The Smokemont Experience in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one that features an abundance of spring and summer wildflowers, and the pristine waters of the Bradley Fork of the Oconaluftee River. Bradley Fork is known for its healthy population of rainbow trout; and in the fall, fishing the Fork is especially rewarding when large brown trout make their way upstream from the River. Smokemont offers year-round camping, hiking trails and equestrian activities.
Smokemont is nestled at 2,200′ above sea level near the southern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is flanked by Bradley Fork on its north and west side.
Year-Round Camping in Smokemont
With 142 campsites Smokemont Campground is large and great for families. The campground accommodates trailers up to 35′ and motor homes up to 40′. There are no water, sewer or electricity hook-ups and generator use is restricted to 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. A tent pad, picnic table, grill, and lantern pole are provided at each site. Restroom facilities provide flush toilets and cold water. Although there are no showers available at Smokemont, they are available at several campgrounds in Cherokee. Smokemont Campground reservations may be obtained at recreation.gov along with important information on firewood restrictions, etc. during season; otherwise, the campground is open on a first-come, first-serve basis. Be sure to bring your bikes because the spacious campground is fun to bike, and that’s a good thing since bikes are off-limits on park trails.
Smokemont Campground is located 3.5 miles north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC on Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) and 27 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN.
Hiking in Smokemont
Smokemont Nature Trail – 0.75 mile
The Smokemont Nature Trail begins in Smokemont Campground Section B.
Bradley Fork Trail – 7.4 miles
Bradley Fork Trail begins in Smokemont Campground at the far end of Loop D and ends at junction with Hughes Ridge Trail. The trail is an old roadbed and the lower part is frequently used by horses from nearby Smokemont Riding Stable. Bradley Fork Trail also provides easy access to backcounty campsite #50 on Chasteen Creek Trail. An abundance of spring wildflowers like trillium, wild phlox, false Soloman’s seal, hepatica, wild geranium, dwarf-crested iris, wood-sorrell, and others line the trail in many places. Even just a walking a few miles on this trail offers creekside views along with some great little swimming holes. The trail climbs steadily to over 5,000 ft. to the Smokies’ spruce-fir forest.
Smokemont Loop Trail – 3.9 miles (5.6 miles roundtrip via Bradley Fork Trail)
Begin the Smokemont Loop Trail by hiking 1.7 miles on the Bradley Fork Trail or find the trailhead at the old concrete bridge at the campground. The trail itself is not a complete loop and must be combined with Bradley Fork Trail to return to the campground. Either way you hike the loop you’re in for a bit of a climb up Richland Mountain. The rewards are bountiful in the springtime with the variety of wildflowers and the autumn offers a quite a display of colorful foliage. The trail also contains a quite lengthy log footbridge; you’ll be thankful for the handrail! Smokemont Loop Trail also provides access to Bradley Cemetery that contains graves dating as far back as the late 1800’s.
Fishing in Smokemont
Fishing for rainbow and brown trout is popular in Bradley Fork, and if you hike a mile or two upstream from Smokemont Campground, you are greeted by solitary quietness and some outstanding fishing opportunities. A fishing license is required in all national park streams and rivers. Within the national park boundary either a Tennessee or North Carolina license is acceptable and may be obtained at www.ncwildlife.org or www.tn.wildlifelicense.com.
Horsing Around in Smokemont
Jump in the saddle or enjoy a wagon hayride at the Smokemont Riding Stable, an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service. Smokemont Riding Stable is open every day for the 2016 season (March 12 to November 1, 2016) from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For reservations and information, call 828-497-2373 or email SmokyMtn@Hughes.net. Smokemont Riding Stable is located just south of the campground at 125 Smokemont Riding Stable Road in Cherokee.
The Smokemont Campground was once a community known as Bradleytown. Then in the mid-19th century, Champion Fibre Company made this area, in the Oconaluftee Valley, its hub and installed a large band saw mill and railroad and it became known as the bustling logging village of Smokemont. Over the following decades millions of board feet of lumber were removed decimating the forest. It is hard to imagine today that the entire forest surrounding Smokemont was completely clear cut by the time the National Park was established in 1934.
A short walk from the campground will lead you to Lufty Baptist Church. The historic church is also known as the Oconaluftee Baptist Church and the Smokemont Baptist Church. The Baptist congregation first organized here in 1836 and built this church in 1912 and remained in active use until the establishment of the National Park.