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Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

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Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

I'm looking to do a week long summer camping trip in the Smokies, preferably in the national park. I've been there once or twice, but it's a big park and I'm not super familiar with it.

Basically, I want to tent camp for about a week, preferably in one spot. But I want a spot that can be a hub of sorts - with plenty of stuff to do within, say, a half hour drive. I'd like to be close to water (lake or river), and able to day hike lots of trails with lots of good scenery. It would be nice to have some flatter trails for the older folks. Basic tent campground services will be fine. Hot showers are a must. Water and electric not must haves. I like wooded campsites, and privacy is nice, though I realize it will be the busy season.

I'm also looking for good weather - highs in the 70s, lows in the 40s-50s kind of weather. I'm thinking May, but open to suggestions.

Finally, how hard is it to get camping reservations at the popular locations? Is it as bad as Yosemite where the sites open six months in advance and there's a mad rush to reserve?

Suggestions are appreciated.

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1. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

First the bad news.... there are NO shower facilities inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are a few private campgrounds, outside of the park, that offer showers to visitors for a small fee. Also I believe the Gatlinburg Community Center has showers.

Elkmont campground sounds like what you're looking for. It is located not far from the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the town of Gatlinburg, TN. Elkmont is probably the most popular campground in the Park, so reservations are a must in the summer months. The lots are wooded and some are located next to the Little River itself. This river runs through the campground and has great oppurtunities for fishing and tubing throughout the Park. Elkmont has a few great hiking trails that explore the area, some connecting to even more trails. These aspects and its proximity to the Gatlinburg area make Elkmont a popular place to camp.

Some other great Park campgounds imclude Cosby, Smokemont and Cataloochee. They are off the beaten path a bit and are less popular, but still offer great wooded tent sites and hiking/fishing/exploring.

May is a great time to camp in the Park. It is before the "peak" vacation season and the temps are mild to warm...

Townsend, Tennessee
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2. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

Other than the hot showers, Elkmont meets all of your other requirements and is a favorite front country campsite. Loops J, K and L are the quieter areas of the campground with fewer traffic drive bys. The former Wonderland Hotel site, Appalachia Club summer residences and 2 local cemeteries are worthwhile exploring in the area. The Little River trail with trailhead located behind the campground is one of the flattest trails in the Park and a good choice for a hike, following the Little River up towards the headwaters. Both late April through May and late Sep through mid October meet the annual average temperatures you are looking for. Late May through mid June will be a busy time at Elkmont with many visitors arriving for the annual synchronized firefly mating event. If hot showers are non-negotiable, consider one of the campgrounds right outside the Park in Townsend (an area originally recommended to be included inside the GSMNP boundaries). Camp Townsend would make a good hub camptownsend.com/Camp_Townsend/Campsite_MAP.… - as would Tremont Hills or the Townsend KOA. All are 30 minutes from Cades Cove and Pigeon Forge and about 40 minutes from Gatlinburg.

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3. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

Thanks for the two great posts. If we stayed at Elkmont, would there be enough things to do to keep us busy for a week? Or might we be better to stay there 3-4 days and then move?

Townsend, Tennessee
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4. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

Unless you are thinking about moving to something on the NC side of the Park, Elkmont is centrally located and you can access much of the Park from there. And Cherokee is only a 40 minute drive (early in the day travel time - add more for mid day). Cades Cove is another great front country campground but it is near one end of the Park and not as convenient as Elkmont to Clingman's Dome, Newfound Gap, Alum Cave, LeConte, Chimneys, Laurel Falls, and the attractions and restaurants outside of the Park in Gatlinburg and PF.

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5. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

You could stay there for a week and have plenty to do if you can drive around the Park a bit and explore the other hiking oppurtunities and all the Park has to offer. You are close enough to town to enjoy some of the restaurants and attractions too.

If you want a change of scenery you could camp at Smokemont, on the North Carolina side of the Park, and explore that area too.

Melbourne, Florida
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6. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

We love Elkmont and you will find plenty to do. Go to the visitors center and pick up the brochures for the park, waterfall hikes and driving tours. They will tell you about the buildings and mile markers. There are quiet walkways at pulloffs on your drive thru the park, some cross small streams or just have beautiful scenery. There are some decent places to take showers over in Townsend. The park has a list of places to take a hot shower. You have to make reservations very early to get campsites right next to the water but almost all sites are close enough to hear the stream rushing by and there is access to the stream no matter where you are in the park. Smokemont on the south end of the park is similar and closer to Cherokee, NC.

We usually spend 3 to 4 nights camping in the park and then the last 1 or 2 nights at a hotel in Gatlinburg just to do the tourist thing.

If hot showers are a must look at campgrounds in Townsend or Cherokee. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have a few too. I liked Flaming Arrow in Cherokee, more trees and a little more privacy and you can still make trips into the park or even up to Gatlinburg. If the elders can do steps Mingo Falls in Cherokee is beautiful. We have done a few nights there and then a few nights at Elkmont before and really enjoyed both places.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
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7. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

Piggybacking on this post. We are looking for a campground in early June as well. We've stayed at Lazy Daze in Townsend years ago, and really liked them, but I see they've gotten some bad reviews.

I've talked with a friend who loves Elkmont but showers are a must for our group. With that, what other campgrounds would you recommend?

Thanks!

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8. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

I've found that the private campgrounds in the area are way overpriced with overbearing rules and tiny campsites stacked on top of one another. Definitely not my cup of tea especially if you're a real tent camper. NONE of the campgrounds in the Park have showers, but you should be able to find some nearby in town...

Melbourne, Florida
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9. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

We actually used the showers at Lazy Days. We found the showers to be clean and the park was also clean. At the time we were there it was not crowded so could not tell how good / bad it was. The little store could use some updating for sure. We love element and its not that far of a drive for a shower in Townsend and we usually go to Cades Cove, then hit townsend afterwards. Sometimes have a meal at the Little River BBQ.

Townsend, Tennessee
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10. Re: Suggestions for a quiet campground with lots to do nearby

Chris J - if you liked Lazy Daze I think you would also like Camp Townsend. Located 'all the way' at the other end of town (about 2 miles) located right across from the Cantilever Barn Event Center. Camp Townsend is on the Little River but below where the commercial tubing rentals operate and it is across a one lane bridge on the other side of the river away from the highway so it is a quieter location. It is an older style campground with new owners that have put a lot of effort into making it a favorite place to camp in Townsend. Full of shade with mature trees and larger camp sites where you are not right on top of your neighbor. camptownsend.com/Camp_Townsend/WELCOME.html

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