Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the entire country. It’s also pretty huge with dozens and dozens of campground options. So it can be pretty overwhelming to choose from all of the amazing campgrounds near Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In fact, one of the most frequently questions asked in our private Facebook group is, “What’s the best campground in the Smokies?”
Well, there’s no single answer to that question. Where you should stay will depend on what geographical area you want to be in and the type of environment you want to experience. There are campgrounds smack dab in the middle of Pigeon Forge with all the amenities and campgrounds in the heart of the national park without any hookups. And yes, it’s hard to pick just one out of all the amazing options. Perhaps that’s why we ended up staying at three different campgrounds on our last visit to the Smokies. Just call us campground hoppers.
In other words, there’s something for everyone. And we’ll help you find the right one for your visit. Here’s a roundup of 12 of the most amazing campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park region. All of these campgrounds come highly recommended from experienced campers in the RVFTA community. Good luck finding your perfect place.
Here’s a Google Maps list of the 12 campgrounds we are featuring in this roundup. Click here to visit the interactive map and find the location and links for each campground.
A quick note…we separated the campgrounds into loose geographical areas. However, ‘close’ is a relative term in the Smokies, and you should definitely do a map search to see exactly where the campground is located. For example, we stayed at Imagination Mountain to be near Gatlinburg, but it’s still a 25 minute drive. That’s mountain life for you.
Gatlinburg is arguably the most popular tourist hub in the Smokies. It’s knows as the gateway to GSMNP and the main visitor’s center, Sugarlands Visitor Center, is just minutes from downtown. Some of the most famous hikes and drives are near the main drag as well, like the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Chimney’s Picnic Area.
Some folks love to be right in the middle of the action, and others will cringe at the seemingly endless t-shirt and fudge shops. If you want a quiet getaway, Gatlinburg may not be your best option in the Smokies. However, if you love to mix your hikes with amusement park rides and aquarium visits, check out these fabulous campgrounds.
The Little Pigeon River runs around the Greenbrier Campground, offering guests a swimming hole, private beach, and onsite trout fishing. There are full hook up sites, some with water access and some wooded options, plus tent sites and cabins. Campers rave about the pet-friendly policies and cleanliness. They offer plenty of recreation for families including volleyball, ga ga ball, badminton, bocce ball, and corn hole. The campground is less than a half mile from the Greenbrier entrance to GSMNP.
Imagination Mountain (previously known as Great Smoky Mountain Jellystone Camp Resort), is only about 20 minutes from Gatlinburg, but feels like a million miles away. Almost all of the sites are creekside, and the amazingly friendly workers will get your RV situated perfectly in a snap. There is a pool, arcade, ice cream parlor, and well-stocked camp store. Organized activities are available on a daily basis for the kids during the summer season. The combination of natural beauty and family friendly amenities will make this a favorite for a lot of campers.
People seem to either love or hate staying in the Pigeon Forge area of the Great Smoky Mountains. If you want to be surrounded by non stop action, this is the place for you. Parents of teens particularly like the fact that their older kids can use the trolley and get around independently. And Dollywood. Need we say anymore?
Pigeon Forge KOA
This family-owned KOA opened in 1966 and is practically legendary in the area. The campground is right off the main drag and a trolley will take you into town and even to Dollywood, right up the road. They have all the amenities you would expect in a KOA: pool, hot tub, snack bar, dog park. Plus they have some extras like a waterslide, outdoor cinema, and fun train. Some visitors complain about the tight sites and general hustle and bustle, but this is not a campground for anyone looking for peace and quiet. Come here if you want be in the heart of the action.
Riveredge RV Park and Log Cabin Rentals
Riveredge RV Park & Log Cabin Rentals has beautifully manicured sites and landscaping just 1.5 miles from Dollywood. The RV sites are all full hook up with fire rings, cooking grates, and picnic tables. There’s a pool, kiddie pool, hot tub, and splash pad to enjoy after a day of site seeing. Even the people who love this campground note the smaller site size. But staying here is about location, location, location. Plus, an impeccable clean campground.
River Plantation RV Resort
River Plantation RV Resort is a bit farther north of the downtown Pigeon Forge area, more toward Sevierville. It’s definitely the most resort-like out of all the featured Pigeon Forge campground options. There are a variety of site options from pull thrus to riverfront back-ins. Amenities include two pools, a lazy river, splash pad, playground, basketball court, and fitness center. You’ll also find lots of outdoor games like corn hole, ga ga ball, and pickle ball.
Townsend is located in an area often referred to as ‘the quiet side of the Smokeys”. People who loathe the touristy commercialism of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge often stay here when visiting Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
And don’t let the nickname fool you. Even though Townsend is quiet, there is a ton to see and do in the area. Plus you are right near the Cades Cove entrance to the park, a favorite area for many visitors.
This is one of the most loved and recommended campground in the Smokies, probably because it combines the best features of many different places. It’s located right on the river and offers on site tubing and fishing. Plus, it has the amenities KOAs are known for such as a pool, playground, and scheduled activities. The managers create a warm and cozy family-friendly atmosphere, and people return year after year.
Little Arrow Outdoor Resort
The Little Arrow Outdoor Resort changed owners in the recent years and is developing that hipster glamping vibe that is so popular right now. Framed as a ‘wilderness retreat’, they offer RV sites, tiny homes, cabins, tents, and even an Airstream. There is a swimming pool, river access, and organized activities. Clean bathhouses get rave reviews from visitors.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park Campgrounds
You can definitely camp within the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but you have to realize two things. One, these campsites are as highly competitive as tickets to a production of Hamilton during peak season. Two, you’ll have to be up for dry camping since there are no hookups offered in the park. So if you’re up for it, be prepared for a magical camping experience.
This beautiful campground is a family favorite on account of the riverfront sites. The sites are spacious with a picnic table and fire ring. The bathhouses have flush toilets, but no showers.
While Elkmont is the perfect place to have the Smokies mountain river experience, Cades Cove Campground puts you in the middle of the most iconic wildlife and scenic loop. The campground has a nice camp store with supplies, souvenirs, and ice cream. You can also rent bikes right onsite.
North of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Located about 45 minutes north of Gatlinburg, this RV resort opened just a few years ago and the word spread quickly. The campground is on the shores of Douglas Lake, and the camp sites are legendarily Instagrammable. Many have large, custom stone fireplaces with water and mountain views. Anchor Down also has all the resort amenities you could want including a pool and lake beach with swimming and inflatables. There are also many options for watercraft rentals.
The North Carolina Side
Although the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountain National Park gets a lot less press, there’s a ton to see and do over there as well. The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is packed with educational opportunities, and family-friendly hiking is around every corner. Explore Native American history in Cherokee. And you’ll also want to go tubing at the Deep Creek Picnic Area near Bryson City. The cell phone service in this area is notoriously bad, so be prepared.
Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA
The Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA is open year round and offers a true camping resort experience. There’s an indoor and outdoor pool, jump pillow, go cart rentals, snack bar, community fire pit, and tons more. You’ll also find a packed recreation schedule during the peak travel season. Some of the best RV sites back up right to the river, and guests can enjoy tubing right onsite.
Yogi in the Smokies
Right up the road from the KOA, this Jellystone Park focuses on the family camping experience. Many of the RV sites and cabins are located right on the river. There’s a pool, playground, activity center, and well-stocked camp store.
When planning a trip to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you’ll have so many amazing campground options to pick from. In fact, it can almost be overwhelming. Here are a couple of tips…
- Choose first what region of the Smokies you want to focus on exploring, and try to find a campground in that area. No matter what, a trip to GSMNP will involve driving, but you can limit that by picking the right campground.
- Decide what kind of camping experience you want. Do you like resorts with tons of amenities and activities? Do you want a peaceful camping escape? The Smokies has something for everyone, but it’s up to you to choose the right fit for your personal taste.
- Visit our interactive map to explore these campground further!
There’s a reason Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the country. If you haven’t experienced the magic of the Smokies, what are you waiting for?
We’ll see you at the campground,
Stephanie + Jeremy