Great Smoky Mountains National Park | CATALOOCHEE CAMPGROUND

Cataloochee Campground Map (click to enlarge)

Cataloochee Campground Map (click to view of download PDF)

See the Cataloochee Region web page for an interactive location map.


GENERAL INFORMATION

Cataloochee Campground is located on the eastern side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The road leading to it from both the north and south is dirt, and it is rough, extremely narrow, and very windy. Because of this, 15 to 20 MPH is about all you can do (the 16 miles from Big Creek will take you an hour). However, in the fall it is one of the most beautiful drives in the country—just don’t be in a hurry to get anywhere.  

TYPE OF CAMPING

Cataloochee Campground can accommodate both tent campers and RVs up to 31 feet in length. However, the campground hosts mainly tent campers, vans, pickup truck campers, and small pop-up campers due to the road that leads to the campground. The National Park Service does not recommend that RVs over 31 feet long or vehicles with trailers over 25 feet long use the road.

In addition to the regular campground, Cataloochee has a group campground with three sites and a horse camp with seven sites. Both are located farther down the road from the main campground.

Pickup truck camper at Cataloochee Campground

Pickup truck camper at Cataloochee Campground

CAMPING SEASON

Cataloochee Campground is typically open from April through the end of October. The exact opening and closing dates change each year, so be sure to visit the National Park Service’s Frontcountry Camping web page for the latest schedule.

The group campground usually opens later in the season, so be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s Group Campgrounds web page for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Campsite 1 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park's Cataloochee Campground

Campsite 1 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Cataloochee Campground

NUMBER OF SITES

MAIN CAMPGROUND

Cataloochee Campground is one of the smaller campgrounds at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with only 27 sites. All are open to tent campers and RVs, though permitted RV length varies per campsite (this information is given on the reservation website, Recreation.gov). Each site hosts up to 6 people and two vehicles.

The campground is wooded, so there is plenty of shade, and some of the campsites are along Cataloochee Creek. Campsites 3, 5, and 7 are right on the creek, though you can’t see the water from the tent area at sites 5 and 7 due to the distance to the water (25-50 feet) and vegetation that gets in the way. The campground map makes it look as if sites 8 and 9 are also along the creek, but this is not the case.

View of Cataloochee Creek from campsite 3

View of Cataloochee Creek from campsite 3

Campsite 2 is across the road from the creek, but the view is not blocked by campsites on the other side of the road. Campsites 4 and 6 are also on the opposite side of the road from the creek, but creekside sites do block the view of the water.

View of Cataloochee Creek from campsite 2

View of Cataloochee Creek from campsite 2

Campsites at Cataloochee tend to be very large, especially those on the outside of the loop road such as sites 10 through 15; you could park a small jet airplane at 11, 12, and 13. Site 20 is also huge. If the National Park Service made the parking spaces smaller, the size of the campground would double.

Campsite 12 at Cataloochee Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Campsite 12 at Cataloochee Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

GROUP CAMPGROUND

There are three group campsites at Cataloochee, each hosting up to 25 people. You need a minimum of seven people to camp at a group site. Each campsite has picnic tables and grills / fire pits and can accommodate up to five vehicles.

AMENITIES

Like all campgrounds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are no showers at Cataloochee, but there are private companies that offer fee-based shower facilities outside the park. The campground host told me that the closest one is Winngray Campground, which is located on Highway 276 near the Cataloochee ski area. This is about 14 miles away and takes 45 minutes (one way). However, be sure to ask the campground host if this is still the place to go. 

Both the main and group campgrounds have modern restrooms with cold water. However, there are no electric or water hook-ups at any of the campsites. If you need 5-amp connections for medical devices, you must camp at Smokemont, Cades Cove, or Elkmont, the only campgrounds in the park with this amenity.

There is no camp store, so you must bring all supplies with you. If you want firewood, the closest place to buy some is at the Winngray Campground.

All sites at the main campground have back-in parking spaces large enough for two vehicles.

Campsite 5 at Cataloochee Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Campsite 5 at Cataloochee Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Each individual campsite has a picnic table, lantern post, grill / fire ring, and a 16’ x 16’ tent pad. You can have as many tents as you can fit on the pad, though realistically this means two in most cases. Those with more tents than pad space must pay for a second campsite. While the pads guarantee a level surface for your tent, the sites at Cataloochee are fairly level to begin with.

Typical campsite at Cataloochee Campground

Typical campsite at Cataloochee Campground

RESERVATIONS

Reservations are required for all campsites at the main Cataloochee Campground and can be made up to six months in advance by calling (877) 444-6777 or visiting the online reservation service, Recreation.gov. It is not possible to pay at the campground, and you cannot make a reservation from here because there is no cell phone service. Even communication between the campground host and the National Park Service is via radio. If you show up without a reservation, you must leave and find a place with phone service. 

Park campgrounds are not gated, so you can check in after hours. Just proceed to your site and register in the morning with the campground host. If you forgot your site number, check the Late Arrival bulletin board near the entrance. I forgot my site number when camping at Cataloochee, and the Late Arrival board was not updated, so I had to drive back to the nearest town where I could get phone service and log into my Recreation.gov account and find my number. Lesson learned—don’t forget your site number.

Reservations are also required for the Group Campsites, and you can make a reservation up to a year in advance by calling (877) 444-6777 or visiting the online reservation service, Recreation.gov

FEES

The current individual campsite fee is $25 / night. Owners of a Senior or Access pass receive a discount on individual campsites.

The current group campsite fee is $40 /night. There are no discounts available.

Prices can always change. The most current rates are given on Recreation.gov.

CAMPGROUND RULES

• Check out time is noon. Check in is 1 PM.

• All food must be stored in food storage boxes (if provided) or in your vehicle.

• Stays within Great Smokey Mountains National Park are limited to 14 consecutive days at any one campground, and no more than 60 total camping days in a year. If you wish to camp more than 14 days at a particular campground, you must leave that campground for at least one day before returning. To do this, you can return home or simply switch to another campground for a day.

• Do not bring your own firewood to Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Firewood is available for sale inside the park and surrounding towns, but not at Cataloochee Campground. You can also gather wood inside the park that is on the ground and dead.

• Pets are allowed as long as they stay on a leash no longer than six feet. However, no pets are allowed on the hiking trails, other than horses, and you cannot leave them unattended at your campsite.

• Alcohol is permitted in the campground as long as the people drinking are at least 21-years-old, which goes without saying.

• Quiet hours are in effect from 10 pm to 6 am. Generators are allowed from 8 AM to 8 PM.

• Hammocks are allowed in the campground with the following guidelines: Must be over the footprint of the campsite, limited to trees 10 inches in diameter with adequate padding around the tree and only 2 hammocks are allowed to be suspended from the same tree.

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Last updated on February 12, 2021
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