Ten Popular Picnic Areas in
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the best location in the southeastern United States for outdoor adventure.
Visitors to the park can choose from 150 trails to hike. You can drive several auto tours or bike through Cades Cove or on several trails. Guests may participate in scores of educational activities, fish in 800 miles of rivers, ride horses, and more.
What you cannot do inside the 817 square miles of the park is eat in a restaurant. There are no restaurants located inside the park.
Never fear! You don’t need to go hungry while in the park. A good old-fashioned picnic is the answer. Picnicking in the park is not only allowed, it is encouraged.
The National Park Service wants you to spend time in the park without running back and forth to the city for meals. To facilitate picnicking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, they built ten popular picnic areas.
Technically, you may picnic anywhere inside the park. However, you may cook ONLY in the designated picnic areas.
Picnic Areas Amenities
The ten popular picnic areas inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park provide parking, heavy-duty charcoal grills, picnic tables, trashcans, and most provide restrooms. Six of the picnic areas have large pavilions that are available by reservation.
Year Round Picnic Areas
These four picnic areas are open year round: Metcalf Bottoms, Cades Cove, Deep Creek, and Greenbrier.
Seasonal Picnic Areas
Six picnic areas are closed during the winter months: Big Creek, Chimneys, Collins Creek, Cosby, Heintooga, and Twin Creeks.
NOTE: Look Rock Picnic Area is closed until further notice so we did not included it on our list. As soon as we hear anything about it reopening we will post it here.
Picnic Area Rules
- You may build fires ONLY in grills provided at the picnic area. No ground fires.
- You must use charcoal for grill fires, no wood.
- If a fire ring is provided, you may build a fire using approved wood only.
- Picnic tables and grills are free to use at picnic sites.
- There is a fee for using pavilions in the picnic areas (see each picnic area for details).
- Pavilions require a reservation and may be reserved up to one year in advance at Recreation.gov or by calling 800-365-2267.
- Dogs are welcome at some of the picnic areas. They must be on a leash at all times and never left alone. Paws in the Park Pet Policy
- Leave No Trace – be sure to clean your picnic area well when you are finished eating. Clean the grill, the picnic table, and the ground in your immediate area.
- Pack and take uneaten food with you or place it in the bear-proof trash containers provided. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear!
Ten Popular Picnic Areas
1. Cades Cove Picnic Area
Cades Cove Picnic Area is in a great location with 81 picnic tables and grills. Restrooms and potable water provided. Enjoy the creeks on both sides of the picnic grounds before hiking or driving through Cades Cove.
2. Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area
Metcalf Bottom Picnic Area is a popular place due to its proximity to great hiking trails, a river, historic buildings, restrooms, pavilions, and plenty of picnic tables.
3. Twin Creeks Picnic Pavilion
Twin Creeks Picnic Pavilion is the largest covered pavilion in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located near Gatlinburg, you can be standing at the grill in under 10 minutes. Seats 150, restrooms, electricity, and potable water. No individual picnic sites!
4. Chimneys Picnic Area
Chimneys Picnic Area is a fantastic place to grill, walk a short 0.8-mile nature trail, and hang out next to the West Prong Little Pigeon River. Just 4.4 miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center.
5. Deep Creek Picnic Area
Deep Creek Picnic area is popular for guests visiting Maggie Valley, Cherokee, or Bryson City, North Carolina. Nearby hiking trails and a thriving tubing community make this a family favorite. Deep Creek Campground is a great place to stay when in the area.
6. Greenbrier Picnic Area
Greenbrier Picnic Area is less than 10 miles from Gatlinburg. Even so, it is in the middle of a lush forest with beautiful trees and wildflowers. Twelve tables and grills. Nearby trails. Pavilion for 70 people with a stone fireplace.
7. Collins Creek Picnic Area
Collins Creek Picnic Area is a great place to relax, fish for rainbow trout, or have a large group picnic under the pavilion. The largest picnic area in the park featuring 182 picnic sites next to Collins Creek. Restrooms and potable water.
8. Cosby Picnic Area
Cosby Picnic Area is a wonderful secluded spot to enjoy Great Smoky Mountains National Park at its best. Although the Cosby Campground is next door, this picnic area is normally not crowded. Cosby Picnic Area has 35 picnic sites and a pavilion that seats 55 persons.
9. Heintooga Picnic Area at Balsam Mountain
Heintooga Picnic Area at Balsam Mountain near Maggie Valley, NC has one of the most beautiful mountain views anywhere. It has 41 picnic sites with grills, restrooms, and running water. No pavilion. Open May to October.
10. Big Creek Picnic Area
Big Creek Picnic Area is a the smallest picnic site in the park. It is located near the Big Creek Campground and Big Creek Horse Camp in Waynesville, NC. This picnic area provides 10 picnic sites with grills and tables.