Backcountry Camping in the Smokies

Silers Bald Shelter

Siler's Bald Shelter.  Photo by Brad Powell.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers over 800 miles of trails that can be explored on foot or by horseback.  If you plan to stay overnight in the backcountry, there are some things you'll need to do and to remember.

Backcountry permits must be obtained before you begin your overnight adventure. Permits can be obtained at any visitor center, ranger station, or campground within the park. They are also available online.

Overnight campers and hikers are not allowed to create their own campsites.  You'll need to reserve a space at a campsite or shelter.

Reservations can be made as early as one month in advance.  In fact, it is highly recommended that you do call well in advance due to the popularity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

When in the backcountry, one person within your group must possess the backcountry permit at all times.  Everyone must also follow the backcountry rules and regulations within the park, some of which include:

  • No tents allowed at shelter sites.
  • You can only stay three nights in a row at a campsite (except for Campsite 113, one night only) and only one night at a shelter.
  • The maximum size for a camping party is eight people.  Special permits may be issued for a few sites that accommodate parties of up to 12.
  • No pets are allowed in the backcountry.
  • No motorized vehicles are allowed in the backcountry.
  • No hunting is allowed anywhere in the park.
  • AAll food or odorous material must be suspended on the provided cable systems.

Questions concerning camping in the backcountry can be directed to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. For more information, visit the 'Rules and Regulations' page on the GSMNP official site.

Remember to leave no trace of your existence in the backcountry.  Visit Leave No Trace to review certain principals.

If you just want to camp in or near the national park, but not be in the deep woods, check out our frontcountry camping page.

Horseback riding is allowed in the backcountry, but only in certain areas.  The trail map of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park displays these areas.  Horses are allowed only on the dotted trails on the map.  Horses are not allowed on the dashed trails. For information on horseback riding in the Smokies, visit our horseback riding page.