Blue Ridge Mountain Life contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of these Amazon links, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. See our Disclosure Policy for more information.

Elkmont – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Elkmont Tennessee was established in 1908 by the Little River Lumber Company, as the base for its 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 - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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.

Elkmont 1915

Elkmont 1915

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.

Elkmont Video

Here's our video of hiking up Little River Trail, exploring some of the home sites, and visiting Daisy town.  We even walk through some of the newly restored homes in Daisy Town.

Elkmont Daisy Town and Appalachian Club

Appalachian Club, Elkmont

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 its age, many of the original homes still stand.    The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is currently in the process of fully restoring the 19  homes in Daisy town.   A number of them are done, and many in progress.  These include the Levi Trentham cabin, built in 1830, the "Adamless Eden" children's play house, and the Appalachian Club.

Adamless Eden Playhouse

The homes that have completed renovations are open, and can be walked through.

Elkmont Wonderland Hotel

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.

Wonderland Hotel, Elkmont

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.  The old stairway leading up from the railroad is also still there, along the entry road.

Wonderland Hotel Stairs
Remains of the Wonderland Hotel Elkmont

Elkmont Campground

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 Hiking Trails

Little River Trail, Elkmont

Elkmont is a great place to go hiking, and has four primary hiking trails:

Laurel Falls Trail

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

Little River Trail Elkmont

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

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.

Avent Cabin on Jakes Creek Trail

Many hikers elect to turn off and take Cucumber Gap Trail over to Little River Trail, then back to the Elkmont Parking lot.

Elkmont Nature Trail

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.

Huskey Branch Falls

Huskey Branch Falls

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.

Directions to Elkmont

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.

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”47″ display=”masonry” ngg_triggers_display=”always”]

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}