national park winter
January 8, 2019

If you are up for a little adventure and adequately prepared for the elements, the winter season can be a spectacular time of year to go camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! You will not only enjoy fewer crowds in the park, but the unique opportunity to see the mountain peaks as they are covered in snow! Here is everything that you need to know about winter camping in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Camping at Cades Cove

Cades Cove Campground is one of the only campgrounds that is open during the winter season at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This campground combines the feel of primitive camping with the modern convenience of flush toilets and drinking water, but keep in mind that there are no shower facilities. One of the benefits of visiting during the winter is that you can just walk up to get a campsite, with the exception of sites C38-C61 that you can reserve in advance by calling (877) 444-6777. The Cades Cove area is one of the most beautiful sections of the park as it is a broad valley is surrounded by mountains. It is also one of the best places to spot wildlife, especially large numbers of white-tailed deer!

2. Camping in the Backcountry

tent in the woods in the snow

The National Park Service maintains over 800 miles of trails and more than 100 backcountry campsites and shelters where you can go winter camping in the Smoky Mountains. One of the biggest challenges for backcountry campers is deciding where to go, so you can pick up a trail map at any park visitor center to make your plans. You can also stop by the park’s backcountry office at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, which is just two miles south of Gatlinburg on Route 441. This office is open daily and can also be reached by phone at (865) 436-1297. Note that reservations and permits are required for overnight stays in the background, which can be obtained at the backcountry office.

3. Camper Safety

Whether you are camping or hiking during the winter season in the Smoky Mountains, you should be aware of the dangers of hypothermia. The combination of rain, cold and wind can lower your body temperature to dangerous levels, so carry rain gear at all times and wear layers of clothing that can provide warmth when wet. You should also be prepared for sudden weather changes, especially at higher elevations. Before setting out on your winter camping trip, you should always stop by one of the Visitor Centers to talk to a park ranger. They will have all the current information you need to know about the park’s weather conditions, regulations and possible alerts. You can also find out about the weather forecast, environmental hazards and anything else that can impact your camping plans.

Now that you are familiar with everything you need to know about winter camping in the Smoky Mountains, you can plan your camping adventure in the Smokies! If you are also interested in finding out about winter hiking opportunities, learn more about a winter visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park!