Can you travel without a car in the Smoky Mountains? Yes, you can. The Smoky Mountains offer paths and places for those who wish to explore without a car. This vast area is full of trees, mountains, and rivers, perfect for adventure.

I want to share some tips on how to enjoy camping in this beautiful place without a car. Follow this guide to make your trip easy and full of joy.

How to Reach the Smoky Mountains Without a Car

Camping in the Smoky Mountains Without a Car
Source: Flickr

Reaching the Smoky Mountains without a car involves careful planning and knowledge of available transportation options.

Bus to Nearby Cities

Traveling by bus is a cost-effective option. Services like Greyhound or Megabus offer routes to cities near the Smoky Mountains, such as Knoxville, Tennessee, and Asheville, North Carolina. Once you arrive in these cities, you’ll need to transition to local transport options to get closer to the park.

Shuttle Services

Dedicated shuttle services are a convenient bridge between major transportation hubs and the Smoky Mountains. These services often operate from nearby cities and airports, directly transporting visitors to the park or surrounding gateway towns like Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina. Booking in advance is necessary to secure your spot, especially during peak travel seasons.

Fly and Shuttle

For those coming from farther away, flying into airports near the Smoky Mountains, such as McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville or Asheville Regional Airport, and then using a shuttle service to the park is a viable option. These airports are serviced by major airlines, providing access from both domestic and international locations. Upon arrival, look for local shuttle services or arrange for a private shuttle to take you directly to the park or your accommodation near it.

Train to Nearby Cities

While direct train service to the Smoky Mountains is not available, you can travel by train to cities such as Knoxville or Asheville with Amtrak, and then use bus or shuttle services to reach the park. This option requires more planning regarding timing and connections.

Local Transit in Gateway Towns

Once you’re near the Smoky Mountains, towns like Gatlinburg and Cherokee offer local trolley or bus services that can take you closer to or directly into the park. These services are particularly useful for reaching trailheads, visitor centers, and campgrounds without a car.

Things to do in the Smoky Mountains Without a Car

Here are things you can do to make your visit memorable.

Hiking on Trails

The Smoky Mountains offer trails for every hiker, from easy walks to challenging hikes. You can wander through dense forests, discover hidden waterfalls, and marvel at panoramic mountain vistas. The Appalachian Trail, running through the park, provides some of the most breathtaking scenery. Each trail offers a chance to connect with nature at your own pace.

Join Guided Tours

Expert-led tours are available, offering deep dives into the park’s rich history, diverse wildlife, and unique plant life. These tours provide an educational dimension to your visit, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of the natural surroundings. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn from those who know the park best.


Across the park, numerous picnic spots offer a peaceful setting for a meal amidst nature. Conveniently located near visitor centers, these areas come equipped with tables and, in some cases, grills. Sharing a meal with the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountains is an experience in itself.

Wildlife Watching

The park’s vast wilderness is home to an array of wildlife, including deer, bears, and numerous bird species. Dawn and dusk are particularly active times for many animals, providing the best opportunities for sightings. It’s a chance to observe these creatures in their natural habitat.


Photographers, from beginners to professionals, will find the Smoky Mountains a paradise for capturing the beauty of the natural world. The golden hours of sunrise and sunset cast spectacular light on the landscapes. The changing seasons also offer varied backdrops for dynamic photography.


With minimal light pollution, the Smoky Mountains become a celestial observatory at night. Designated spots in the park offer unobstructed views of the night sky, where you can gaze at stars, planets, and the Milky Way on clear nights. It’s a serene way to end a day of exploration.

Visiting Historic Buildings

The park preserves several historic buildings, such as pioneer cabins, barns, and grist mills. These structures provide a window into the past, illustrating the daily lives of early Appalachian settlers. Walking through these historic sites allows you to step back in time and imagine life in the mountains centuries ago.


1. How to reach the Smoky Mountains without a car for camping?
Use buses or shuttles from cities like Knoxville or Asheville. Once near, catch park shuttles to campsites.

2. Best campsites in the Smoky Mountains for carless camping?
Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont are great for their accessibility and amenities.

3. Is a permit needed for camping?
Backcountry camping requires a permit. Front-country sites recommend reservations but don’t require permits.

4. How to store food safely from bears?
Use bear-proof boxes at campsites or hang food high on a tree away from your camp.

5. Essential packing list for carless camping in the Smokies?
Bring a tent, sleeping bag, water filter, first-aid kit, food, clothes for all weather, rain gear, and hiking boots.

Heading to Yosemite for camping but don’t have a car? No worries!

Yosemite National Park offers excellent public transportation options. Leave your vehicle behind and explore this natural wonder hassle-free.

Few ways to get to Yosemite for camping without a car:

  • YARTS buses from nearby towns
  • Private shuttle services
  • Tour packages including camping
  • Ridesharing options

YARTS bus system runs affordable routes to Yosemite from Merced, Mammoth Lakes, Sonora and other gateways. Buses go to major destinations inside park.

Park entrance, food storage, bear canisters – everything provided at Yosemite campsites. Just need to carry camping gear on the bus!

Don’t want to deal with public transit? Private shuttles available from airports like Fresno, Oakland directly to your campground. Or join a guided camping tour – transportation and gear provided.

Taking the YARTS Bus to Yosemite

YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System) runs affordable bus routes to Yosemite from multiple gateway cities like Merced, Mammoth Lakes, Sonora and more. Buses go directly to major destinations inside the park like Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows.

YARTS has space for camping gear! Park entrance, food storage lockers, bear-proof canisters – everything provided at Yosemite campsites. Just need to carry your camping equipment on the bus.

Key YARTS Routes:

  • Merced to Yosemite Valley (2 hours)
  • Mammoth Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows (1 hour)
  • Sonora to Yosemite Valley (2 hours)

Fares start around $25 for round-trip depending on origin city.

Private Camping Shuttles

Don’t want to deal with public transit schedules? Multiple private companies offer direct shuttle services from airports like Fresno, Oakland, San Francisco right to your reserved campground in Yosemite.

Hassle-free door-to-campsite transportation! Just provide your camping details. Shuttles have space for all your gear.

Example Shuttle Services:

  • Yosemite Pines Resort Shuttles
  • Yosemite Cabins Shuttles
  • Yosemite Resort Shuttles

Shuttle costs around $50-100 per person one-way depending on origin.

Guided Camping Tours

For a truly effortless experience, join a guided camping tour package to Yosemite! Transportation provided from origin cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles along with all camping gear and equipment.

Tours include camping nights at reserved campsites, guided hikes, park entrance fees and most meals. Expert guides ensure you have a memorable camping trip without any hassles.

Sample Tour Companies:

  • REI Adventures Yosemite Camping Tour
  • Incredible Adventures Yosemite Camping
  • Skyline Hiking & Camping Tours

Tour costs start from $500-800 for 3-4 day packages per person.

Ridesharing to Yosemite

For budget travelers, ridesharing apps offer a convenient and cost-effective way to catch a ride to Yosemite. Apps like Zebride connect you with locals headed into the park so you can split costs.

Ideal for solo travelers or small groups with camping gear that can fit in a car. Arrange pickup location near your home.

Estimated Rideshare Costs:

  • San Francisco to Yosemite: $25-40 per person
  • Los Angeles to Yosemite: $40-60 per person

Essential Camping Gear Checklist for Yosemite

Camping in Yosemite without a car means you need to carry all your gear on public transit, shuttles or rideshares. Here’s a checklist of must-have items for a hassle-free camping experience:

Camping Basics:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag & pad
  • Camp stove & fuel
  • Cooler for food
  • Camping chairs
  • Headlamps/flashlights


  • Warm layers (nights get cold)
  • Rain jacket
  • Hiking boots
  • Sun hat & sunglasses

Cooking Supplies:

  • Utensils, plates, cups
  • Camping stove & fuel
  • Water bottles
  • Cooler with ice packs

Hygiene Items:

  • Toiletries & shower items
  • Toilet paper & trowel
  • Sunscreen & insect repellent

Safety Gear:

  • Map & compass
  • Bear spray (required)
  • First aid kit


  • Camera
  • Camping games/entertainment
  • Campfire wood (purchase outside park)

Remember, everything you bring must be carried! Pack minimally but ensure you have all camping essentials covered, especially bear-proof food storage. Rental options available in park for some gear.

Camping is a wonderful thing to do. You can breathe fresh air, see stars in the night sky, and listen to the sound of trees and birds. It is very different from the busy city life in NYC, with its tall buildings, loud sounds, and bright lights.

But how can you go camping without a car? You might think that it’s hard, but it’s actually not. You can still have a great camping adventure without needing to drive.

In this article, I will show you some of the best places near NYC where you can go camping without a car.

1. Harriman State Park

source – image

How to reach Harriman State Park

You can easily get to Harriman State Park by taking a train from Penn Station in NYC to the Tuxedo or Sloatsburg station. The park is just a short walk from these stations.

Best things to do in Harriman State Park

Harriman State Park is home to over 200 miles of hiking trails, offering an ideal opportunity for nature lovers to explore. You can enjoy a quiet picnic by its lakes, go for a swim, or take part in bird watching. The park also allows overnight camping, so pack your tent and prepare for a peaceful night under the stars.

Camping Places Near Harriman State Park

The park is home to multiple camping options, with more than 200 miles of hiking trails. You can find both lean-tos (three-sided shelters) and designated backcountry camping areas within the park.


Harriman State Park boasts over 200 miles of trails. Trails like the Appalachian Trail and Long Path pass through the park. Other popular hikes include trails to landmarks like Lake Skannatati and Bald Rocks.


The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bears, eastern box turtles, and over 200 species of birds.

2. Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Campground

Source – Flickr

How to reach Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Campground

To reach Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Campground, take the Metro-North train from Grand Central Station to Beacon. The campground offers a shuttle service from the station to the site.

Best things to do in Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Campground

This is a unique camping destination where the staff transports your gear to your site, leaving you to enjoy a leisurely hike. It provides everything you need for camping including tents, firewood, and cooking gear – you only need to bring food and drinks. Enjoy the hiking trails, barbecue at your site, or just sit back and watch the beautiful sunset over the mountains.

Camping Near Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Campground

The campground offers a range of options, from basic tent sites to platforms and lean-tos. For those who want a bit more comfort, they also have a cabin available. If you don’t have camping gear, no problem! The campground can provide all the necessary equipment. You just need to bring your sleeping bag.


There are several beautiful hiking trails that you can explore from the campground. The trails range in difficulty from moderate to difficult. This offers something for every type of hiker, whether you are a beginner or an experienced trekker.


The campground provides amenities such as clean restrooms, a communal cooking area, fire pits, picnic tables, and a shuttle service to and from the train station. They also have an on-site store where you can purchase camping supplies and food.

3. Sebago Cabin Camp in Harriman State Park

How to reach Sebago Cabin Camp

Just like the general Harriman State Park area, you can reach the Sebago Cabin Camp via the train to Tuxedo or Sloatsburg station, followed by a short taxi ride.

Best things to do in Sebago Cabin Camp

Sebago Cabin Camp provides a more comfortable camping experience, with furnished cabins, a stove, a fridge, and even a bathroom with showers. You can take advantage of the nearby lake for fishing or boating, go hiking in the surrounding woods, or just relax and enjoy the tranquility.


Sebago Cabin Camp offers rustic cabin rentals rather than tent camping sites. These cabins are equipped with beds, a stove, and a refrigerator. They can accommodate four to six people, making it ideal for family or group trips.

Hiking and Other Activities

The park features over 200 miles of hiking trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail. There are also two beaches, numerous fishing spots, and a boat launch on Lake Sebago. Winter visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing or ice fishing.


Each cabin area has a centrally located bathroom with showers. There is also a camp store that sells basic camping supplies and groceries.

4. Cheesequake State Park, New Jersey

The park spans over 1,600 acres of varied terrain, from saltwater marshes to a hardwood forest.

How to reach Cheesequake State Park: Take the 133 NJ Transit Bus from Port Authority Station to the GSP Exit 120 Park & Ride. From there, hike 1.5 miles to the campground.

Camping Areas Near Cheesequake State Park

Cheesequake State Park offers 53 tent and RV sites, each with fire rings and picnic tables. Cabins and group campsites might be available depending on the time of year and COVID-19 restrictions, so it’s best to check in advance.

Hiking and Other Activities

Cheesequake boasts five marked trails for hiking and mountain biking, a nature center, a lake for fishing, and a beach for swimming. Its diverse habitats make it a unique location for birdwatching.


Showers and bathrooms are available and are within walking distance of the campsites. There are also picnic areas with grills.

5. Croton Point Park, Westchester County

How to reach Croton Point Park: Take Metro North to the Croton-Harmon stop.

Camping Areas Near Croton Point Park

The park offers cabins and tent sites for rent on a nightly basis. Nightly cabin rental rates start at $65, while nightly campsite rentals start at $30. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is limited availability for RV and tent campers, so it’s best to call ahead and confirm space before you make the journey.

Hiking and Other Activities

Activities at the park include hiking trails, a beach, fishing and boat launches, playing fields, and picnic areas. If you are into bird watching, the park is a part of the Hudson River Flyway.

6. Harriman State Park

How to reach Harriman State Park: Take New Jersey Transit to the Tuxedo or Harriman stops.

Best Things to Do in Harriman State Park

The park offers something for everyone. You can hike the many trails or enjoy a day of fishing. For those who love water sports, there are lakes for boating and swimming. During winter, the park also offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. One of the park’s highlights is Island Pond and Lake Skenonto – make sure you pick a clear day to set aside for hiking these trails.

Camping Areas Near Harriman State Park

There are plenty of great spots to camp overnight inside Harriman State Park, but your best bets are the Tom Jones lean-to or Bald Rocks. Campers are currently still able to pitch a tent using their own gear within 300 feet of the park shelters. Just remember to keep your distance from other visitors!

7. Mills Norrie State Park

How to reach: Take Metro North to Poughkeepsie and grab a 15-minute cab from the station.

Camping Areas Near Mills Norrie State Park

Mills Norrie State Park boasts 47 sites for tents and 10 cabins available to rent, nestled in the beautiful woodland setting. The campground is currently open and accepting visitors, but reservations are required—no walk-ins will be accommodated, due to new COVID-19 protocols.

Best Things to Do in Mills Norrie State Park

The park offers many activities like hiking, cycling, skiing, and snowshoeing. If you’ve brought your boat, you can take advantage of the lake access from the campground. The park is also just five minutes from the historic Vanderbilt Estates and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s previous home if you’re interested in local history.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, pick your favorite park, hop on a bus or train, and lose yourself in the beauty of nature. Remember, adventure is just a ride away!