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.