In a van down by the river...
I camp at Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the very first day they were open for the 2016 season. I drove around the campground a couple of times and settled upon Camp Site B10 which I felt was the best one available as it was backed up right next to the river.
I mean look at this view. Who wouldn't want to spend a weekend or even a week with this view. Fire ring, picnic table and level tent pad were provided. This being a National Park there are no water or electric hookups for camp sites so you're on your own in that regard.
There are a few things I tell people when they're starting out in photography. I explain that sometimes you need to think outside the box for a change. For instance, most people when on a rover bank they'll shoot photos of the river and chances are your photos my look just like the average Joe's photos if you do the same thing. Now... change it up a bit. Get a different perspective so that you don't have all of the tress that are lining the bank in the shot. How do you do that you ask? Get in the river! Exactly... what average Joe has a photo of that river from that kind of perspective. Not many. So in this photo below I was about thigh deep in the frigid Little River with my camera and tripod taking photos. It was chilly but sometimes you have to endure a little discomfort in order to get the photo you want.
This campground is very nice. Very picturesque. Very peaceful. I use AT&T as my cell phone carrier and I had zero service here. It's a good thing to disconnect from the world for a few days but does make it tough when you're trying to plan out the rest of your trip via Google Maps. This is the reason I usually carry paper maps with me on road trips as well. Those work everywhere!
Having the Little River flowing right near the campground gives you a nice mellow white noise to listen to all day and to lull you to sleep at night. I sure wish I had brought my Fly Fishing gear. This would be the perfect spot.
Since I was in a hurry to get to the campground early and get a prime spot I forgot to stop by the grocery store in order to get supplies for the day. Luckily there's a nice little privately owned camp store in the park. I spoke to the owners who have ran this store for the past 20 years or so. Wow. They fixed me up with a good Camp Store Dinner for the night. Chili Dogs. Yum.
It's worth mentioning that National Parks do vary from State Parks. National Parks don't offer water and electric hookups at their sites nor do they offer showers in their restrooms. There are Men's and Women's restroom located on the property but no showers. The restrooms are nothing fancy but they do serve their purpose. So camping in a National Park is close to "roughing it" so to speak. Well I guess it's "roughing it" compared to a typical State Park amenity wise.
Here I am enjoying the fire as campers funnel into the park throughout the evening.
The Elkmont Campground is located on the North side of the park and The Smokemont Campground is located on the South side. I visited the Smokemont Campground as well and if you're trying to decide which of the two to stay at I would definitely recommend the Elkmont Campground. The Smokemont Campground was not nearly as nice or scenic. I opted to not stay there and kept on driving to my next destination.