If you're looking for a small, quiet campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park without being too far from a main road, you can't do much better than Big Creek Campground.
With only 12 tent sites, Big Creek is the smallest campground in the park. RVs are not allowed. The campground is described as a walk-in campground because you park your car in a small parking lot and walk maybe 100 to 300 feet to your site. Some sites are on a small mound above, others are closer to the river. All are within shouting distance of Big Creek - #6 and #10 may be the closest to the water. No generator noises, no large RV dwarfing your tent, just the gurgle of the creek. Yet, you're only a few miles from I-40, on the North Carolina/Tennessee border.
Like all front-country campsites, each site has a tent pad, grill, a picnic table, and a pole for a lantern. A restroom with flush toilets and cold water sinks is located in the small parking area.
You should bring everything you need with you since the closest grocery store is in Newport, Tennessee, about a 30-minute drive from Big Creek. If you're reading older descriptions of the campground, you might be taken in by the accessibility of Mountain Mama, a legendary campstore, with supplies, good hamburgers, and modest lodging decorated in cigarette motif. But Mountain Mama has been closed for several years.
A large picnic area, with its own parking lot, separates the tent-only campground from the horse camp. Like many Smokies campgrounds, the Big Creek area was a lumber mill before the land became part of the national park. Crestmont Lumber Company was located near the trailhead parking. You can still see some of the foundations in the parking area for picnickers and day hikers. Later, the site was occupied by the Civilian Conservation Corp's Big Creek Camp. The young men built trails, bridges across Big Creek and the fire towers on Mt. Sterling and Mt. Cammerer.
Big Creek Trail follows an old railroad grade for over five miles to Walnut Bottom Campsite #37. For an easy hike, take Big Creek Trail for 1.4 miles to Midnight Hole. The water flows between two huge boulders and into a large pool. This swimming hole is a favorite of children of all ages. Another 0.6 mile brings you to Mouse Creek Falls, a 25-foot cascade located on the left as you go up. Look for a horse hitching rail as your signpost for the Falls.
The campground is first come, first serve and reservations are not accepted. Good luck.