TOWNSEND, Tenn. -- Camping in the wilderness of the Smoky Mountains is something that many plan during the fall to truly experience the Smokies and escape into the great outdoors.
Located adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend, known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” offers modern or rustic campsites in the Smokies.
“We still have sites available through the end of October during prime leaf viewing time,” said Malcolm Johnson, owner of Big Meadow Campground in Townsend.
“From here, there are so many things people can do outside of the Park.”
Johnson suggested numerous drives in the area for visitors that offer scenic vistas and leaf viewing, including from Townsend along Highway 441 to Cherokee, North Carolina; through Wears Valley or Happy Valley; along the Cherohala Skyway; or on the “Dragon,” the infamous route with 318 curves in an 11-mile stretch.
“Our campgrounds are open year-round, and people who stay in them get nearly the same experience as camping in the park since they are just a few miles from the park boundary,” said Tami Vater, director of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority.
“The scenery throughout our region is very similar to what you see inside the park.”
Vater said that she wants to make sure that visitors understand that just because the park is closed doesn’t mean they can’t come to the mountains and experience the great outdoors, the beautiful fall colors and the heritage of the area.
Townsend has eight campgrounds with amenities including hot showers, water, electric hook-up and more.
* Big Meadow Campground ( http://www.bigmeadowcampground.com): RV camping with 30/50 Amp Service, store, exercise room, game room, overlooking Little River, mountain views, laundry, propane, pavilion, basketball, playground and bathhouse.
* Lazy Daze Campground ( http://www.lazydazecampground.com): River sites, full hook ups, pool, cabins and motel rooms, laundry.
* Mountaineer Campground ( http://www.mountaineercampground.biz): Pool, playground, pavilion, laundry, tubing, paved road, shaded and modern bathhouse.
* Misty River ( http://www.mistyriverrv.com/): Log cabins on the river, tent and RV campsites, large pool and hottub, modern and private individual bath rooms.
* Tremont Outdoor Resort ( http://www.tremontcamp.com): Swimming pool, game room, basketball hoop, horse shoes, pavilion, fishing and tubing.
* Camp Townsend ( http://www.camptownsend.com): Shady, well-established campground with riverfront sites, primitive areas, bath house and hot showers, store, laundromat, pavilion and bonfire pit, and full hook-ups for all RV sizes
* Townsend Great Smokies KOA ( http://koa.com/campgrounds/townsend-great-smokies): Full hook-ups 30/50 amps, tent sites/water and electric sites, sleeping cabins, pool, store, Texaco gasoline, restaurant, laundry, cable TV, propane, 1/4 mile river frontage.
* Ye Olde Mill Campground ( http://www.yeoldemillcampground.com): Riverfront sites, full hookup and primitive tent sites.
Contact the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority at 800-525-6834 or 865-983-2241 for help planning a trip and recommendations of attractions, accommodations and sites outside the park. Visit online at http://www.SmokyMountains.org.
The Smoky Mountain Visitors Center at Townsend is located at 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, and the Smoky Mountain Visitors Center at Maryville is located at 201 South Washington Street.