RV Camping in the Great Smoky Mountains

Get lost in the Great Smoky Mountains on an RV adventure—learn about the high mountain range and all of the fun things to do!
RV Camping in the Great Smoky Mountains

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The Great Smoky Mountains is home to over 500,000 acres of some of the most diverse plant life found in any one area. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy diverse wildlife, incredible scenic views, and lots of outdoor adventures, this beautiful national park is the place to go!

Want to learn more about the magnificent Great Smoky Mountains? Learn about the Great Smoky Mountains RV camping to get started!

Table of Contents

Great Smoky Mountain Facts

In 1802, the Great Smoky Mountains welcomed its first settlers. Over the next two hundred years, small homesteads formed in the remote Tennessee landscape. Steeped in history and natural wonders, we welcome you to learn some astonishing facts about this unique national park.

  • The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the world, with eight to 10 million visitors each year. It is estimated that over half a billion people have visited the national park since it opened in 1934. 

  • The Great Smoky Mountains is known for its abundant wildlife. There are about 200 types of birds, 67 mammal breeds, 80 amphibian and reptiles species, 67 types of fish, and 17,000 kinds of insects. Additionally, there are over 100 different native species of trees in the park. For comparison, most national parks have less than twenty native trees. 

  • One-third of the trees in the park are over 100 years old.

  • It is estimated that there are over 90,000 species of undocumented plant and animal species in the park yet to be discovered.

  • The Smoky Mountains are some of the oldest in the world and are estimated to be between 200 and 300 million years old!

  • The first settler in the area was a woman. 

  • The Great Smoky Mountains gets its name from the Cherokee Indians, who once called the area “Shaconage,” which means the “place of the blue smoke.”

  •  Approximately 30 species of salamander can be found in the park, making The Great Smoky Mountains the salamander capital of the world.

  • There are about 800 miles of trails and 2,115 miles of streams inside the park.

  • Unlike most national parks, it is free to enter The Great Smoky Mountains. The park is also open 365 days of the year, 24/7.

  • Elevations can range from 875 feet to its highest point at 6,643 feet.

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Great Smoky Mountain RV Parks and Campgrounds

Whether you consider RV camping a second home or you’re a first-timer planning your great adventure, it’s important to choose which campsite you plan to park your RV at once you arrive. 

The park requires that no one stays for more than fourteen consecutive days. Moreover, each RV campsite has a limit of six people. Out of the ten campground locations throughout the park, only four of them have RV hookups available. Check out the list RV campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains below to find out where you should stay!

Cades Cove Campground

Amenities: Cades Cove is one of the most popular areas in the park due to its rich history, wildlife viewing opportunities, and nearby activities. While the site has flushing toilets and drinking water available, there are no hookups or showers. From May to October, the camp store provides visitors with basic necessities and bike rentals. An emergency phone is at a nearby kiosk. The price per night is $25.

More Information: Cades Cove Campground

Cosby Campground

Amenities: If you are looking to avoid crowds, the Cosby Campground offers a peaceful, secluded spot for visitors. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table, and trees. Some RV sites include a tent pad. The price per night is $17.50.

Capacity: 13 RV sites

More Information: Cosby Campground

Elkmont Campground

Amenities: Elmont is a popular campground in the summer months. Many of the sites here have direct access to Little River. The Elkmont campground has paved driveways, gravel tent pads, fire rings, and picnic tables. While the campground does have flushing toilets, cold running water, and utility sinks, there are no electrical, water, or sewage hookups. Elkmont does not have any day-use facilities, as it is an overnight campground. 

Capacity: 200 tent/RV campsites

More Information: Elkmont Campground 

Smokemont Campground

Amenities: Smokemont Campground is equipped with toilets, drinking water, and sinks. Tent pads, fire rings, and grills are available as well as a flat grassy area that is perfect for group games and activities. However, there are no showers, electrical, or sewer hookups. Ultimately, Smokemont is a beautiful area where you can relax and enjoy incredible views.

Capacity: up to 20 guests

More Information: Smokemont Campground 

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Best Time to Visit the Great Smoky Mountains for RV Camping

The Great Smoky Mountains are open year-round, allowing you to choose which season you would like to visit the natural wonder. 

Generally speaking, the Great Smoky Mountains have mild winters and hot, humid summers. However, temperatures can vary 10-20 degrees from mountain base to top due to a difference in elevation. 

Keep reading to learn more about the weather, crowd size, and activities you can enjoy in each season at this national park.

Winter

From mid-November through January, the climate is generally moderate, though some extremes do occur. For instance, there may be warm temperatures in the low elevation areas with snow in the high elevation areas. 

Most winter days reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit, though winter highs occasionally reach the 70s. During the night time, temperatures drop below freezing, and lows of -20 degrees Fahrenheit can happen at high elevations. 

The Great Smoky Mountains also experiences its fair share of snow, especially during January and February. At low elevations, snows of one inch or more happen one to five times a year. In higher elevations, up to two feet can fall during a storm. If heavy snow occurs, some roads in the park may close. Be sure to carry a map with you to find alternate routes just in case.

During winter months, the Smoky Mountains have very few crowds due to the cold temperatures. If you don’t mind a bit of cold weather and would like to avoid busy roads and crowded campsites, winter is the time to visit!

Snow often covers the magnificent mountain region, offering incredible views you won’t see anywhere else. During winter, hiking is the best activity to enjoy. You can even hike to one of the hundreds of waterfalls in the park. During this time of year, the waterfalls freeze over, creating a natural wonder that you won’t want to miss.

Spring

Between March and May, you can expect sunny skies and snow flurries. 

March offers the most unpredictable weather, as temperatures can reach below freezing and snow can fall at any time. Low temperatures this month are an average of 42 degrees Fahrenheit, while high temperatures can reach an average of 61 degrees Fahrenheit.

April, however, has milder temperatures. During the day, temperatures can reach the 70s and occasionally the 80s. Nevertheless, below-freezing temperatures can occur in higher elevations. If you plan on visiting in April, come prepared for rain. April has an average of four inches of rain, usually from afternoon showers. 

May is much warmer than in other springtime months. Highs are in the 70s and 80s, and lows are in the 40s and 50s. The average rainfall in May is 4.5 inches. 

Spring is a wonderful time to experience the Great Smoky Mountains! The area has the most diverse plant population in North America! With over 1,500 different species of flowering plants, the area is alive with life and color. Therefore, spring offers the perfect conditions for hiking and enjoying a more peaceful, less crowded time of year.

One exciting thing to do in spring is the Wildflower Pilgrimage. This annual five-day event offers professionally guided programs that explore the area’s wildlife and history. The event is complete with hikes, seminars, art and photography workshops, and guest speakers that talk about the ecology, history, art, literature, and science that relate to the area.

Summer

From June to August, the weather is hot and humid, with common afternoon showers and thunderstorms. 

In lower elevations, high temperatures are in the 90s. Evenings are usually in the 60s and 70s degree range. 

In the higher elevations, temperatures are much cooler. At the top of the mountains, temperatures above the 80s are rare.

With so many fun activities to enjoy in the warm weather, summer months can be quite busy, with July being the busiest month in the season. 

Whitewater rafting, hiking, biking, kayaking, ziplining, and backpacking are common summer activities in the area. 

Additionally, the Dollywood Summer Celebration is in full swing in summer and offers festivals, nightly fireworks, a waterpark, and other exciting summer entertainment.

In late May and early June, synchronous fireflies light up Elkmont for a mere two weeks. The phenomenon is rare and only happens in a few places around the world. At night, the fireflies rise from the grass and blink in unison. 

Fall

From September to mid-November, you can expect clear skies and cooler weather. With warm days and refreshingly cool nights, you won’t want to miss fall in the Great Smoky Mountains!

Daytime highs are in the 70s and 80s in September, while early November highs are often in the 50s and 60s. The first frost often occurs in late September. By November, the temps are near freezing, and snow is possible in higher elevations. Fall is also the driest period of the year with only the occasional rain shower. 

While fall is one of the best times to visit the park, October can be very crowded. 

During this time, many people flock to see the vibrant fall colors lighting the trees. Acres upon acres glow in yellow, red, and orange leaves. Colors are most vibrant from mid-October to early November. 

Because of the sunny weather and scenic landscape, hiking is a popular activity in the area.

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Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains

While many people visit the Great Smoky Mountains to enjoy the peace of nature, there are many fun activities available for those who would rather keep busy. Check out these fun things you can enjoy when you visit the national park!

  • Drive the Newfound Gap Road. The 31-mile Newfound Gap sits at an elevation of 5,046 feet, which is the lowest drivable area in the park. It runs through the center of the park, and mile markers will show you several interesting attractions along the road. 

  • At the beginning of the Newfound Gap Road sits the Sugarlands Visitors Center, which is a great first stop in the park. There, you will find natural history exhibits, a free 20-minute film about the park, a bookstore, a  gift shop, seasonal ranger-led programs, and a variety of information about the park, including trail maps.

  • If the weather permits, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and whitewater rafting are available in some of the rivers, lakes, and streams. 

  • There are 90 historic buildings in the park, some of which date back to the early 1800s. Cades Cove, in particular, has some of the oldest buildings in the park and is a great spot to view wildlife. Deer, bears, wild turkeys, and other animals are common in the area.

  • With over 100 cascades and waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, seeing at least one of them is a must. Hike the Roaring Fork Motor Trail to get to two of the area’s most popular waterfalls: Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls. 

  • Hiking Clingmans Dome allows visitors to see more than 100 miles of extensive views on a clear day. At 6,643 feet, not only is it the highest part of the park, but this area has the highest elevation in the state. 

  • Discover more hiking trails!

Additionally, check out the Great Smoky Mountains calendar for ranger-led programs and special events.

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Tips on Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains

There are about 1,500 bears in the Great Smoky Mountains, which equates to about two bears per square mile! While the bears can be incredible to see, don’t approach the bears and do not try to feed them. In fact, intentionally approaching a bear within 150 feet is illegal in the park. If violated, you could be arrested or fined. Because bears can be unpredictable, if you see a bear, use extreme caution.

Be sure to check weather conditions so you can come prepared. Bring waterproof shoes, an umbrella, and coats just in case. And remember that even if temperatures in lower elevations are expected to be warm, higher elevations can be as much as 10 to 20 degrees cooler. If you plan on hiking, bring a jacket with you, even in the summer.

Most people visit the park between 10 am and 6 pm. If you would like to beat crowds, start your day early.

Last but not least, if you are camping or parking your RV, be sure to abide by campground rules and regulations.

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RV Rental for the Great Smoky Mountains

Now that you know all about RV camping in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s time to start planning your visit.

Cruise America has the lowest prices for RV rentals in the Great Smoky Mountains. Each RV has air conditioning, heating, a freshwater toilet, a gas stove, a generator, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a shower. If you are planning to visit any one of the Great Smoky Mountains RV parks, Cruise America is your go-to RV rental company!

To get started, find a Cruise America RV location near you and get started on your Great Smoky Mountain adventure today!

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