We went camping during the recent heat wave (mid-late July) and it was such a relief to be up in the mountains. We had left 90+ degree weather, and it was 68 when we got up there in the afternoon.
The campground was maybe half-full. We had a little bit of a hard time figuring out which site to occupy, because if we camp too close to others, our dogs will have too much fun barking. The first site we chose was next to an empty site, but while we were hiking someone decided to occupy that site; there would have been no privacy whatsoever. So we moved to a different site that had woods on one side. There was a trail going into the woods that didn't necessarily seem human-made, and we had seen a lot of bear scat when we walked a couple of miles on the road nearby that goes to Cherokee (28 miles one way). However, we didn't have any contact with wildlife other than bugs -- there were bumble bees and flies in the morning; I was very relieved they weren't yellowjackets.
Even in the second campsite, it was difficult to feel like there was any privacy. This was a source of discomfort for me, as one reason I love camping is the opportunity to get away from much social interaction, and the quiet. I could hear someone snoring from a tent, in an adjacent campsite, and when I got up to relieve myself during the night I must have awakened the man next to us because shortly after that I heard him unzip his tent. For me, this all was kind of disquieting. There were few women camping while we were there, and this was maybe a slight source of discomfort as well. Know that anything you say or do will potentially be heard by others nearby -- bickering, laughing, etc. Because I felt uncomfortable emotionally / psychologically, I felt more physically uncomfortable -- the ground felt harder than it did the next night when we camped at a campground where I felt more relaxed overall.
So, be prepared for the possibility of very close quarters. If this is something that is hard for you to tolerate, this might not be the best place to stay. There were campsites we could have chosen that would have put more distance between us and other campers, but there is not much in the way of barriers between campsites (i.e. vegetative growth / trees).
The host was very nice. The bathrooms were pretty clean (take a light if you use a bathroom after dark, and something to wipe your hands on if you need it). I was not expecting running water or toilets, so that was nice.
The view of the stars was spectacular. The sky was very dark -- very little light pollution. It couldn't be a more beautiful area.
- Also Known As:
- Balsam Mountain Campground Hotel Great Smoky Mountains National Park