In the densely populated eastern U.S. states, wide swaths of protected forests are a rare sight, and perhaps that’s what makes the Great Smoky Mountains so special. With its endless rows of mountains and ridges, rivers, trees and wildlife, this protected land is a dream destination for any nature lover.
When traveling into the wilderness, though, many people want a little more comfort than the traditional camping experience. Enter glamping. This more upscale version of camping is gaining traction among nature and travel aficionados. Our quick guide has everything you need to know about glamping in the Great Smokies.
What Is Glamping?
You might have heard of the term “glamping” before — it comes from a mashup of the phrase “glamorous camping,” and it is all about taking the camping experience up a level. While camping is a great way to spend time outdoors, it is simply not for everyone. Camping is all about “roughing it” or getting by with only the essentials while you are out in nature, but this idea is a turnoff to many travelers. Glamping lets you have the outdoor experience of camping but keeps more of the creature comforts that make your life easier.
The overall glamping experience can vary in the details, but it often includes a step up in accommodations from camping — a larger, more heavy-duty tent, a yurt, a cabin, an RV, or something else a little more sturdy than a standard camping tent.
It may also involve upgrades on furniture and other details, such as a real mattress as opposed to sleeping on the ground or on an air mattress, private bathrooms and coffee makers. Glamping at a resort or campground brings even more possibilities for services and camping upgrades that you wouldn’t get if you had to haul in all your own gear.
Where to Go Glamping in the Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country, and for good reason. This gorgeous park is full of beautiful views of ancient mountains, a diverse sampling of plant and animal life, rich culture and lots to do.
One of the best ways to experience the Great Smoky Mountains is through glamping, so you can see nature up close and not have to compromise your comfort. Here are the top places to consider for your glamping adventure.
Gatlinburg East / Smoky Mountain KOA Holiday
Located in Cosby, TN, and just outside of Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg East / Smoky Mountain KOA Holiday campground has RV Sites and Deluxe Cabins to make your stay more comfortable. The Deluxe Cabins all feature full, private bathrooms and comfortable beds.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is easily accessible from your campsite, and during your stay, you can enjoy the campground amenities like a pool, disc golf and a playground. Head into Gatlinburg for shopping and entertainment — the ultimate glamping experience!
Other nearby attractions and activities include whitewater rafting, the Dollywood theme park and Splash Country water park. No matter what you do during the day, you can come back and relax in comfort and style in these upgraded lodging options.
Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg KOA Holiday
With a convenient location close to all of the action of Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s Stampede and almost 70 more fun-filled attractions of the Pigeon Forge area, the Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg KOA Holiday is a great place for glamping. Of course, the Great Smoky Mountains are nearby, too, so you can participate in all the hiking, biking and other outdoor adventures you would like, and then come back to your upscale camping home base.
The campground features free cable and Wi-Fi, gorgeous waterfront campsites, picnic tables and fire rings. There are rustic cabins as well as Tent Sites and RV Sites. Even with all the fun things nearby, the campground itself is full of activities and amenities, like a pool, lazy river, hot tub and sauna, a wide variety of outdoor games, frisbee golf and outdoor cinema. Families with kids will love the train ride, playground, jumping pillow and gem mine. With so many fun things to do onsite, you may never want to leave the campground!
Townsend / Great Smokies KOA Holiday
Stay right on the Little River, flowing out of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, at the Townsend / Great Smokies KOA Holiday. This beautiful campground has RV Sites, Tent Sites and gorgeous cabins, all in a lovely forest setting and with easy access to the park.
You can enjoy swimming and tubing on the river, or explore the Townsend Bike Trail, full of historic stops and located right across the street from the campground. While onsite, you can enjoy the many glamping amenities like bike rentals, swimming pool, playground, internet, basketball court, outdoor cinema and a seasonal Sweet Shoppe that can satisfy your candy cravings.
The campground offers plenty of additional events and fun recreational opportunities, too. Once you are done for the day, you can relax in style no matter which lodging type you choose.
Cherokee / Great Smokies KOA Holiday
For some of the best mountain views around, head to the Cherokee / Great Smokies KOA Holiday. Set in beautiful Cherokee, North Carolina, this fun campground has it all and is the perfect place to glamp near the Great Smokies. You can stay in a tent, RV or cabin, all in a forested setting, with the Raven Fork River and several nearby ponds bordering the grounds.
All of the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge attractions are just a drive away, and with this campground on the North Carolina side, you are also close to several famous NC landmarks like the Biltmore Estate and Gardens and the museums of Asheville and Bryson City.
During your stay at the Cherokee / Great Smokies KOA Holiday, you can enjoy the many amenities and fun entertainment options right at the campground, too. With both an indoor and outdoor pool, hot tub and sauna, you can swim and enjoy the fun no matter the season or weather. Go tubing on the river or catch a flick on the outdoor movie screen. The kids will enjoy the big bouncer pillow and all-new playground structure. The onsite Campfire Grill, open seasonally, also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites, making your glamping dining experience convenient and delicious.
Book your stay at a KOA in the Great Smokies today for an unforgettable glamping adventure!
About the Author: Kampgrounds of America
Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting KOA.com/blog.