North America’s Best Campgrounds: Elkmont

A roomy creekside site at Elkmont.
This week my fellow outdoor enthusiasts and I are highlighting our favorite campgrounds in North America. While I have several favorites across the country, I wanted to bring the love down south into Camp Granola’s main stomping grounds.

To highlight our home state, I’ve got Cloudland Canyon for you. But you know I can’t help but share some Great Smoky Mountains love as well…

So many choices…

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to ten campgrounds within its 800+ square miles and they’re fairly uniform in their amenities in my experience. The campgrounds are equipped with toilets and sinks but no showers, electric hookups (except for ADA sites), or campsite water spigots. Water is available at the dishwashing sinks outside of the rest stations so it’s typically only a short haul to take water to your site. The sites have raised, gravel-bedded tent pads along with picnic tables and fire pits/grills.

The groovy things about the Smokies is that the mountains are rife with streams and many of the campgrounds boast creekside campsites as a result. You really can’t go wrong with any of the campground offerings in the park, creekside or not, but we’re partial to Elkmont due to it’s location right smack in the middle of the north side of the park, between Gatlinburg and Townsend. It’s a great jumping off point to the trails at Elkmont, to the Cades Cove and Tremont areas, and to Sugarlands and Hwy 441 that runs back south towards Clingman’s Dome.

And while Elkmont is the largest of the campgrounds in terms of number of campsites, the layout is such that it doesn’t feel crowded unlike other campgrounds in the park… especially compared to the chaos of the very popular Cades Cove campground or the tightly packed walk-in sites at Deep Creek. The campground also plays host to a variety of park programs throughout the year and you can stock up on basic supplies at the concessions stand without having to go into town.

If you do find you need to go into town, you’ll see that Gatlinburg is more accessible from Elkmont but be aware that it’s extremely crowded and touristy. If that’s not the experience you want out of your visit, the town of Townsend lies to the west and is a much more low-key option for the likes of stocking up on supplies and doing laundry. It is a little further away than Gatlinburg but the drive is fantastic as the road winds along the banks of the Little River.

An important reminder…

As of last summer, the Emerald Ash Borer has been officially confirmed to have been sighted in the park. This presents a serious threat to the park’s ash tree population and there is a ban on firewood brought from quarantined areas. Firewood is readily available at the Elkmont concession booth so please do not bring your own from outlying areas. For more information, please visit Don’t Move Firewood.

An Elkmont visual…

To get a better sense of Elkmont, here are a few more images. Also click on over to my Great Smoky Mountains Flickr set for more on the park.

Fred and George never fail to find humor in our adventures… even at a campground. They found this sign positioning at Elkmont particularly amusing.
Our campsite backyard last fall at Elkmont.
Closer view of site setup at Elkmont.
The Elkmont area is ripe with the history of the Smokies.

Other goodies…

And just in case you’re wondering, my other non-southern favorite campgrounds are Great Sand Dunes (CO), Custer State Park (SD), and Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit (ND).

Be sure to check out the favorites of these great outdoor bloggers as well:

And now for your moment of green…

Come unfurl your cares in the Smokies…


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  4. Love your descriptions of such wonderful camping spots! Just wanted you to know that I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award for best up and coming blogs.
    Can’t wait to read about your next adventure!


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