Last week I went on my first vacation since I started my current job this time last year. I decided to take the whole week off and spend it hiking and camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, similarly to my National Park Bonanza of July 2012, except in this case, I was all by my lonesome. On one hand, it would have been nice if one of my friends could have come with me, but no-one was free, plus it was nice to have some alone time, decompress and do whatever I felt like in the moment.
There are several different campgrounds in the Smokies, but I eventually chose to spend the week in Cades Cove. Not only is Cades Cove a beautiful (and incredibly popular) location (pictures to come in a subsequent post), but it’s near to some great hikes I knew I wanted to do. Also, they accept reservations, unlike some of the other sites, so I knew that with just a bit of simple planning, I’d be set for my trip.
The first thing I did upon finding my campsite was set up my new tent. Anyone who has read my post about camping in the Grand Canyon knows my last tent was destroyed by the wind and rain during an intense 6 hour storm. Since then, I’ve bought a new, slightly bigger tent (though not too much bigger since I have to be able to pitch it myself), and as the forecast for my vacation week called for a chance of rain, I made sure to secure my rain fly and stakes before moving on to anything else.
Overall, I was very pleased with the campground. There’s a store and shop for anyone who realizes a bit too late they forgot to pack something crucial; there’s another mini storefront that sells bags of ice, firewood (for ecological reasons, you either have to buy your firewood for them or collect fallen branches from the campground area), and they also have bike rentals, which I saw numerous families and individuals taking advantage of. Personally, I have very, very poor balance, so me renting a bike would most likely have ended in a trip to the ER (lol).
A couple additional things to know if you’re planning on making a trip to Cades Cove in the future:
- Due to bear activity in the Smokies, all food has to be kept in your car when you’re not actively eating it. The rangers are very strict about this and periodically make rounds throughout the campground to check for compliance.
- Each campsite also has a picnic table and a firepit area.
- Reservations are a must, especially if you’re planning on camping on the weekend in the summer and fall.
- The ice cream cones sold at the little Cades Cove shop are the perfect way to wrap up a long day of hiking 🙂