Midnight under a star-filled Smoky Mountain sky, surrounded by darkness, the flickering of fireflies and the glow of a campfire. The mountain wind drifting gently through the trees. The laughter of family and friends filling in the silence. The peacefulness of dreaming the night away in a place where native Americans and pioneers once wandered. The tranquility of sleeping in the wild and waking only to the sun breaking through as the wild birds sing to celebrate the day. Those moments are the moments that we will remember forever, those moments when we return home. Home to the mountains, where we belong.
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you'll find multiple options for an overnight experience in the park. There's certainly an experience waiting for every unique individual. Below you'll find information and links to adventures. Find the perfect fit for you and spend a night or two at home this summer.
Is this your first summer of exploring the idea of camping? Have a family and want to keep things simple? Looking for a laid-back weekend of camping with the convenience of having your vehicle nearby, flushing toilets and running water, the security of people and rangers, drinking water and more? Then check out the multiple developed and maintained campgrounds that are located inside of the GSMNP. Each campsite can accommodate a tent and/or RV and includes a picnic table and fire grate. You’ll also find group sites at some of the frontcountry campgrounds, such as Big Creek, Cosby, Elkmont and Cades Cove - among others. Group campsites may be used by groups with a minimum of seven people and only accommodate tents. All frontcountry campgrounds have restrooms and water. However, no campgrounds in the park provide shower houses. To reserve a campsite or locate the perfect campground for your adventure, be sure to check Recreation.gov.
I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has over 100 backcountry campsites and shelters for you to choose from. So if you’re looking for a camping experience filled with challenge and solitude, a backcountry campsite is the perfect option for you, and there are plenty of spots for you to choose from. Looking for a shelter experience that might allow you to connect with the hiking community? Check out the list of shelters. Remember that Great Smoky Mountains National Park does require a permit for the use of any backcountry campsite and/or shelter. To make a reservation, pay any fees needed, print your permit, or contact the Backcountry Office, check here.
Spending a night in the backcountry is the best way to truly escape into the Smokies for a full experience of all that the park has to offer; however, it comes with its own risks. Know before you go and then soak up the moments that lie ahead of you at the end of the trail that you choose.
Located on the third highest mountain in the Smoky Mountains, the LeConte Lodge is the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States. The lodge is only accessible by hiking, and it is far from a five-star resort. The rustic cabins have propane heat, kerosene lanterns to light the night, wool blankets to keep you warm, and an overwhelming sense of what life was like in simpler times. When staying at the lodge, you’ll be fed a family style dinner in the dining hall with other guests and a hearty breakfast before hiking back down the mountain in the morning. You’ll have access to one of the most epic sunset spots in the Smokies, the Cliff Tops as well as Myrtle Point, the perfect spot to greet the day. The LeConte Lodge is known for booking up very quickly, and while snagging a spot is not impossible, it may require you to be flexible. You can call ahead and ask to be put on the waiting list, call and inquire about cancellations. The best way to score a night on the top of the world is by following the LeConte Lodge on their Twitter account. They’ll post cancellations as they come about, and if you can grab it before it’s gone, you too will be checking off a Smoky Mountain bucket list adventure. For a spectacular experience on Mount LeConte without all of the amenities offered at the LeConte Lodge, spend a night or two at the LeConte Shelter located nearby.
Here are five ways to access an overnight adventure or day hike to the LeConte Lodge:
Regardless of how or when…this year, this summer... make it a point to experience just one overnight adventure inside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Chances are good that it won’t be your last night under a starry Smokies sky.