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  • Post published:10/06/2021
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The Appalachian Trail

Whether your idea of a mountain camping trip is roughing it in the backcountry, enjoying improved tent camping, or exploring the great outdoors in your recreational vehicle, you’ll be able to find a number of Appalachian campsites that meet your needs.

Where to Find Appalachian Campsites

When people talk about camping in the Appalachians, they are usually referring to areas in the southern part of the mountain range, including the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina and Virginia. However, the Appalachians actually span a much larger area throughout the eastern part of North America.

The Appalachian Trail runs through the entire Appalachian mountain range, beginning in northern Georgia and meandering northward through Maine and into the southern part of eastern Canada. The trail spans more than 2,000 miles, and there are campsites located at various places along the trail and throughout the entire mountain range.

No matter where you plan to travel in the Appalachians, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of camping options available to you. If you’re a tent camper, you’ll be able to choose among various improved and backcountry camping opportunities. There are plenty of ways for RVers to enjoy the Appalachians, but there are areas not accessible to travel trailers or motor homes. If traveling by RV, it’s very important to verify ease of access before selecting your accommodations.

Backpacking Opportunities

Great Smoky Mountains

There are numerous places to enjoy backcountry camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The National Park Service requires campers to stay in designated shelters and campsites while enjoying the backcountry. All of the shelters and many of the camping areas within the park require reservations, and spots must be booked at least thirty days in advance by calling the Backcountry Reservation Office at 865-436-1231. Online reservations are not available.

Various Locations Along the Trail

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, there are more than 250 camping shelters located along the Appalachian trail that backcountry campers may use. Campers can pitch tents in numerous locations along the trail, provided they leave no trace. Those interested in detailed information about backcountry Appalachian campsites may want to order state specific trail guidebooks from the Conservancy’s online store.

Developed Appalachian Campsites

Blue Ridge Parkway

The National Park Service operates a number of Blue Ridge Parkway campsites designed to accommodate both tents and RVs. Online reservations may be made for some of the campgrounds on Recreation.gov, but many accept visitors only on a first come, first served basis.

Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway camping accommodations include:

  • Otter Creek
  • Peaks of Otter
  • Roanoke Mountain
  • Rocky Knob

North Carolina camping options along the Parkway are:

  • Doughton Park
  • Julian Price Park
  • Linville Falls
  • Crabtree Meadows
  • Mount Pisgah

Great Smoky Mountains Campgrounds

There are ten developed campsites located throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The entire park’s front country campgrounds accommodate tent campers, and many of them can accommodate RVs. If you are traveling in a recreational vehicle, be sure to verify that the campground can accommodate your particular camper. During the summer months, make reservations for a few of the campgrounds in the park online or by calling 877-444-6777. The other sites are available to campers only on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • Reservations are available for:
    • Cades Cove
    • Cosby
    • Elkmont
    • Smokemont
  • First come, first served campsites are:
    • Abrams Creek
    • Balsam Mountain
    • Big Creek
    • Cataloochee
    • Deep Creek
    • Look Rock

Resources for Locating Additional Appalachian Campsites

Some of the best campsites throughout the vast expanse of the Appalachian Mountains are ones rarely advertised or promoted. Because the area is so large, one of the best ways to identify off-the-beaten path camping options is through guidebooks written by those who have hiked and camped the trail themselves.

  • Appalachian Trail Guide to Tennessee-North Carolina by V. Collins Chew
  • Appalachian Trail Guide to Massachusetts-Connecticut published by the Appalachian Trail Conference
  • Hikes in Northern New England (Exploring the Appalachian Trail) by Mark Condon, Glenn Scherer, Andrew Weegar, and Michael Kodas
  • Hikes in the Virginias (Exploring the Appalachian Trail) by David Lillard
  • The Best in Tent Camping: Tennessee & Kentucky: A Guide for Car Campers Who Hate RVs, Concrete Slabs, and Loud Portable Stereos by Johnny Molloy

Enjoy Your Appalachian Camping Trip

Regardless of which portion of the mountain range your travels include, you’re sure to enjoy the breathtaking scenery that awaits you in the Appalachians. Whether you spend your time hiking the backcountry or relaxing in improved Appalachian campsites, your trip to this beautiful outdoor paradise is sure to become one of the best outdoor adventures of your lifetime.

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