January 2018 - Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a fee increase for frontcounty campgrounds and picnic pavilions effective March 1, 2018. Over the past year, officials reviewed public comments, operating costs, and projected budget levels to determine the rate increases which range from 10-25%.
The rate increases are necessary to meet the rising costs of operations, reduce a backlog of maintenance requirements on park facilities, and initiate needed improvements. Park officials are also improving the efficiency of campground management by adding three campgrounds to the national reservation system.
Nine National Park Service campgrounds are maintained in the park, suitable for tents and recreational vehicles. None have electrical, water, or sewer hookups or showers. The daily status of campground vacancies can be obtained at the visitor centers. Many private campgrounds are located outside the park, and showers and laundries are also available nearby. Ask at a park visitor center for a list of these facilities.
Campsites at Elkmont, Smokemont, Cataloochee, Cosby and Cades Cove may be reserved. For reservations call 1-877-444-6777 or contact www.recreation.gov. Sites may be reserved up to six months in advance. Reservations are required at Cataloochee Campground. Other park campgrounds are first-come, first-serve.
Special camping sites for large groups are available seasonally at Big Creek, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, and Smokemont. Group sites must be reserved. Call 1-877-444-6777 or contact www.recreation.gov. Group sites may be reserved up to one year in advance. For more information about campground facilities in the park, please visit the park website.
Site occupancy is limited to six people and two vehicles (a trailer = 1 vehicle). The maximum stay is 14 days. This list shows number of sites, elevations, fees, approximate operation dates, and maximum RV lengths.
- Abrams Creek (elev. 1,125') - 16 sites, $14, open April 27-Oct. 21, 12’ trailers
- Balsam Mountain (elev. 5,310’) - 46 sites, $14, open May 18-Oct. 7, 30’ RVs
- Big Creek (elev. 1,700’) - 12 sites, $14, open March 30-Oct. 28, tents only
- Cades Cove (elev. 1,807’) - 159 sites, $17-$20, open year-round, 35’-40’ RVs
- Cataloochee (elev. 2,610’) - 27 sites, $20, open March 23-Oct. 28, reservations required, 31’ RVs
- Cosby (elev. 2,459’) - 157 sites, $14, March 23-Oct. 28, 25’ RVs
- Deep Creek (elev. 1,800’) - 92 sites, $17, open March 23-Oct. 28, 26’ RVs
- Elkmont (elev. 2,150’) - 220 sites, $17-$23, open March 9-Nov. 25, 32’-35’ RVs
- Look Rock - 68 sites, Not expected to open in 2018
- Smokemont (elev. 2,198’) - 142 sites, $17-$20, open year-round, 35’-40’ RVs
Danger in your Campfire
Thanks to years of work by Smokey Bear and the U.S. Forest Service, most everyone is aware of the potential for forest fires from unattended campfires. But, are you aware of another horror lerking deep inside untreated firewood? Non-native, tree-killing insects and diseases can unknowingly be introduced through firewood transported from infested areas. In fact, a variety of destructive pests lay eggs or stowaway in firewood.
To prevent your playing an unwitting part in creating a "vacation from hell," the park service has issued new rules aimed at reducing the risk that unwanted insects will be introduced in the Smokies. Only heat-treated firewood bundled and displaying a certification stamp by the USDA or a state department of agriculture is allowed in park campgrounds. The only other option to prevent this tragedy is to use down and dead wood you find around your campsite.
“The threat of these new pests coming into our forests, both in the park and regionally, compels us to do all we can to reduce the risk to our forests,” said Deputy Superintendent Clayton Jordan. “While a ban on the importation of non-treated firewood will not entirely halt the spread of destructive forest pests and diseases, it will greatly slow it down. This allows time to develop and implement new treatment strategies to help control the impacts from these non-native pests and diseases.”
Camping in the Backcountry
Camping at a backcountry campsite or shelter can be an exciting adventure for persons properly equipped and informed. To facilitate this activity, the National Park Service maintains over 800 miles of trails and more than 100 backcountry campsites and shelters throughout the park. One of the greatest challenges for backcountry campers is deciding where to go. Here are some tools to help.
1. Go online to view the park’s official trail map, which shows all park trails, campsites, and shelters. Park rules and regulations are also listed here. If you wish, you can purchase the printed version of the trail map for $1 by stopping at any park visitor center or calling (865) 436-7318 x226 or shopping online at www.SmokiesInformation.org.
2. Call or stop by the park’s backcountry office, which is open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The office is located in Sugarlands Visitor Center, two miles south of Gatlinburg on Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441). (865) 436-1297.
3. Make your reservation through the backcountry office at Sugarlands Visitor Center (by phone or in person) or online at www.smokiespermits.nps.gov.
Reservations and permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. The cost is $4 per person per night. Reservations may be made up to 30 days in advance.
Spring hikers should be especially aware of the danger of hypothermia—the lowering of body temperature. The combination of rain, cold, and wind is especially dangerous. At the park’s higher elevations, hypothermia can be a threat even during summer.
To prevent hypothermia, carry good rain gear at all times. Layer clothing that provides warmth when wet (not cotton). Be prepared for sudden weather changes, especially at the high elevations.