Cherokee National Forest

Camping - Northern District
Backbone Trail (U.S. National Forest Campground Guide)
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Most developed campgrounds are open from late spring through fall on the Cherokee National Forest. Most camping is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some group camping areas can be reserved in advance by contacting the appropriate district ranger's office. In developed campgrounds, most campsites include parking, tent or trailer space, fireplace, table, and lantern post. Water hydrants and sanitation facilities are within a reasonable distance of each unit. Campgrounds have a stay limit of 14 days unless otherwise noted. A few campgrounds have electrical hookups. Look for the fee and information board near the campground entrance where the fee amount and pay procedures are posted. For those who prefer camping without developed amenities, primitive camping (camping outside designated areas) is permitted throughout the Cherokee National Forest unless posted.

Most facilities have fees. Call ahead for current information.

Watauga Ranger District

Backbone Rock: The "Shortest Tunnel in the World" is a major feature of the campground. Wading in Beaverdam Creek. Excellent hiking is available including a steep walk up to and over the tunnel. Backbone Rock Trail (2.4 miles) connects to the Appalachian Trail.

Eleven tent/RV sites. Flush toilets, no hot showers. Two water spigots, not threaded. Directions: In Shady Valley, Tennessee, take State Rt. 133 north 9.8 miles to Backbone Recreation Area entrance. Turn left into campground.

Cardens Bluff: Campground is on a bluff; some sites overlook 6,430-acre Watauga Lake. Boat ramp one mile west of campground on U.S. 321. Area is heavily wooded. Cardens Bluff Trail for hiking and biking: 0.7 miles.

36 tent sites; six tent/RV sites. Flush toilets, no hot showers. Six water spigots. No RV hookups. Directions: In Hampton, Tennessee, take U.S. Rt. 321 south/State Rt. 67 east 4.1 miles to Cardens Bluff sign. Turn left at sign into campground.

Jacobs Creek: Campground is located adjacent to South Holston Lake, 7,580 acres. Beach is large and grassy. Most water sports are possible on the lake. Jacobs Trail for hiking and biking: 0.3 miles. Boats can be moored near some sites.

27 tent/RV sites. No RV hookups. Flush toilets, hot showers, three spigots. Directions: From Bristol, Tennessee, take US Rt. 421 east 12.5 miles to Jacobs Creek Recreation Area sign (Denton Val Rd.). Turn left onto Denton Val Rd. and go 1.6 miles to another Jacobs Creek Recreation Area sign (Jacobs Creek Rd.). Bear left onto Jacobs Creek Rd. and go 0.9 miles to campground.

Little Oak: Most sites overlook or are adjacent to 7,580-acre South Holston Lake. Boats can be tied up near some sites. There is a fish-cleaning hut located at the boat ramp.

70 tent/RV sites. Flush toilets, hot showers. Hiking on Little Oak Mountain Trail, 1.4 miles, and Little Oak Trail (foot and bike), 1.4 miles. Directions: From Bristol, TN, take US Highway 421 east 12.5 miles to Little Oak Recreation Area sign (Camp Tom Howard Rd.). Turn right onto Camp Tom Howard Rd. and go 6.6 miles to Little Oak campground sign. Continue straight past sign onto Forest Rt. 87G for 1.6 miles into campground.

Low Gap: Tent and RV sites, toilets, handicapped accessible. Directions: Take Tennessee 91 north from Elizabethton for seven miles. Turn left on FS Road 56 for four miles. Take left fork onto FS Road 202 for three miles.

Nolichucky-Unaka Ranger District

Dennis Cove: Tent/RV sites, water spigots, toilets. Directions: Take U.S. 321 south from Elizabethton to Hampton; turn left on U.S. 321 south at Hampton. Turn right off U.S. 321 south at FS Road 50 for five miles.

Horse Creek: Hiking trail. Tent/RV sites, water spigots, toilets, handicapped accessible. Directions: Take U.S. 11 East Bypass from Greeneville; turn right on Tennessee 107 for six miles. Following signs to Horse Creek, turn right on FS Road 94.

Houston Valley: Tent/RV sites, water spigots, toilets, handicapped accessible. Directions: Take U.S. 25-70 east from Newport for 12 miles. Turn left on Tennessee 107 for four miles.

Old Forge: Fishing, hiking. Tent/RV sites, water spigots, toilets, handicapped accessible. Directions: Take U.S. 11 East Bypass from Greeneville. Turn right on Tennessee 107 for six miles. Following signs to Horse Creek, turn right on FS Road 94. Turn right at Horse Creek on FS Road 331 for three miles.

Paint Creek: Fishing, hiking. Tent/RV sites, water spigots, toilets, handicapped accessible. Directions: Take U.S. 25-70 east from Newport for 12 miles. Following Paint Creek signs, turn left on Tennessee 107 for 10 miles. Turn right on FS Road 31; bear right at fork for two miles.

Rock Creek: Fishing, hiking. Tent/RV sites, water spigots, toilets, dump station, hot showers, handicapped accessible. Directions: Take Rock Creek Road east from Main Street, Erwin for three miles.

Round Mountain: Hiking. Tent/RV sites, water spigots, toilets, handicapped accessible. Directions: Take U.S. 11 East Bypass from Greeneville. Turn right on Tennessee 107 for six miles. Following signs to Horse Creek, turn right on FS Road 331 for four miles to intersection with FS Road 88. Bear left at Intersection.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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