Your Guide to the Elkmont Section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

January 04, 2024

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for having a rich history and exciting sights. The Elkmont section of the national park offers both. If you’re searching for a unique place to explore in the Smokies, Elkmont is a great place for you to visit. Here’s your guide to exploring Elkmont and what you can expect to see while you’re there.

The History of Elkmont

building in elkmontThe Elkmont section of the national park was once a lively community. Elkmont started as an old logging site and quickly became the second-largest town in the area. This town had a church, post office, general store, cottages, and more. The town eventually became a top vacation spot for wealthy vacationers who turned it into a resort community. It was then that the town became known as Elkmont.

The Elkmont Ghost Town

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934, the residents of Elkmont had to decide whether they wanted to sell their homes for full value and relocate, or sell their properties to the National park Service for a discounted price and lifetime lease. Most of these leases expired in 1992, which meant there were then about 70 abandoned historic buildings. This caused the building to start to deteriorate, leading to the area becoming known as the Elkmont Ghost Town. A preservation process then began. In 2009, an agreement was reached that 19 buildings in Elkmont would be restored and preserved. When you visit Elkmont, you can take a tour of the restored structures. You can also see old stone walls, chimneys, and the Elkmont Troll Bridge

Elkmont Hiking Trails

Little River Trail marker in ElkmontThere are a number of hiking trails to explore in the Elkmont section of the national park, including short hikes like the Elkmont Nature Trail and longer ones like the Curry Mountain Trail. Almost every trail in the area can be accessed by either the Little River Trail or the Jakes Creek Trail. The Little River Trail begins at the Elkmont Campground and follows the Little River all the way up the mountain for a total length of 6 miles. Hiking trails that can be accessed from the Little River Trail include:

  • Huskey Gap Trail
  • Cucumber Gap Trail
  • Goshen Prong Trail
  • Rough Creek Trail

The Jakes Creek Trail is a 3.4-mile hike up the mountain that starts at the end of the road at Elkmont Campground and ends at Jakes Gap. Hiking trails that are accessible from the Jakes Creek Trail include:

  • Cucumber Gap Trail
  • Meigs Mountain Trail
  • Miry Ridge Trail
  • Appalachian Trail

Camping in Elkmont

The Elkmont section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to one of the most popular campgrounds in the park. Elkmont Campground was established in the 1950s and is both the largest and busiest campground in the national park. This campground is located just 8 miles from Gatlinburg and is the closest frontcountry campground to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Campsites are available seasonally for both tents and RVs. You can access a number of hiking trails directly from the campground.

More Places to Explore Smoky Mountain History

Elkmont is just one of the many places in the Smoky Mountains with a rich history that you can visually experience. There are a number of historic churches, gristmills, cabins, and more that you can explore throughout the national park. Learn more about historic Smoky Mountain sites you should visit if you’re interested in experiencing Smoky Mountain history.