Top-notch fishing, epic hiking trails, and astonishing waterfalls are just a few of the many attractions found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you’re looking for a magical adventure through these incredible mountains, bring your campervan! This area offers several places to park, camp, and experience the local beauty.
In this post, we’ll talk more about road-tripping to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including where to go, what to do, and what makes this area a top adventure destination!
About Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This area offers plenty of attractions for the whole family to enjoy. Whether you like climbing up a steep hiking trail or taking a scenic drive, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the place to be.
Established in 1934, this is the most visited national park in the United States. It runs through Tennessee and North Carolina, consisting of 522,419 acres. Due to its massive size, visitors have tons of room to camp and explore!
Where to Stop Along the Drive
You could spend weeks in the Great Smoky Mountains and never get bored. But before you arrive in this outdoor-adventure mecca, there are some sweet places to stop on the way over.
Be sure to check out the following:
If you’re coming from the far south in Florida, Everglades National Park is worth the trip. There’s a good chance you’ll see a gator, and you’ll definitely witness a bunch of cool birds! If you drive through Georgia, Stone Mountain, Driftwood Beach, and Amicalola Falls are some top outdoor attractions.
If you’re starting near the coast in North Carolina, you’ll find plenty of awesome stops around Raleigh. We recommend hiking the Company Mill Loop, Loblolly Trail, or Shelly Lake Trail. As you get closer to the Smokies, hop on a kayak at Lake James State Park. It’s also a great place to camp!
If you’re coming from the north, consider stopping in the Lexington area of Kentucky. The Red River Gorge is a beautiful place to check out. There are also several nice golf courses in the area. If you’re further north in Ohio, Hocking Hills State Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and Mohican State Park should be on your list.
As you’re cruising east, Tennessee offers several outdoor activities. If you’re into rock climbing, head to the Obed Wild and Scenic River to find over 300 climbing routes. If you’re more into fishing, Chickamauga Lake is known as a top lake for bass fishing. In Arkansas, Hot Springs National Park is worth a visit. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing soak in thermal, mineral-rich water!
Outdoor Adventures in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Whether you’re here for two days or several, this national park offers endless outdoor adventures. Take a look at our favorite activities and attractions in the area:
Looking for a peaceful drive with epic views? If so, you came to the right place. Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers 384 miles of road that feature impeccable views of the area. We recommend picking up a park booklet that shows popular landmarks and key information about the history, wildlife, and plants in the region.
A few of the leading scenic drives in the park are found on the following routes:
- Cades Cove Loop Road
- Cataloochee Valley
- Newfound Gap Road
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
- Upper Tremont Road
Whether you want to see waterfalls, creeks, wildlife, or trees, these scenic drives provide it all!
As the park consists of over 500,000 acres, hiking trails are found all over. These trails scale up steep inclines, meander across creeks, and pass by epic waterfalls. When temperatures are warm, these magical waterfalls are the perfect place to cool down.
Check out some of our favorite hikes in the area:
- Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte
- Laurel Falls Trail
- Chimney Tops Trail
- Rainbow Falls Trail
- Spruce Flats Falls Trail
As some of these routes can get busy, try heading out early or visiting during off-peak times.
As soon as you get to the park in your campervan, you gotta find a place to camp! Luckily, the Smokies got you covered. There are several camping opportunities, including frontcountry, backcountry, horse camps, and group campgrounds. However, keep in mind there are no showers, electrical, or water hookups found within the park. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your campervan!
Here are the campgrounds found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Abrams Creek Campground
- Balsam Mountain Campground
- Big Creek Campground
- Cades Cove Campground
- Cataloochee Campground
- Cosby Campground
- Deep Creek Campground
- Elkmont Campground
- Look Rock Campground
- Smokemont Campground
Book your camping reservation today to claim your spot!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a whopping 2,900 miles of streams! That said, you could spend countless hours relaxing by the water. Also, this area provides a rare fishing opportunity—the park protects one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern United States. Brook, rainbow, and brown trout are the three trout species found within the park. You can also catch smallmouth bass and rock bass.
Nothing compares to a peaceful stroll on a horse. If this activity intrigues you, there are four concession horseback riding stables in the park. Visitors can take these calming rides from mid-March to late November. If you’re tired of hiking or just want a peaceful activity for the family, horseback riding is a great option. Also, if you have your own horses, bring them over! The park offers around 550 miles of trails where horses are permitted.
Gazing at a breathtaking waterfall is an activity that never gets old. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, waterfalls are found all over the place! Some of the more popular options include Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, and Rainbow Falls. However, there are several more to enjoy! Keep in mind the northern region of the park features the most popular waterfalls. Some of these stunning water features are even right off the road!
Any trip to the Smokies will be a trip you may never forget. However, keep the following travel tips in mind to ensure everything runs smoothly:
- Start early: The park never closes, so get an early start to avoid the crowds.
- There will be crowds: This place is very popular, so understand some areas may be congested.
- Go in January: If you want to avoid the massive crowds, travel in January (the park’s least busy month).
- Know the rules and regulations: You don’t want to break the law, so make sure you understand the local rules and regulations.
- Stop by a visitor center: These are great for learning more about the area.
Follow the tips above to have a stress-free, comfortable vacation!
Check out more info regarding the top attractions in the park:
- Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte: Starts near Gatlinburg, Tennessee
- Laurel Falls Trail: A few miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center
- Chimney Tops Trail: Found along Newfound Gap Road
- Rainbow Falls Trail: Begins at Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
- Cataloochee Campground: Cataloochee Entrance Rd, Waynesville, NC 28785
- Deep Creek Campground: 1090 W Deep Creek Rd, Bryson City, NC 28713
- Elkmont Campground: 434 Elkmont Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
- Cades Cove Riding Stables: 10018 Campground Dr, Townsend, TN 37882
- Smokemont Riding Stables: 135 Smokemont Riding Stables Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719
As we have said, this area gets crowded. Luckily, with so much room to explore, there are several remote locations without many people. If you want to go off the beaten path, check out these hidden gems within the park:
- Rainbow Falls Cave
- The Harrisburg Covered Bridge
- Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower
- The Historic Sweden Furnace Iron Mine at Foxfire Mountain
- House of the Fairies
- The Troll Bridge at Elkmont
If you’re tired of seeing crowds, head over to these destinations for some peace and quiet. You may even see some gorgeous wildlife along the way!
Start Your Adventure with Rec Van!
Rec Van is here to get your adventure going. We’re happy to be a leading provider of new and used campervans! Whether you’re looking for a basic model or one built with all the modern features, we’ve got you covered.
Check out our available campervans today, or give us a call with any questions!