View Full Version : Less visited campsites on the east side

03-03-2009, 09:12
Hey guys, new to the forum and putting together a last minute trip to the east side since I live over in Asheville. I've done a bit of hiking in GSMNP, but not real familiar with the east side of the park. Looking for some of the less visited campsites to put together a quick 1 or 2 nighter. Any suggestions?



03-03-2009, 12:50
If we told you on a public forum everyone would go there. :-)

However I think anywhere off the AT, would offer solitude this time of year.

I stayed at #37 and #38 last week. At #37 we had the whole area to ourselves, and except for a ranger-led wilderness first aid class (about 12 people that spent the night and were gone early the next day) atop Mt Sterling we didn't see anyone the next 2 days. We did see about 10 dayhikers on the Big Creek Trail the 1st day though.

Hikes in Rain
03-03-2009, 12:59
Twenty-Mile is reputed to be the least visited area in the park. I've been several times, and I can count the number of people I've seen there in total on one hand. By extrapolation, the campsites and trails accessed from there should be pretty vacant.

03-03-2009, 13:11
yeah... campsites probably aren't gonna fill up this time of year. although, CS 37 was the most heavily used site last year.

CS 38 is pretty popular too since Sterling is a destination in itsself.

this is a great hike. If you have two days, take Big Creek Trail to CS37, then hike up to Sterling via the Swallow Fork Trail for the second night. also keep in mind: if you go up Sterling from the Baxter Creek Trail, this is a steep route.

i've been told that the backcountry around Cataloochee is great for solitude. i've never made it over there cause it's so dang hard to get to (coming from Nashville).

03-03-2009, 13:30
Twenty-Mile is reputed to be the least visited area in the park. I've been several times, and I can count the number of people I've seen there in total on one hand.

I was there with Hikerhead in May 2007. It was packed. I ended up hiking out in the dark and stealth camped after being approached by some boob who questioned where I was going to setup my tent and impact his experience. :mad:

03-03-2009, 13:30
Another vote for the Cataloochee area.

03-03-2009, 15:45
Twenty-Mile is reputed to be the least visited area in the park.

Maybe the small parking area has something to do with that!!! I almost had to cancel a hike from the Twentymile Ranger Station last summer because there were no vacant parking spots left at the trailhead. I had to "make one" by repositioning a NPS boat trailer.

Hikes in Rain
03-03-2009, 20:17
Sounds like the secret is out, then. It's been several years since I was there last. Darn!

03-03-2009, 20:57
Thanks guys, I think Catalooche offers the most hope for solitude, the unpaved roads tend to cut down some of the traffic, not real easy access. I'm going to avoid Sterling like the plaque, didn't I read that a mag recently brought some attention to it?

03-03-2009, 21:00
Cataloochee area has a few good campsites, Big Creek area and hiking from Cosby campground is great too.

One of my favorite hikes is a loop out of Cosby. Hike up the Snake Den Ridge trail to Maddron Bald trail, follow this trail to campsite 29 (rationed, reservation required). Next day hike on to loop around the Albright Grove Loop trail. Continue on the Maddron Bald trail to Gabes Mtn. trail and along the way check out Hen Wallow Falls and then head on back to the Cosby campground parking lot.
Campsite 29 is small and rocky but you will find a spot to pitch a tent or tarp. A creek runs right beside this site, no water problems. Old growth forest at Albright Grove Loop. If you have A GSMNP map take a look.

Happy Trails,
Chip :)

03-03-2009, 22:14
Another vote for Cataloochee. #40 is a nice small site with Rhododendron mazes that offer each site privacy and a few nice sized Hemlocks. Haven't stayed at #41 but seem to remember that it is right on the trail. I think it sees more traffic. I've always enjoyed hiking and BPing in Cataloochee.

03-03-2009, 22:25
I think the drive to Cataloochee is a pain in the rumpus. I prefer to drive to Big Creek or Smokemont and hike to wherever. I've never had any trouble with crowding at the non-reservation campsites. If the weather is at all cold or wet, we're usually the only ones there, as we were at #44 weekend before last. The little brown book about Hiking the Smokies (or whatever it's called) does a pretty good job of describing the various campsites.

SmokyMtn Hiker
03-03-2009, 23:01
The Deep Creek area outside of Bryson City has numorous backcountry sites. I now it's heavly used during the warmer months but might not be so this time of the year. Backcountry site # 44 that Marta mentioned is very nice but if there's alot of people already there it hard to find a good level spot to pitch a tent, unless your a hammock sleeper.

03-04-2009, 13:46
In the eastern half of the park (East of 441), the Balsam Mountain area would be the least congested/used. This is mainly because of its remote access. Check out campsites 42, 44, 47, and Laurel Gap Shelter. It will be a hike to get back in there, but if you are looking for solitude in the eastern part of the park, here is where it is at.

In summer, I really like #47. There is an old tressel bridge, nice waterfall, and deep swimming hole here. It is restricted reservation because there is only room for 3 or maybe 4 tents (if pitched snuggly together).

General rule of thumb anywhere in the Smokies though.. For solutude, just hike more than 10 miles away from the trailheads. Only the hardcore folks are willing to venture that far into the wilderness. Even if you happen to get to a camp with 6-8 other folks, you will lots of stories to share around the campfire. These wont be the 'car camping' sorts of folks that are willing to carry in a cooler of beer 4 or 5 miles and then bitch to everyone in camp about how difficult it was.