Camping at Cosby Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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For a developed campground, Cosby Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is one of the best. Sites tucked in the trees allow for quiet, peaceful camping with a secluded feel.

Cosby Campground is a “home away from home” in the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. We prefer camping in the middle of nowhere; but for a developed campground, Cosby really does have quite the secluded feel with many campsites tucked back into the trees.

There's absolutely nothing like waking up in a tent, listening to the birds sing and wildlife chattering. It's the very definition of peace and tranquility, a way to truly get away from the world and unplug.

Of all the Smoky Mountain campgrounds available, Cosby's solitude won us over, and we reserved a tent site in the campground. We were really excited to just get away and unplug together.

Camper site in Smoky Mountain campgrounds, Cosby

Where exactly is Cosby Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains?

At about 2460′ in elevation, Cosby is away from the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg and away from the main park entrance, but still close enough to enjoy both.

It's just outside (about 5 miles away from) Cosby, Tennessee, where you'll find simple conveniences like showers, gas, and supplies. The bigger mountain town of Gatlinburg, where you'll find shopping, food, activities, and family attractions, is about 20 miles away.

What's the campground like?

Cosby Campground has around 165 total sites, including only 26 reservation sites; all the rest are first-come first-served. Sites are mostly tent sites, a few RV sites, and a few group sites.

A beautiful 5 minute drive leads campers through the forest toward the campground entrance. The campground has multiple trails and a river flowing through. Only 3 miles away is the Appalachian Trail, and outside the campground is a trail to Hen Wallow Falls.

ranger station at Cosby Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains

When we arrived, we picked up our reservation tag at the Ranger Station and drove on in. The campground appeared quite empty, a surprise to us with it being June and vacation season. We noticed right away the overall secluded feel of the campground.

We were excited to get to our site and check it out and were ecstatic with its location. It was absolutely beautiful and hands down the best and the most private developed campsite we've ever had.

We parked parallel on the road and climbed steps up to our site, which was surrounded by trees. The only neighbors we could see were directly across the road from us and even then, we could barely see them; cars were parked blocking the view.

It was a magical place and perfect for the quality family time we needed together.

I can only imagine what it'd be like when spring has sprung and all the trees are budding and blooming. Talk about an awesome spring break vacation idea!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park camping tent site at Cosby

Our Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camping Experience

We began to set up camp right away, making the campsite our own. With a campfire going that first night, we roasted hot dogs and enjoyed s'mores.

Neighbors were pretty quiet. The only noise we really experienced was a group putting things away late one night (not really bothersome to us), a group of kids having fun late one night, and one morning, waking to the sounds of Slim Shady booming through the campground (apparently, the camper next to the first group was trying to get back at them by making some noise of his own).

To be honest, we have zero complaints, and for the most part, it was beautifully quiet and serene.

Bathroom at Cosby Campground in Smoky Mountains Tennessee

The bathroom was right down the road and down a little trail; it took us maybe 2 minutes to walk there and back.

I have to say too, that after our experience camping in another national park that shall remain nameless, this bathroom was so wonderful. The ranger really did a great job of keeping it clean, and there were lights at night (yay!!!).

Of course, you might want to carry your own soap; no soap available. We highly recommend Campsuds.

Water was readily available, including a cold water sink for dishwashing and perfect for washing hair. There were no showers; in order to take a shower, campers have to drive into Cosby, TN (about a 5 minute drive) and pay about $5/person.

We decided on soap/water wipedowns and our homemade no rinse wipes in order to save money.

Why you should ALWAYS get rid of trash IMMEDIATELY

Wildlife is definitely abundant in Smoky Mountain campgrounds. Our second night there, we experienced quite the thrill.

We'd cooked beef stew with biscuits for supper, and the boys had gone to bed after eating. Dan was still sipping on a bit of stew, so he hadn't taken the trash down to the car yet.

Note: There are no bear boxes; all food/trash/cooking gear needs to be stowed away either in your car or carried to the nearest dumpster.

Campfire in Cosby Campground in the Smoky Mountains

We were sitting next to each other, talking and enjoying the campfire. All of a sudden, we heard a crashing sound and  twigs snapping, coming from the forest next to the road.

Dan snapped on his headlight, and all we saw was this huge bundle of fur not even 15 feet away. It was a bear, and he'd come for some beef stew.

I freaked out, having never experienced a bear so up close and personal.

Dan immediately ran toward the bear, trying to chase him away from the site. I jumped up on the picnic table with my handy dandy stick, as if the table (or stick) would keep me safe. I wasn't about to leave the boys unprotected in the tent, but I certainly didn't want to be on the ground if Dan chased the bear back through the site.

We could hear him over in the woods, wrestling around with the cups that had held our beef stew. Finally, the bear had enough of Dan and went to make the rounds with our neighbors, as well.

Let's just say it was a long night. He didn't go away for probably an hour or two… But even when he did finally leave, I was totally worried he was going to come back.

That same night we had owls going back and forth in the trees, hooting and screeching. It was an awesome experience I'll never forget.

Cosby Campground amenities

We had a great time camping in the Smoky Mountains, so much so that we're not opposed to staying in the campground when we visit again. It's an economical alternative to hotels, plus we get the outdoor experience that we so crave.

Campground amenities include the following:

  • Accessible sites and restrooms with flush toilets
  • Drinking water
  • Dump station
  • Emergency phone (because you won't have cell service in the campground)
  • Fire rings
  • Host
  • Parking/picnic area
  • Ranger station
  • Tent pads
  • Amphitheater

Learn more about Cosby and things you need to know before camping there.

More Great Smoky Mountains Adventures

If you've never camped before, I highly encourage you to do so. It's an experience that will definitely change your life for the better, and you may just fall in love with it.

We've camped in both traditional campgrounds and in the backcountry. In fact, we give the inside scoop on what it's like to camp in a roof top tent vs. ground tent.

After camping for quite a few years now, we're actually hoping to start training for longer backpacking trips, which means more backcountry camping. Camping has indeed opened up a whole new world for us.

Great Smoky Mountains Cosby Campground

Update Notes: This article was originally published on July 17, 2012, but was re-published with bigger photos and more details in March of 2018.

6 thoughts on “Camping at Cosby Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park”

  1. So you would recommend camping there even with the bear experience? Last time we camped we had a skunk spying on our campsite which made my heart stop but nothing compared to a bear….I’m just afraid of the bears and kids like i wouldn’t be able to let the kids go out alone even to the bathroom like when we normally camp they have freedom…..

    • Jen, I would definitely camp there again; in fact, I’ve been wanting to go back. It was one of the best camping experiences we’ve ever had. The campground was absolutely beautiful, and the campsite we had was fairly secluded. Drawing the bear in was honestly our fault because we left our trash sitting until we were done eating. We should have put it up. We usually walked to the bathroom together at night anyway, mainly because we didn’t know other people around…. but during the day, the kids would play and walk to the bathroom on their own. It felt very safe between us watching out and neighboring campers keeping an eye out too. I think a skunk would freak me out even more, ew; would be so scared of being sprayed. Though I did climb a picnic table with the bear.

    • Amanda, we were toward the back of the campground. I can’t remember exactly which site, but it was wonderful. If you want secluded, this campground has a lot of nice, quiet sites.

  2. Seems that you guys have had a great fun spending your time in national park. Really after seeing the pictures, looks like to be a place to visit.


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