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Ryano 03-23-2008 06:41 PM

Camping on the Smoky rivers??
Is it illegal to camp by the rivers in the Smokies?? Me and my buddies are students and dont really have the money to rent a cabin, or even a guide. We live to far away to just make a day's trip of it and probably need to stay. Our ideal situation would be to get there on a Friday and hike to a remote spot and set up camp and fish the area's waters. Is this possible, and if so, is it dangerous because of bears?? Thanks for all the help guys..


pineman19 03-23-2008 06:58 PM

Below is a link to the GSMNP information on camping in the Park.

sammcdonald 03-23-2008 07:46 PM

as long as you get your permit and camp only in a designated site you are good....don't be like the 4 that went into rainbow cave and had to be rescued....the park likes regs followed. permit is free, some must be reserved, but do not go backcountry without getting permits.......the citations can be very unpleasant and will follow you.
further back country info 865-436-1291

Ryano 03-24-2008 07:23 PM

Ok, thanks for all the useful information guys. I have a few more questions though.. I was looking into the campground maps and found that the closest place for me to get a permit would be at the Sugarlands Office. Okay, if I go there and get a permit, is this where I will camp?? Or do I have the option of going anywhere, as long as it is in the grounds? And when they consider it "back-country", I understand that there is still boundaries to camp, but how close can I get to the river? And will there be rangers walking around at nights checking on us to make sure we are fine or are we just kinda alone?? I am sorry for all the questions, but I looked on the site and couldnt find the answer to some of the things I really wanted to know. Thanks in advance..


Byron Begley 03-24-2008 08:10 PM


You have many options. You can camp at Elkmont or Smokemont Campgrounds for a fee but you will be near the rivers or right on them. You can camp at Cataloochee and be on that stream. These are developed campgrounds in the Park. Cades Cove is close to some streams. The backcountry offers many opportunities to camp on a stream. They are everywhere in this 1/2 million acre park. Send me an e-mail and I'll send you a free map of the Park. Please include your mailing address. Pineman gave you a link that will probably answer your questions. There is not enough room here to list all of the on-stream backcountry sites. The GSMNP is full of them. You could start with the map or the website and if you have any specific questions call the shop and we will try to answer them. You can get a backcountry permit and camp in any backcountry site in the Park. Permits are available at other locations as well. I have seen very few rangers or people in the backcountry sites that I use. Sometimes we are the only people there. It depends on the time of year of course and the campsite.


sammcdonald 03-24-2008 10:40 PM

also will give you info, a small map, and regs.....
may have duplicated info...but........if you go back country, get your FREE permit. there are more rangers this year and the emphasis is on enforcement.

PeteCz 03-24-2008 11:49 PM

Fish camps
Ryan, if you shoot me your e-mail, I will send you an excel spreadsheet that lists about 46 backcountry campsites that are very near the major streams in the park. It lists the trail you would use to get there, the distance, approximate elevation gain and estimated time to hike it with a pack (at least its an estimate by/for an old guy, you could probably hike there faster...)

Here is a glimpse of it:

My suggestion if you are coming through the Gatlinburg side of the park would be to go to the Sugarlands center, get a permit and go to backcountry campsite #24 above Elkmont. It is an "easy" 4.2 mile hike and puts you in the middle of some great water and scenery.

Campsite 24 is one of a handful of sites that require a reservation. Here's what you need to do:
If your itinerary includes a reserved site or any shelter, you must call the Backcountry Reservation Office at (865) 436-1231 to make reservations. The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily. You may make reservations up to one month in advance of the first day of your trip.

Whenever folks ask for opinions about where to camp, #24 seems to surface more than just about any other.

As far as some of your other questions...Typically a backcountry campsite will have a limited number of sites that you can pitch a tent on. They are not all obvious and are sometimes a small distance away from each other. Other times that are all together. Most of the better pads will have a fire ring in place, so use one of them (don't create a new one). There will be rangers out an about. Its hard to tell when or where you will see one, but make sure you have your fishing license and a backcountry permit with you, and you will be fine. Also, make sure that you keep all of your food in ziploc (or better) bags and that you hoist your backpack up using the bear cables at each site. You clip your backpacks to the d ring and hoist it up in the air. Also make sure you don't have any food in your tent or on you, and wash well before going to sleep and you won't have any issues with bears. There are some other threads on here that talk about bears, but as long as you use common sense you will be fine. Over 8 million folks visit the park each year and only one person has ever been killed by a bear in the park. You are in much more danger of slipping and falling in the stream than being attacked by a bear...

That was probably more info than you wanted...

Mac 03-25-2008 07:38 AM

Hey Pete, being a old guy myself your spreadsheet looks interesting. Wonder if I could get a copy.

PeteCz 03-25-2008 10:28 AM


Originally Posted by Mac (Post 50054)
Hey Pete, being a old guy myself your spreadsheet looks interesting. Wonder if I could get a copy.

Mac, I've had a few folks ask for this, so I've put it up on website, so anyone can grab it. Here is the link:

There is an explanation of what the columns means and how I came to some of my conclusions. I hope you enjoy it.

Flying Trout 03-25-2008 12:21 PM

Pete, Thank you so much for making your spreadsheet available. I believe a lot of us will be using your spreadsheet for future plans. I plan on taking my first backcountry trips this spring and summer. I just have to get a sleeping bag and I think I'll have anything. I look forward to some pics of woodworking on your website.

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