Are you headed to Great Smoky National Park? Straddling the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, you will find yourself surrounded by rolling hills, forests, wildlife, and cultural relics. Here are the top 12 items to pack to bring to the park.
Oh, happy day, fellow nature lovers and adventure-seeking families! Are you ready to immerse yourselves in the relaxing arms of Mother Nature? Whether you’re a first-time camper or an experienced wanderer of the wilderness, you’ll find joy in our delightful camping spots! Call or contact us at 865-448-0625 or bigmeadowcampground.com
Before we dive into the specifics, let’s make sure you’re packing that cheery attitude along with your camping gear. Camping can be the perfect way to strengthen family bonds, learn about the great outdoors, and have a fantastic time away from the buzz of daily life. From the serene Little River views to the sound of rustling leaves, Big Meadows’s camping spots are your ticket to a memorable outdoor escapade with the kiddos!
For RV-owning families, Big Meadow Family Campground is conveniently located near the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and the action-packed Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas, it’s an ideal basecamp for families looking to combine outdoor fun with a spot of fun-filled accessibility. Each RV site offers full hookups, ensuring you’re comfortable as you soak up the rustic atmosphere. After a night under the stars, you can easily head into town for a leisurely family brunch, or to spend an exciting day at Dollywood etc.
Got questions? Need a checklist to ensure you’ve packed all your camping essentials? Let us help you get ready for the upcoming camping season and provide you with every bit of information you need to make your family camping trip as happy and hassle-free as can be!
- Sturdy Hiking Boots
A good pair of hiking boots is a must. To make the most out of your trip, pack a pair of supportive, waterproof, and breathable hiking boots. These will allow you to navigate both wet trails beside waterfalls and dry trails up mountainsides with ease and enable you to explore farther than you maybe would have.
If you’re not going more than a couple of miles down the trail, you can pack light with a hiking shoe that can go from the trail to the restaurant.
- A Rain Jacket
The lowlands of Great Smoky get an average of 55 inches of rain per year, but that number rises to 85 inches per year at Clingmans Dome. Bring your rain jacket to avoid getting caught in the rain. Temperatures, especially if you are higher up in the park, can drop dramatically when it rains, turning a warm day into one that feels freezing. When it rains and temperatures plummet, you want a jacket that can keep you warm and dry. Be sure to take cover from thunderstorms and lightning.
Tip: Pick a jacket that claims to be waterproof or watertight, not water-resistant.
There are no restaurants in Great Smoky Mountains Park so you’ll need to pack a lunch for a day trip or food for meals while camping. The Cades Cove Campground Store does have a limited variety of groceries. The store also has grab-and-go breakfast items, hot and cold sandwiches, pizza, and soft-serve ice cream. Elkmont Campground Concessions has snack items, ice cream, and beverages. Smokemont Riding Stables has vending machines full of snacks and beverages.
- EpiPen If You Have an Allergy
In the fall, the park’s yellow jacket wasps are especially aggressive. If you have an allergy to wasps, pack an EpiPen (epinephrine injection) or other medications and have them with you at all times. Park officials urge you to remove your rings immediately if you are stung on your hand.
Make going for a hike on Clingman’s Dome, Mt. LeConte, or even a simple trail like Laurel Falls much more comfortable with a daypack. Place all your essentials like extra layers, extra snacks, a flashlight, binoculars, a whistle, and a simple first-aid kit in it.
- Water Bottles – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Combat the effects of the park’s summer heat by drinking water. Drinking water ensures you won’t get dehydrated, which can lead to headaches and more serious conditions like heat cramps and heat stroke. Plan to drink .5 -1 liter per hour of hiking.
- Clothing Layers
In the summer months, expect afternoon temperatures to climb into the 90s before cooling down in the evening in the 60s and 70s. Know that the higher you go, the cooler the temperatures with the 6,593-foot Mount Le Conte rarely getting over 80F during the day.
Be sure to pack light layers for daytime and others that will keep you warm in the evenings for when the sun sets and cooler air moves in. You will be surprised at how quickly temperatures drop as the sun sets.
- Want to see the Stars?
You’ll find some dark skies in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. With a star chart, you’ll be able to identify some of the formations you may never have seen before, especially if you are coming from an urban environment. Or use technology and download the SkyView® Free app for iPhone or Android, which enables you to identify stars and so on by pointing your phone at them. You may be able to see up to 15,000 stars in the park’s sky in comparison to 500 in an urban sky.
- Bug Spray
Spend more time enjoying the scenery instead of swatting bugs. If you don’t want to use strong chemicals, there are plenty of bug sprays available these days that are derived from natural ingredients and are safer for use by children.
Tip: If you forgot to spray, check out the campground office. We can hook you up!
- Sunglasses and Sunscreen
You only need to get one sunburn at altitude before you realize how strong the sun is, especially since Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s elevations range from 875 to 6,643 feet. Bring a wide-brimmed hat, which is preferable over a baseball cap, to cover your entire face.
Then, apply sunscreen over all exposed skin, including the back of your neck. Sunglasses will protect your eyes from being burned and polarized lenses will help you see views more clearly. Don’t forget you are a lot closer to the sun than at sea level.
- A Park Map
Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers a lot of ground. It can take hours to drive from one part of the park to another. It’s good to have a map. You can wait until a park ranger hands you a map at a visitor center, or you can plan and get your maps now. Download a free PDF map.