This weekend was my first time camping at Elkmont. My Dad & I used to go camping a good bit when I was little, so I thought he would like going camping in the Smokies. I heard good things about Elkmont and they happened to have a creekside site available for the weekend, so that’s what I reserved.
We arrived around 3pm on Saturday and got checked in pretty fast. Our campsite was G11 which was just a quick trip down the road from the ranger station. We had one of the small sites – just a tent pad, fire ring, a picnic table, and a single parking spot. The tent went up pretty quickly, so we got small fire going early in the evening and just sat around the campsite. We ended up cooking some steaks and potatoes for dinner – the cooking part went fine, but we didn’t bring quite enough light for the picnic table. We had plenty of flashlights, but we didn’t think we’d need a big lantern…turns out, the potatoes & steak took longer than we expected and it gets dark early…so we basically ate in the dark. We stayed up pretty late (11:30-ish) and then turned in for the night. We decided to cook some eggs & bacon the following morning, walked a good bit of the Elkmont site, and then headed out. A few photos from the trip are here:
So what did I think? Well…
Proximity to other campers
I was surprised how close we were to other campers. Some of the areas seem to be spaced out a bit more, but the “G” section was pretty packed. If you’re wanting to get away from everything, Elkmont may not do it for you. I think I’d like it more with a camper so some of the sounds are muffled. In a tent, every foot step, car, motorcycle, kid’s bike, etc makes quite a bit of noise and you can’t really escape it. Section “G” also allows generators during the day, so quite a few sites had those going during the day.
Pay attention to the rules (i.e. keep food safe)
We didn’t have this problem, but some of our nearby campers did… The rules you agree to when you reserve a spot state that you’ll keep your food locked in your car at all times unless you’re physically with the food at the site. Some guys a couple of sites over from us didn’t do this and left their cooler our while they went for a motorcycle ride. Shortly after they left, the rangers came by and confiscated all of their food (including the cooler itself). On top of that, anyone caught breaking the rules is fined $75. So if you camp at Elkmont, read & follow by the rules…they are serious about them and they really do patrol frequently to verify compliance.
So being in close proximity to other campers isn’t bad normally – it’s a little noisier as I mentioned, but nothing too bad…unless you’re camping next to jerks. I don’t know what was up with the people that were right next to us at G9, but their freaking car alarm went on for minutes at a time FOUR times during the night. Not right next to each other either – the first time was around midnight and they seemed to happen nearly once an hour all the way up to 3am. At that point, my Dad went over to talk to them and one of the campers was out trying to quite the truck. I have no idea what was going on, but a truck alarm blaring at 3am about 100 ft from your head is not awesome. Another nearby camper told us the following morning that these people had the
alarm go off EIGHT times the night before! If you have great campers nearby, this will be ok, but since you have no control over who camps next to you, you should be aware that you too could have a jerk camper during your relaxing camping experience.
It was a good trip and we’ll probably be back to Elkmont in the future. I didn’t really sleep at all due to cars going by (G11 is just across the Little River from the entrance road to the campground and cars sound pretty loud), some animal(s) around the campsite overnight (no idea what it was…but something was walking around outside for a while late in the night), and the freaking car alarm. The site was nice in general though and my Dad really enjoyed it. I think my ideal wilderness retreat would be to go to a secluded cabin with a great mountain view & an internet connection…but I can certainly deal with a regular camping trip every now and then.