Ghost Town in the National Park

Visit Elkmont

Elkmont Troll Bridge

What is Elkmont?

Elkmont is now considered a hidden gem in the Smokies, but it was once a booming logging camp and resort town for wealthy vacationers. The National Park Service is working on restoring the old buildings to protect the spirit of Elkmont and the history of the structures. As years go by more cabins will be restored in the area. The buildings not being restored were removed, leaving behind remains such as stone chimneys and foundations.

stone chimneys and foundations in Elkmont Ghost Town

Elkmont Campground

The Elkmont area is home to the most popular campground in the park. The Elkmont Campground was established in the 1950s. It’s the largest and busiest campground in the Great Smoky Mountains and is located just 8 miles from Gatlinburg. There are 200 tent/RV campsites and 20 walk-in sites for tents, as well as restrooms and more.

History of Elkmont

The Elkmont area was first settled in the 1840s, when it was known as “Little River.” In 1901, Colonel Wilson B. Townsend purchased 86,000 acres of land along the river and formed the Little River Lumber Company. To transport the timber, Colonel Townsend built a railroad that connected the logging site to his sawmill in Tuckaleechee Cove. The railroad contributed to the town becoming a top vacation destination for wealthy vacationers. Families in Knoxville would take the train to the Smokies for weekend getaways, and they eventually bought the area and turned it into a resort community. It was then that the town became known as Elkmont.

Becoming Elkmont Ghost Town

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934, those who still called Elkmont home had to decide whether they wanted to sell their homes for full value and relocate immediately, or sell their properties to the National Park Service for a discounted price in exchange for a lifetime lease. Most of the leases expired in 1992, so the park had about 70 historic buildings with no one to look after them. This caused the buildings to deteriorate, and the large number of abandoned buildings led to its name of “Elkmont Ghost Town.”

abandoned cabin in Elkmont Ghost Town

Restoration of Elkmont

The preservation process for Elkmont began in 1992, when leaseholders wanted to protect the history of the buildings in the area. In 1994, Elkmont earned a spot on the National Historic Register, and eventually restoration plans began taking place. In 2009, an agreement was reached that 19 buildings in Elkmont would be restored and preserved.

The buildings are:

  • The Appalachian Clubhouse
  • The Smith Cabin
  • The Swan Cabin
  • The Creekmore Cabin
  • The Cain Cabin
  • The Baumann Cabin
  • The Hale Cabin
  • The Cook Cabin
  • The Scruggs-Briscoe Cabin
  • The Gaylon Cabin
  • The Mayo Servants’ Quarters
  • The Levi Trentham Log Cabin
  • The Mayo Cabin
  • The Addicks Cabin
  • The Higdon Cabin
  • The Adamless Eden
  • The Sneed Cabin

Restoration has begun in Elkmont, but not all of the buildings have been restored yet. One cabin that has been restored is the Levi Trentham cabin that’s one of the oldest buildings in this region of the Smoky Mountains. When you visit Elkmont, you’ll be able to take a tour of the restored structures. You can also hike the Jakes Creek and Little River trails to see the old stone walls and chimneys, which mark where cabins once stood. You can even see the Elkmont Troll Bridge, another hidden gem in the Smoky Mountains!

abandoned cabin in Elkmont Ghost Town

Elkmont Directions

Elkmont Ghost Town isn’t hard to find. This area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is about 8 miles from Gatlinburg. You can take US-411 from Gatlinburg to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Then, you’ll drive toward Cades Cove for about 7 miles until you see the sign for Elkmont Campground. Turn at the campground sign until you see the ranger station about 4 miles down the road, where you’ll take a left at the sign for Elkmont Nature Trail. The parking lot here is within walking distance of Elkmont “Ghost Town.”