Elkmont Tennessee was established in 1908 by the Little River Lumber Company, as the base for it’s logging operations in the Little River and Jake’s Creek areas. The first permanent residents of what is now known as Elkmont, settled in the Jakes Creek area in the 1840s. The majority of residents began building homesteads around Little River, and the community became known by the same name.
Today, Elkmont is a popular and historic part of the The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A visit to Elkmont takes you back in time, with old houses, club houses, hotels, railroad grades, and more.
Elkmont began as a small community of settlers who built homes and gristmills along Little River and Jakes Creek in the mid 1800s. Shortly after, logging companies moved in and began logging operations. The largest of these became the Little River Logging Company, which set up a sawmill in Tuckaleechee Cove (now Townsend, TN) and then built a railroad all the way through Elkmont and up along Little River. In 1908, Elkmont was established as a station, to transfer logs from logging trains to traditional trains for transport down to Tuckaleechee Cove.
The Little River Logging Company and is associated Railroad, The Little River Railroad, where founded by Colonel W. B. Townsend.
In the early 1900s, Col. Townsend began advertising the area as a mountain get away, and even established a weekly “special” train to transport people there. A year later, some rich hunting and fishing enthusiasts built the Appalachian Club. The building still stands today at the end of “Daisy Town”. Daisy Town was the result of members of the Appalachian club buying property in the area, and building homes. The club involved into a mountain retreat for the wealthy in Knoxville, TN.
Today, the current campground is the site of the original “shanty” town of Elkmont (seen above) and “Daisy Town” still exists. You can walk down the main street past many of the old homes, and visit the Appalachian Club building at the end of the street.
Elkmont is also a great place to go hiking on the two main trails, Jake’s Creek Trail, and Little River Trail.
The largest attraction at Elkmont is “Daisy Town”, the original street and homes of the members of the Appalachian club were built here. While definitely showing it’s age, many of the original homes still stand. Some in better shape than others.
Due to rotting wood, and collapsing roofs, you are not allowed to enter the homes. But you can walk around them, look through the windows and doors and get a good perspective on early 1900s affluent life.
The General Park Management Plan states that many of the structures are be tore down, so that the forest can reclaim the land. However, 19 of the structures, including the Appalachian Club building are to be restored. These 19 structures are primarily in “Daisy Town”, and are the oldest structures in Elkmont, being built between 1910 and 1930. These include the Levi Trentham cabin, built in 1830 and the “Adamless Eden” children’s play house.
The Wonderland Hotel was built in 1912, and contained 50 rooms. The hotel had many balconies, and a good hillside location, so guests had premium views of the surrounding mountains.
Membership to the Appalachian Club was very exclusive, and many people were denied membership. As a result, rejected members got together, and purchased the hotel, along with land surrounding it. This became the Wonderland Club in 1919. Around 10 cottages were built by members on the property.
In 2005, the hotel structure collapsed due to a structural failure. The heavily damaged areas were removed, leaving only the main Annex and a chimney. The Annex later caught fire, and all that remains today is the chimney and foundation.
The hotel site is on the left along Elkmont Rd prior to reaching the campground. You’ll see a small parking area and an old road leading up to the top of a flat, wooded hill.
One of the big attractions to Elkmont is the Campground. Elkmont Campground is located on the site of the old Lumber Company mill and railroad transfer point.
Elkmont Campground is the largest campground within the bounds of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has 200 tent/rv sites with paved driveways and 20 walk-in tent sites. The campground is also the closest one to the city of Gatlinburg. Little River runs through the middle of the campground, providing numerous waterfront camping sites.
Elkmont Campground is also to many popular park attractions and hiking trails including:
The campground does have a small store, but everything you could ever need can be found in nearby Gatlinburg. A dump station is available across from the Sugarlands Visitor center.
Elkmont campground amenities include: Camp store, comfort station, fire rings at campsites, handicap access, ice, paved sites, picnic tables, tent pads, toilets, vending machines, drinking water
The campground is from mid March to late November, but please check the parks website for specific dates and availability. Fees range from $17 – $23 dollars a night depending on the site, and season.
Elkmont is a great place to go hiking, and has four primary hiking trails:
While not formally part of Elkmont, the trail is close enough that people consider it to be part of the Elkmont Area. Laurel Falls trail is a 1.3 mile hike down to Laurel Falls (making it a 2.6 mile round trip hike). The trail is paved, but often rough and uneven. As a result, the trail is considered moderate in difficulty.
This is a very popular trail, and the main parking lot is often full during the summer and fall. We recommend getting their early in the day (before 9am) or later in the afternoon.
Little River Trail runs alongside Little River up to Backcountry Campsite #30. The trail length is 4.9 miles to the campsite. Along the way you’ll hike alongside the beautiful Little River, see a small waterfall(Huskey Branch Falls – see below for more information), and cross an old railroad bridge.
The trail is a beautiful and popular trail, that follows the old Little Railroad grade up and into the Great Smoky Mountains.
Jake’s Creek trail begins near the history “Daisy Town” area of Elkmont. The trail initially follows an old road, where old Elkmont Appalachian Clubs still stand. The trail then transitions into an old railroad grade, that makes a steady climb up to campsite #27 at Jake’s Gap. From trailhead to Jake’s Gap is 3.4 miles, making for a 6.8 roundtrip hike.
Along the way, and just a little ways past the intersection of Jake’s Creek Trail and Meigs Mtn Trail is historic Avent Cabin, which is well worth a visit.
Many hikers elect to turn off and take Cucumber Gap Trail over to Little River Trail, then back to the Elkmont Parking lot.
This trail is a very easy guided trail from the Elkmont Campground. The trail is relatively flat, less than a mile long, and a loop. The trail teaches people how to read changing forest landscapes, and also points out traces of the old railroad that went through this area, and is now being retaken by the forest.
When doing this trail, we would highly recommend you purchase the guide brochure that discusses the 13 different points along the trail. The trail makes for a fun family walk and an educational experience for both children and adults.
Along both Little River Trail and Jake’s Creek trail are hundreds of small and beautiful waterfalls, like this one taken on Jake’s Creek. But there are two primary waterfalls that are taller, and recognized as the two “official” waterfalls in Elkmont:
Laurel Falls is one of the most visited waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Falls are located along Little River Road Road, the road the starts beside the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg. This is also the road you take to reach Elkmont and Cades Cove.
The 80 foot tall Laurel Falls is named after the Mountain Laurel, and there is plenty of it around the falls, and it blooms in May. The reach the falls, take Laurel Falls Trail. The trail is paved and is a 2.6 mile roundtrip hike.
Laurel Falls is divided in half by wooden walkway that crosses the falls at the base. The hike down to the falls takes about 2 hours, and is well worth it.
Husky Branch Falls is a small falls located along Little Little River Trail. The falls is a small 20 foot cascade that is literally right next to the trail. The water falls into Little River under the trail.
While nothing exiting, it is a nice scenic break while hiking up Little River trail.
Elkmont is located off Little River Road, which begins at the Sugarlands visitor. From the visitors center, follow Little River Road for 4.9 miles, and turn left onto Elkmont Road. You’ll see signs. On the way, you’ll pass the trailhead for Laurel Falls.