If you are planning on camping IN the Great Smoky Mountain National Park with your RV, then there are a few things to understand first. Let’s get right into it.
First understand there are NOT any hookups of anykind at any of the official campgrounds in the GSMNP itself. However, there is water and bathrooms at each campground. If you are going to camp, you will need a generator to charge your RV batteries, and those hours are from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. If you have solar than there are other campgrounds that maybe better than others since they offer more sun. One of those campgrounds is Smokemont. Even still that campground won’t give you “full” sun.
The other super important thing to decide is which campground you want to stay in. There are 3 that we recommend: Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont. However, directions to either Cades Cove, and Elkmont could be wrong if you are following your GPS. (see video) Which leads us to our first “hack”. Don’t follow GPS when coming from Sevierville, Tennessee and going to Cades Cove or Elkmont Campgrounds.
Most of the campgrounds in the GSMNP cost’s around $20.00 to $25.00 a night. There is a Ranger Station located in Cades Cove Campground which is nice if you want to do some backpacking. Each campground by the way have backpacking trails leave right out from the campground. We think the gem however, is Elkmont which has some very historical and amazing trails that you can trek on. One is the Little River Trail, and the other is Jakes Creek Trail. (Watch video below)
Second “hack”. This is a way to easily get water into your RV or even if you are Van Life-ing it. Each bathroom as a outside sink with faucet to do dishes. The water is drinkable since it’s the same water lines that provide for drinking fountains in each campground. The faucets are threaded. Which means you can attach a hose right to the faucet. Bring your 50 foot hose and put 5-7 gallon water containers in your vehicle. Great way to then transport the water across the campground to your RV. In our VAN, we have a 17 gallons of water that can be pumped out of the van right into our fresh water tank in the Airstream. Watch our (backpacking Van video)
Third “hack”. Reservations to any of the GSMNP campgrounds can be made 6 months to the day in advance. If you are planning to visit the Smokies, better make your reservations early. However, let’s say you didn’t do that. Each campground has “first come first serve” sites that are NOT on Reservation.gov. By law, not every site can be reserved and had to be open to the public for “drop in’s” But better get there early if you want a site. They go fast.
Remember to Leave No Trace while camping in ANY of the GSMNP Campgrounds. The Rangers work really hard to keep each campground and campsite clean. Don’t be THAT person who everyone has to clean up after. We love camping in the Smokies and helping to support our National Park Service.