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Old 08-03-2015, 12:02 PM   #1
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Rockingham , North Carolina
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Question Any dispersed camping areas in Smoky Mtns, or SE in general? NC/Tenn/VA/SC...

We are planning to buy our first Airstream soon and this style of camping really appeals to us. But what little I have read points me to BLM lands of which primarily appear to be most plentiful in other parts of US. I've heard generic references to primitive camping on private lands, but none specific to our part of the country.

We live in south central NC and primarily intend to use our camper in the Smoky Mtns of NC and Tenn. We would love to do some off grid camping but we're greener than grass. Knowing up front if we have any Boondocking options will not only effect the size Airstream we buy, but also options such as solar.

Thanks for any suggestions you may have.


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Old 08-03-2015, 01:09 PM   #2
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I think all of the campgrounds in the NP are "dry camping". There is a nice forest service campground in the Tsali area on Fontana Lake between Bryson City, NC and the dam and it is also dry camping ( recreation area details - Tsali Recreation Area -

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Old 08-03-2015, 07:13 PM   #3
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Rockingham , North Carolina
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Thanks. I'm familiar with that area, having Mtn biked Tsali, but not seen the campground.

I'm particularly interested in areas I can primitive camp, boondock, that are not in campgrounds.


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Old 08-03-2015, 07:58 PM   #4
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Not much for trailers and RV's on the east coast. Most of it is developed. Sadly, and the dry camping is within the NP's and is usually pay. I assumed you're looking for straight up free camping.
Family of 5 exploring the USA with a Ram Power Wagon & Airstream in tow.
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Old 08-03-2015, 08:55 PM   #5
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I want what you have. Just in 3-5 day spurts

Guess I'm on wrong side of Mississippi.

We usually tent camp in primitive sites here in Smokies. We float remote rivers unguided in our whitewater rafts in arctic and SW Alaska 80-130 miles each fall. It appears with the Airstream I'm going to have to buy a joke book and brush up on my conversation skills.

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Old 08-04-2015, 10:55 AM   #6
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You'd like Element Campground in the Smokies. Go to the Sugarland Welcome center, turn there and you'll come to Element in 3 or 4 miles.
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Old 08-04-2015, 11:12 AM   #7
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Elkmont, about 5 miles west from Sugarlands visitor center on Little River Road is our favorite Smokies campground, we have tent-camped there since the 70's and replaced with 19' Airstream last 3 years (including 8" snow last Nov). Stream runs thru the middle of the campground. It is dry and no electric, but you can recharge your batteries with a generator from 8AM to 8 or 10 pm, not sure which. Pick a site (make reservations) near a restroom and bring a 5 gal water container to fill your tank. We have gone for a week on several occasions before our black & gray tanks were full. Pretend you are tent camping and it should work fine. It's not back-country, but it's a nice East coast getaway. Check it out on Google Earth...
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Old 08-04-2015, 02:16 PM   #8
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Thanks guys. I've tent camped in Elkmont and Smokemont since I was 3. Those are nice campgrounds by my standards. I have never, nor will never, go to an RV 'park'.

What I'm wanting is a long meandering secondary dirt/gravel road that makes you question your judgement in turning off the black top.

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Old 08-04-2015, 04:20 PM   #9
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I think camping is still allowed "anywhere" in National Forests. There may be a "100 foot from the road" rule but I doubt that's often enforced. In Wisconsin there are Forest logging "roads"--dirt, no gravel--that sound like what you a looking for BUT getting turned around at a dead end could be more than a challenge if towing more then 1,000 lbs, and even that could be iffy.

One of the features of the BLM lands in the west is that they often have few trees to get in your way.

Not to be heretical here but an "off road" pop-up camper might meet your desires better. At least you would have a chance of getting it turned around in a tight spot.
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Old 08-04-2015, 04:29 PM   #10
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Getting stuck and not being able to turn around wouldn't be likely as I would snoop on Google Earth at house, print screenshot, and hike road on foot first with wife at wheel and 2-way if it was that iffy.

And if the inevitable did happen, it's what my dad would call a character building moment. Dumb as I may be, I'm all stocked up on character. Hah.


"The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask."

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Old 08-04-2015, 04:47 PM   #11
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SIze of camper

For the style of camping you want to do, You probably want to keep the length of your trailer shorter. We had a 25 ft Safari and it was relatively easy to get in and out of places compared to our 30 Ft flying cloud. A 22 or 23 foot model would probably be optimum allowing you to sleep on a bed and leave the dinette up all the time. Lighter weight and easy to tow.

The smaller trailers have smaller holding tanks, so you need to get some 5 gallon water jugs and a waste tank that you can take to the dump when you get your trailer tanks are full. About 3 or 4 days was all my wife and I could do in the 25 footer before we ran out of water or space in a holding tank .

A small generator of 2000 watts or solar panels of the same wattage will allow you to replenish your electricity. If you go with a generator, spend more and get a quiet one that is approved for use in the forest. You and your neighbors will be glad you did. At that wattage, don't plan on running the air conditioner but you can run your microwave, toaster, hair dryer, Just not all at the same time.

Also spend the money to get the best batteries you can which will last longer and go through more charge/discharge cycles.

Plenty of threads on solar power and batteries on this forum.

Good luck and have fun living riveted!
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Old 08-04-2015, 05:43 PM   #12
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Thanks Jim. We appreciate your interest in our success.


"The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask."

- Nancy Newhall
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Old 08-04-2015, 07:41 PM   #13
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Last week we camped in the Cades Cove campground in the National Park. There were no hookups, but it was a very nice campground. However, I do not recommend towing a camper on the Cades Cove Loop. Found out the hard way it's very narrow, curvy, steep, and the pullouts are too short. Saw 4 bears on the Loop, however, which made the difficulty worth it.
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Old 08-04-2015, 07:57 PM   #14
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We have tent camped extensively in Pisgah Nat. Forest. There are numbers of roads you can explore between Brevard and Waynesville but I suggest you do your exploring while camped at Davidson River Campground near the Ranger station. In particular, if you drive from the town of Pisgah toward Waynesville there is a road to the right a little ways (maybe a mile or two) past Pink Beds Picnic Area you might want to explore. Several miles in from the paved highway, there are areas where you could dry camp in your A/S. It's been a couple of years since we've been back there, the road was a bit rough in places but not damaging if you take it easy. As I recall, at the end of the road there are the ruins of an old dam which was apparently used to supply water to a sawmill during the old lumbering days there. To get to this part of Pisgah, take US Hwy 64 west out of Hendersonville to Pisgah. I think the hwy number changes to 256 between Pisgah and Waynesville.

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