Interested to know what everyone's favorite (and least favorite) campsites are in the GSMNP.  If we're going to have to pay for them, might as well pay for a good one! 

My experience is mostly on the NC side of the park.  So here goes mine:

Favorites:

47 Enloe Creek - not the best tent sites as they sit right on the trail (but it's a mostly unused trail I think).  But the setting on Roaring Fork is fantastic.  Literally roaring loud water and 2 great swimming holes just a few feet from the site.  Cool summertime temps with its 3600' elevation, too.  Not much tree cover which makes for great star viewing at night.  Small site but not much traffic around there so you'd likely have all to yourself.  Hikers only.

49 Cabin Flats - somewhat remote site on the Bradley Fork.  several nice private campsites sitting right on the Fork.  Bradley Fork is wide, but shallow (at least in summer).  Perfect for walking up the creek to explore a remote area of the park.  I have heard that this site is popular with horse campers but I haven't seen them in my 2 trips there.

60 Baumgardner Branch - nice scenic site right alongside Deep Creek.  Only a few miles from the DC entrance (tubers everywhere) so it could get crowded I guess.  59 and 58 (hikers only) a little further up the creek are likely just as nice and farther from the parking lot. 

37 Lower Walnut - large site along Big Creek that can get crowded I've heard.  I have seen several groups there before but it's so big I haven't really noticed them.

17 Little Bottoms - camped there for the first time 2 weeks ago.  Near Abram's Creek.  Seems it would make a great base camp.  Lots of other trails very close by, including some with loop possibilities.

Not my favorites:

46 Estes Branch - the whole site sits on a slope.  Only flat places are where people have carved the dirt from the slope to make a flat tent site.  Also chain saws went wild there.  Dozens of large logs of varying length are strewn all over the place.  Felt like I was camping at a lumber yard. 

39 Pretty Hollow - Also on a slope.  I think this site gets a lot of use due to close proximity to the Cataloochee parking area.  Always a lot of people and a lot of trash when I've been there.  Same story for 40.  Almost car camping, I've seen people rolling coolers in flip flops down Rough Fork trail to camp there.

On the to-do list:

44 McGee Springs - high elevation (+5000') site in a very quiet area of the park.  I've heard it's a very nice site.  I want to use it as a base camp to explore the Three Forks area down below. 

29 Otter Creek - have never been on the trails in this vicinity but am anxious to do so.  Looks like a nice 2 night loop coupled with 34.

With all the backcountry experience on this site, I'd like to know what other good sites are out there.

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Comment by Melissa Chalk on May 14, 2013 at 2:40pm

Favorites:
#52 Newton Bald
#75 Poplar Flats

Least Favorites:
#37 Lower Walnut Bottom (it's kind of nice but someone went crazy cutting down trees)
#49 Cabin Flats  - it was a decent site but a lot of horse crap all over the place

And the worst I have ever stayed at so far has to be:
#51 Georges Branch - It was horrible

Comment by Gregg Bostick on April 10, 2013 at 11:32am

Tom,

Sorry you won't make it out.  Hope your son feels better.  When you find out how the park will handle the fee/tax you paid, would you mind posting it on the related blog on this site?

Comment by Gregg Bostick on April 10, 2013 at 11:30am

Joey,

You are one sick puppy!  The thought of climbing Hyatt Ridge only to scoot on hands, knees, and posterior for a mile doesn't flip my switch!  But I can't wait to get that ink!  From the tales Rob and Myers have told me, it sounds worth the effort,

Comment by Rob Cameron on April 10, 2013 at 11:30am

I know, talking about it has made me want to go. I'm thinking about an early fall trip.

Comment by Joey Bridges on April 10, 2013 at 10:33am

dang Rob, that sound like fun to me.

Comment by Rob Cameron on April 10, 2013 at 10:00am

Tom,

Breakneck Ridge the last mile or two is straight down the fall line, mostly crawling through rhodo tunnels. Don't carry an external frame. Been there, done that, removed the top bar soon thereafter. Internal with as little as possible strapped on the outside is the ticket. I remember quite a few stretches of butt scooting, or on your knees crawling backwards, with that damned rhodo grabbing you. If traffic has increased they may have enlarged those somewhat, but I wouldn't count on it. Creek route you are going to get wet. We had to wade spots over our waist. Stayed 2 nights and boots were mostly dry for the climb back out up Breakneck. It is actually easier climbing up through the tunnels since you are almost on hands and knees anyway. I would not want to go back out the creek route.

Comment by Rob Cameron on April 10, 2013 at 9:28am

I have been there 3 times and never seen a soul. Two weekends in a row in gorgeous weather once. It is used, but you really have to want to get in there, which reduces the numbers.  It has been several years since I've been there, so James may be right. He's absolutely right about water levels. It's not a trip you want to do in or after a rain. I have gone in Breakneck Ridge and followed the spring down to the creek. Felt soles would be a plus for the creek, although I think if you went at the end of a very dry summer you might not get your feet wet. It is a magical place.

Comment by James Locke on April 10, 2013 at 7:55am

Three Forks is a heavily used site, not rarely used like Rob explained.

Tom - it depends on the time of year mostly because of water levels. The last 2 months it would have been almost impossible as creek walking wouldn't have been much of an option with all the rain we had. The path from 44 to the river seems to get more use than some of the maintained trails, then it comes down to how well you walk in a creek with a backpack. I recommend felt boots and 2 hiking poles!

Comment by Tom Johnson on April 9, 2013 at 11:32pm
Joey - I guess I'll call it divine intervention as my planned trip to 19 this week was cancelled due to my son getting sick. Will be interesting to see how much flexibility NPS gives me in changing that reservation given the fact that we won't be going now.

Rob I'm curious to know how difficult it is to get down to three forks. I had read that much of it is walking in the creek, battling the rhodo etc. wasn't sure if backpacking in was possible (but I guess it is?)

You guys have offered some great insight. Definitely helped me shape my summer trip plans.
Comment by Rob Cameron on April 9, 2013 at 9:31pm
44 is a nice looking campsite, but I haven't stayed there. If you are going to explore the 3 forks I recommend you stay at the forks. That is my favorite camp spot. Absolutely gorgeous, rarely used and great tent sites. If you go in there you will kick yourself for not staying. I say this because I didn't stay the first time we went in and I STILL regret it. Worst spots 52 newton Bald, 28 Lynn Camp and not crazy about 29 on Maddron Bald trail.

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