Camping In The Parks: Smokemont Campground In Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Spring on the Bradley Fork TrailBradley Fork Cemetery

Mountain laurel line Bradley Fork Trail. You can visit Bradley Cemetery, just off the Smokemont Loop. Photographs by Danny Bernstein

There's a friendly, comfortable feeling about Smokemont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Children race around on bicycles and adults visit with their camping neighbors. Two young men struggle to keep their fire going; it's clearly their first time camping. An old man reads in front of his old camper. From all the stuff around his campsite, you can tell that he's been here for a few days.

Smokemont Campground, three miles north of the entrance to the park on the Cherokee, North Carolina, side, is just off U.S. 441. The area was a large logging camp and village before it was became part of the park.
The campground is on the Bradley Fork, though only a few of its 142 sites are actually on the river. It's one of two campgrounds open year-round in the park - the other is Cades Cove. Reservations can be made from May 15-Oct 31 at recreation.gov. The rest of the year, it's first-come, first-serve basis.

The campground is laid out in a one-way loop with a road crossing through to the other side. Sections A, B, C are closest to the campground office. In season, (May 15 to October 31), generator use is not allowed. Section D, further back, is usually a little less busy. Bradley Fork Trail and the Smokemont Loop start at the end of Section D but hikers have their own parking area at the trailhead.

In sections A-D, recreational vehicles and tents can be intermingled, but the Section F loop is for recreational vehicles only. Sites F36 to F46 are on the creek. Section G has three group campgrounds.

There are no electrical or water hook ups. Where generators are allowed, they can only run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Each site has a tent pad, grill, a picnic table, and a pole for a lantern. Several restrooms with flush toilets and cold water are spread through the campground. Showers are available in several commercial campgrounds in Cherokee.

What To Do Close By?

Smokemont Campground may not offer solitude, but it is close to many family activities. A 0.75 mile nature trail starts off in the B section of the campground. You can walk up Bradley Fork Trail along the stream admiring the rushing water and enjoying spring flowers. Autumn brings a wealth of color. Taking Smokemont Loop clockwise quickly leads to the Bradley Cemetery.

Smokemont Baptist Church, a short walk from the campground, is always open to visitors. A couple of miles south on US 441, you can visit Mingus Mill, a working grist mill. Oconaluftee Visitor Center has a cultural museum and a bookstore. Outside the building, the Mountain Farm Museum has a collection of historic log structures depicting what a farm would have looked like in the late 19th century.

And if that's not enough, Cherokee offers the Museum of the Cherokee Indians, art galleries, gas stations and a supermarket -- and the casino.