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North Carolina Side Travel Guide

Campgrounds in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There is no lodging, other than camping, inside the park on the North Carolina side. Two campgrounds on the North Carolina side, Smokemont and Cataloochee, accept reservations. They are required at Cataloochee and advised for Smokemont. Others on the North Carolina side are first-come, first-served.

Balsam Mountain Campground. If you like a high, cool campground with a beautiful setting in evergreens, Balsam Mountain is it. It's the highest elevation in the park, at more than 5,300 feet. By evening, you may want a campfire even in summer. The 46 campsites—first-come, first served—are best for tents, but small trailers or RVs up to 30 feet can fit in some sites. Due to its somewhat remote location off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Balsam Mountain Campground is rarely full even on peak summer and fall weekends. Near end of Heintooga Ridge Rd., GSMNP, NC 865/436–1200 www.nps.gov/grsm.

Big Creek Campground. With just 12 campsites, Big Creek is the smallest campground in the park, and the only one that doesn't accept RVs or trailers—it's for tents only. This is a walk-in, not hike-in, campground. Five of the 12 first-come, first-served sites (unnumbered) are beside Big Creek, which offers good swimming and fishing. Carefully observe bear protection rules, as there have been a number of human-bear interactions nearby. Cove Creek Rd. (Old Hwy. 284), GSMNP 865/436–1200 www.nps.gov/grsm.

Cataloochee Campground. The appeal of this small campground is its location in the beautiful and historical Cataloochee Valley. Reservations for all of the 27 tent and RV sites are required. Although the campground allows RVs and trailers up to 31 feet, you may want to think twice before driving anything other than a car or truck into the valley—the unpaved Cove Creek Road is narrow with sharp curves, and in some places you hug the mountainside, with a steep drop-off just a few feet away. Cataloochee Valley, Cove Creek Rd., Waynesville 877/444–6777 www.recreation.gov.

Deep Creek Campground. This campground is near the most popular tubing spot on the North Carolina side of the Smokies. There's also swimming in several swimming holes. Of the 92 first-come, first-served sites here, sites 1–42 are for tents only, and the other sites are for tents and small RVs/trailers up to 26 feet in length. 1912 E. Deep Creek Rd., Bryson City 865/436–1200 www.nps.gov/grsm.

Smokemont Campground. With 142 sites, Smokemont is the largest campground on the North Carolina side of the park, and it's open year-round. Some of the campsites are a little jammed up, but the individual sites themselves are spacious. Off U.S. Hwy. 441 (Newfound Gap Rd.), 6 miles north of Cherokee, GSMNP 877/444–6777 www.recreation.gov.

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