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Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

Saint Paul...
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144 posts
56 reviews
Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

We're going to be on a roadtrip from Florida (Tampa area) back to Minnesota starting Jan 1. Our family of 5 loves National Parks, so we're tossing around the idea of stopping to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Is it crazy to think about camping (tents, not an RV) during that time frame? We're going to have our camping equipment with us anyway- so we would likely just see if the weather is cooperating and camp if possible (no reservations). I understand there is no guarantee when it comes to weather, but am looking for some advice on whether or not this plan is likely to work. We're pretty hardy folk- being from Minnesota, but don't want to be camping in a snowbank either.

Also, which campground would you suggest, since we'll be coming in from the south?

Level Contributor
1,083 posts
1. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

it depends on how good of sleeping bags you have... i wouldn't plan on it unless you guys have at least 20-degree bags. even then... could get colder than that.

the only campgrounds open in January are Cades Cove and Smokemont. if you're coming up through Atlanta to Chattanooga, Cades Cove is probably the more convenient option.

Level Contributor
1,532 posts
2. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

I don't think it is crazy at all. Camping in the winter can be a lot of fun if the weather is not too bad. Even camping in the snow is comfortable. There are a few campgrounds open year round in the Park including Smokemont and Cade's Cove. Smokemont is located just inside the main southern entrance and is at low elevation so it wont be as likely to have severe weather.

As always, be prepared for extreme weather changes during that time of year, but the winters in the lowlands are usually mild.

You should probably have your pick of sites as well.

Level Contributor
1,530 posts
21 reviews
3. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

Like you said, you're from Minnesota, so you can probably handle anything. I was thinking y'all were required to have winter camping gear in the trunk of your vehicle by state law :-) Anyway,...there might not even be any snowfall at this elevations. Chances are you'd be fine. If things turned ugly you can find a reasonable price on a hotel room on those dates since the New Year holiday would be passed.

Edited: 28 September 2013, 02:44
Savannah, GA
Level Contributor
237 posts
64 reviews
4. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

We have seen snow in October and then again in May so don't be surprised if it happens in January. I'd have to go with a motel, just my suggestion!

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
265 posts
24 reviews
5. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

Okay to answer your question. Around here we go up there to rent cabins or stay in motels. Our idea of "roughing it" involves taking the RV and plugging it into the RV site. That being said, the Smoky Mountains puts you about 4 extra hours drive time according to the map. If you are not in a rush then yes it would be worth it. Cherokee NC is the gateway to Park. There are a number of campgrouns there most which will be servicing the RV customers. I don't think you will much competition for their tent sites :-)

The minute you leave Cherokee you will see the National Park welcome sign. Hwy 441 through the park is amazing. Its actually more amazing at sunrise from my experience. The next 35 miles is very amazing scenery. Check out this photo from Kevin Adams photography. …photoshelter.com/image/I0000OcO.5gQEyAQ


Then you will get to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area next. It should be about brunch time. Its a tourist area with shops, restaurants, etc... (I ve always referred to it as the Panama City Beach of mountains, that's a local cultural thing,) Then you should be back off toward Nashville.

Fill up your gas tank before you leave Cherokee.

Edited: 01 October 2013, 05:26
Nashville, Tennessee
Destination Expert
for Nashville
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2,458 posts
76 reviews
6. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

I would not hesitate to camp that time of year if properly equipped. Rain likely would be your biggest issue vs. snow or extreme cold.

Saint Paul...
Level Contributor
144 posts
56 reviews
7. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

Thanks for all the responses! We do have sleeping bags good to 15 or 20 degrees. We'd love to spend a couple of days in the area and get in some good hikes. We can always do a hotel if the weather isn't cooperating, but will cross our fingers and hope for the best! It will be an adventure one way or the other, I'm sure.

Melbourne, Florida
Destination Expert
for Melbourne, Florida
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17,911 posts
116 reviews
8. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

Smokemont is a nice campground. It has a stream running thru it so opt for a waterfront site. There are tent pads but keep in mind none of the Smoky Mountain campgrounds have showers (they have restrooms with toilets and lavatories but no showers.). They have a list of places you can pay like $5.00 to take a shower. We have also tent camped at Flaming Arrow campground in Cherokee. It has showers, small playground and onsite camp store. It is not far from the park for day trips to explore. Mingo Falls, is nearby a great easy waterfall hike. If you decide to stay at Cades Cove you will be close to Laurel Falls another great hike. There are also a few trails you can hike inside CC and a couple days a week they close the park to cars in the AM so people can ride bikes without having t contend with cars.

Level Contributor
1,083 posts
9. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

don't plan your route around traveling US441/Newfound Gap Road, which cuts through the middle of the park from Cherokee to Gatlinburg. if there's snow on any road in the park, it'll be at Newfound Gap, which gets closed for weather very frequently at that time of the year. you'll have to backtrack a long, long ways to get to the other side of the park.

10. Re: Is it crazy to tent camp Jan 2-5?

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