much larger and nicer. Loop F is for RVs only and were larger sites, but less shade and no tent pads. It felt more like being in a field than immersed in the forest under the trees like A-D. During the season, generators are only allowed in Loops D and F and most rigs we saw had them. We didn’t have a chance to explore that loop during the morning or evening when people are most likely to be running their generators to see how loud or annoying it may have been. There is a lot of shade in all but Loop F, so plan accordingly if you rely on solar. Most sites only had patches of sun that would need to be chased if relying on it to keep the batteries topped off.

One thing to keep in mind if coming from the North through Knoxville is that you probably don’t want to tow up and over the mountain through the park on US 441 (Newfound Gap Rd) since it’s steep with lots of tight turns. It’s better to take I-40 around the park which does add considerable mileage to the trip, but not a lot of time since it avoids both the slow drive over the mountain and the tourist traffic nightmares of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Of course, coming from the South or East this would be moot and this would be one of the nearest campgrounds.

Overall we really enjoyed our stay and it worked great for our purposes, which was primarily as base camp for exploring the park and even leaving the pup for a couple nights as we did some backpacking on the trails. I’m not sure when/if we’ll be back, but that’s just because of all of the extra driving involved for us to get there, but that’s not the campground’s fault. If we ever need to stay on that side of the park again I’d gladly book a site at Smokemont and probably try to get a site in Loop D.
 

jmkay1

2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah
Oct 10, 2013
7,495
Northern Virginia
Thanks for the review. I've stayed at Elkmont and Cades Cove loved both places and got me to see a good chunk of the park on the Tennessee side. I've driven by Smokemont once on my way to Bryson City once. It's been on my short bucket list after the drive-by. Can't wait to get back up there. It's my favorite mountain. Although my poor SUV is probably saying otherwise.
 

Econ

Super Active Member
Aug 18, 2019
1,516
Deep South
@Rusty2192

Nice review. The amount of time and effort to type a long review is appreciated. The SMNP is the most visited park in the country. I think it's annual totals are more than the next top 4 combined. It is one of the few Parks east of the Mississippi. We have stayed at every campground in the Park that will permit us. Been going there since Nixon.

To be successful at the SMNP, you need to study herd mentality. The majority of the herd acts the same. You have to be different. In October, Get out of the car and hike now a trail. The color is better. Hiking a quarter mile deep into an less popular trail will get rid of 95+% of the crowd (except Laurel Falls). Cades Cove is on every one bucket list between 9:30 AM and starts to thin about 45 minutes before Happy Hour. Travel before the drunks wake up and eat, and after happy hour. If I approached from the north down 441 I would do so at 5AM. Think differently!

We went to Laurel Falls for the first time in 20 years this spring. It lightly rained and the herd stampeded back to Gatlinburg. Got the first parking space next to the trailhead. Photo'ed the Falls with no one standing in front of it <GG>

But, The Parking lot at Alum Cave starts filling up at dark thirty.
 




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