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Backcountry Camping

Backcountry Reservation Office: 865-436-1231 | Backcountry Hikes

The Park Service collects fees for use of the Park's backcountry campsites and shelters. The changes include a $4 per person, per night fee for backcountry camping. The fee will be used to provide increased customer service for backcountry trip planning, reservations, permits and the backcountry experience. A park-specific reservation and permit system, to which users will have 24/7 access, will allow backcountry campers to make reservations and obtain permits online from anywhere internet access is available. Reservations may be made at any time up to 30 days in advance, allowing maximum flexibility for those making last minute plans. Backcountry users will no longer be required to call the Backcountry Office to obtain reservations. Reservation and permit requests will also be accepted in person at the Backcountry Office, which is located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

mountain river
Image by Jeaneane Payne

Operating Hours for Backcountry Office – The Backcountry Office located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, is open every day from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Backcountry reservations and permits can be obtained online or by calling 865-436-1297.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit for all backcountry camping in the park. Backcountry permits are free and are available at the following locations:

Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Sugarlands Visitor Center
• Twentymile Ranger Station
Fontana Marina
Fontana Dam Visitor Center
Deep Creek Campground Office
Smokemont Campground Office
• Cataloochee Valley near campground

• Big Creek Ranger Station
Cosby Campground Office
• Greenbrier Ranger Station
Elkmont Campground Office
Tremont Environmental Center
Cades Cove Campground Office
• Abrams Creek Ranger Station

Registration areas are accessible 24 hours a day. Permits must be picked up in the park at one of the locations listed above. They are not available on the Internet or through email.

The park requires that you stay at designated campsites and shelters while camping in the backcountry.

Advance reservations are required to camp at the following sites:

• All shelters
• Backcountry Campsites 9, 10, 13, 23, 24, 29, 36, 37, 38, 47, 50, 55, 57, 61, 71, 83, 113

To find the location of backcountry shelters and campsites in the park, you can download a park trail map.

Plan your trip and determine which sites you wish to camp at. If your itinerary includes a reserved site or any shelter, you must call the Backcountry Reservation Office at (865) 436-1231 to make reservations. The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily. You may make reservations up to one month in advance of the first day of your trip. (For example, if you wish to backpack on September 21-25, you may call the Backcountry Reservation Office on August 21 to make reservations for the entire length of time you will be backpacking.) Be prepared to give your complete trip plan when calling the Backcountry Reservations Office.

Reservations for backcountry campsites may be obtained only by calling the phone number listed above. They are not available on the Internet or through email.

Please direct all questions concerning backpacking trip planning to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. The information office is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until noon (Eastern Standard Time).

When you arrive in the park, you must complete a permit at one of the 14 self-registration stations listed above. Your permit must designate the campsite or shelter at which you will stay for each night of your trip. Keep the permit with you and drop the top copy in the registration box.

If you do not plan to camp at a shelter or reserved campsite, then you only need to complete a permit. You do not need to call the Backcountry Reservation Office with your itinerary since no reservation is necessary.

The maximum stay at a campsite is three consecutive nights. You may not stay more than one night at any individual shelter. The use of tents at shelters is prohibited. The maximum group size is 8 persons. The park does not allow pets on backcountry trails.

Please call the reservations office to cancel any nights or spaces that become available because of changes in your plans.

Backpackers and hikers are subject to all Backcountry Rules and Regulations. Failure to abide by park regulations may subject you to a fine under Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations. Maximum fine for each violation is $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.


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