We’re back from our fun Smoky Mountains camping vacation with kids. We loved it so much last year that we went again this year. People often ask me how to go camping with kids but it is really not that hard. You just have to relax and enjoy it. Our kids are young and they just go along with whatever we suggest. Sure you need a few extra wipes and a few extra changes of clothes, but you can totally do this! Camping the Great Smoky mountains is actually a family tradition that I did with my dad when I was little too.
Camping In Great Smoky Mountains Vacation With Kids
We started out our Smoky Mountain camping vacation with kids by driving up through Townsend where we stopped at IGA and loaded up our cooler. We then went to a very important stop for me- the Snowball Stand! I always stop for a Snowball at least once on our trip! (For those of you who don’t know, a snowball is kind of like a snowcone only 300 times better because the ice is soft and fine and there are way more flavors.) This Snowball Stand operates from a little trailer that is always parked outside River Rat Tubing. I got half pina colada and half peach and it was yummy as always. Then we continued on up to our campsite in Elkmont Campground.
Camping at Elkmont Campground
We love Smoky Mountains camping at Elkmont Campground. If you are looking to camp at a Smoky Mountains National Park campground, there are 10 frontcountry camping options (drive up to your campsite) and you may want to choose based on where you are coming from and secluded you like to be. We love the frontcountry Elkmont campsites because it is such a beautiful spot. Elkmont camping is located right along the river so there is plenty of water fun right next to your campsite. It is also pretty well shaded and has bathrooms with cold running water and flush toilets pretty close to all sites. Each campsite has a fire ring with a grate, a picnic table, and a grated tent spot.
We spent the first day tubing in the river, catching minnows, and socializing with the neighboring campers from Mississippi. I suggest you make Elkmont camping reservations several months in advance so you can get a spot by the river and/or bathroom as your priority might be. There is an Elkmont campground store with a few staples such as firewood, a couple of tarps (literally), and vending machine.
Hiking in The Great Smoky Mountains
The next day we headed on up to hike Clingman’s Dome. It was really nice! I highly recommend it. It was an easy half mile hike up to the top and you get a full 360 of beautiful views from the top. The trail is paved so great for kids and nice and wide. Then we headed back down to Sugarlands for a picnic and to catch a ranger talk about salamanders. We went back to the campground for napping and tubing and cooking out. Another nice leisurely day of our Smoky Mountain camping vacation with kids gone!
Bear Spotting While Camping in The Smoky Mountains
Oh! I forgot to mention our bear spotting! We spotted a black bear silently moving through some freshly emptied campsites! I felt very fortunate but Sierra was not so convinced and wanted to hide in the tent until I could assure her it was gone. Leo was up for viewing safely from a distance with us!
A Fun Break From Smoky Mountains Camping- What To Do In Gaitlinburg
We visited Gatlinburg for our adventurous day. We got to the Gatlinburg Ripley’s Aquarium right as it opened at 9:00am and it was super nice. It was a bit pricey for adults but kids were cheap and it was worth it. We went through the shark lagoon tunnel twice the kids loved it so much. After that we did little site seeing on the main street and then went back to the campground for more tubing and napping! For dinner we headed back to Gatlinburg for some really yummy food at the Smoky Mountain Brewery. We also decided to splurge on mini-golf and a hall of mirrors. If you have never done a hall of mirrors before, I suggest you try it. It was totally fun and really an unusual experience. They let us go back through it for free two extra times!
When you take road trips do you drive or own car or do you like to rent a car to keep from putting the miles on your own vehicle? You may want to check out a car rental service like usave.com if you are interested in renting a car, van or minivan to take on vacation. We may have to do that next time since we have so much cargo when it comes to fitting four of us, our dogs, and all our bags!
Have you taken a Smoky Mountain camping vacation with kids? What are your favorite things to do and places to go?