Trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Look Rock Campground

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Well-known member
Oct 6, 2017
50 miles south of Atlanta, GA
Well, my travel buddy Steve was able to get a few days off work, so he was looking for some place to go. I suggested Look Rock Campground in the GSMNP as it has been closed for 9 years supposedly due to water system issues, and they spent over $4mil to put in a new water system, ten electric sites, and repave everything plus refurbish the three restrooms.

We left home on Sunday Oct 30. I went up I-85 and 285 on the west side of Atlanta to get to I-75 north. While a little longer I had decided to go thru Chattanooga to make better time than on US 411. My buddy lives way east of me so he came thru downtown on the 75/85 connector. We had not talked that morning but somewhere around Adairsville he called me and asked where I was. Turns out he was about a mile behind me, and we agreed to stop and get fuel and food at Buckee's off exit 310 on the south side of Calhoun. His newer 6.7L Cummins is somewhat thirstier than my old 5.9L commonrail motor.

The Love's across the road from Buckee's was deserted except for the semis and commercial stuff (which Buckee's does not allow in). After eating, we headed out and it was 155 miles to the campground. From US 129 at the south end of the Foothills Parkway, it is about 6 miles of steady uphill grade. The campground is about 7 miles or a little more up the parkway.

Arrived and checked in with the very nice host and discovered the map of the campground has at least one (mine) of the sites mis located. I thought I would be across from Steve but the site was actually on the outside of the loop. The numbering conforms to an old 2011 map I was given, seems that the website got it wrong.

We got backed in and set up. Set up was a chore as the sites had a lot of slope, Steve had so much that he had to first level the trailer with wedges then ran out of tongue jack but figured out how to set it down and raise the jack and put in more wood blocks that I had stored away.

We erected my 10x10 fast up cheapie canopy and put my patio mat on the tent pad and set the canopy on it. Steve had solid side panels and installed 3 of them and they were a Godsend for keeping the wind and leaves out.

Rain most of the night Sunday night but was nice weather after that. Monday we drove to Townsend and into Cades Cove and drove the loop and then did a drive thru of Cades Cove campground.

The next day we went back to Townsend but went north on the Little River Gorge Road along the Little River and did a drive thru of Elkmont campground, and proceeded to the Sugarlands visitor center. On the return we picked up the parkway right at the end of it, which is in a small isolated community of Wears Valley, where we stopped to eat some pretty good Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches at the Bigfoot Philly Cheesesteaks diner.

On Wednesday we stayed at the campground and hiked a short distance to the Look Rock observation tower. After an early dinner, we did a teardown of the canopy, tables, chairs and such, getting most all of the stuff packed away. In the afternoon, a group of 20 or so very nice 1940's and 50's rods, customs and restored cars and trucks stopped at the campground to take a restroom break (the day use area is still closed off) so we got to enjoy a nice slow drive thru of the very nice rods and customs .

As the sites were all $25 this short season (campground closes on Nov 14th and has only been open since sometime in September) I ran an extension cord from the power site across the street to top off my battery while we were gone hiking Wednesday. Next year all non power sites will be $30 and power sites will be $36.

On the return trip, we took US411 south which is divided 4 lane to the US 74 intersection at Ocoee, and then decent two lane after that. We angled over to I-75 and drove about ten miles on it back to the Buckee's (there is a theme going here) Fueled and then went our separate ways, as I took US27 down the west side of the state to avoid Atlanta. Steve went straight down I-75 on the downtown connector using the HOV lane and had smooth sailing home.

Look Rock Campground is not suited to large campers. There are a few deep sites but most are short or simply rounded pull offs that are large enough for a camper van or a small tow vehicle with a teardrop, casita or similar.

The leaf peeping was perfect, as by Wednesday, everything was browning out, but on Monday and Tuesday, the colors were perfect. On previous visits we had only seen one bear, but this time we saw a number of them, mostly in Cades Cove.

My biggest complaint is that the fools who drive US 129 "tail of the dragon" think its ok to come racing up the parkway at rather high speeds on their loud motorcycles or ricers or whatever they happen to be driving. The speed limit is 25 in places and 45 over a lot of it, and the Rangers could stand to do some serious enforcement. The park could benefit from the payment of some hefty fines by these annoying people. It goes on all hours of the day and night.



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  • Look Rock GSMNP sites 44 and 45.jpg
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  • Overlook view from the parkway.jpg
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  • Momma bear digging in the leaves while the cub ran around on the other side of the road, Cades...jpg
    Momma bear digging in the leaves while the cub ran around on the other side of the road, Cades...jpg
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  • Little River between Townsend and Elkmont.jpg
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  • Another overlook view.jpg
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  • Look Rock observation tower.jpg
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  • View south from Look Rock Tower.jpg
    View south from Look Rock Tower.jpg
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Well-known member
Nov 1, 2017
Always a good trip when you see bear. Thanks for the pics. I have a daughter in Suwanee GA, sounds like close to you. She hikes all your wonderful state parks and came across a black bear family last weekend jogging.

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