The Elkmont Historic District is a Spooky Smoky Mountains Ghost Town Destination
The Elkmont Historic District is a ghost town hidden away in plain sight of a national park.
But how does a ghost town can happen? And can you see it?
We’ll fill you in on all the details, including why you shouldn’t wait to see it.
Where Is the Elkmont Historic District?
The Elkmont Historic District is located six miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
What is the Elkmont Historic District?
The Elkmont Historic District came about when Little River Lumber Company installed a railroad in Tennessee to transport timber. In 1909, the train added service to Knoxville, and the town’s residents began traveling to Elkmont for vacation.
As a result, more homes and lodging options sprang up there.
The NPS established the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934 after the timber industry left the area. Unfortunately, the entire Elkmont Historic District was entirely inside the bounds of the new park.
The government offered buyouts to the residents and, soon after, demolished their homes. Owners of vacation homes negotiated extended leases, the latest of which expired in 2001.
Why Is Elkmont a Ghost Town?
Today, people consider Elkmont Historic District a ghost town because the park service left around 70 buildings to deteriorate as owners’ leases ran out. Now, there’s no one living in the District.
Can You Tour the Elkmont Historic District?
Yes. In 2009, the National Park Service decided to restore 19 buildings and demolish the rest. So far, 30 buildings have been razed and six restored buildings are open to the public for tours.
Visitors can’t enter the deteriorated cabins for safety reasons, but you can still see them from the outside if you visit before the NPS completes their demolition.
Best Hikes Near Elkmont
Cucumber Gap and Little River Loop
This loop is a 5.4-mile trek that goes right through the Elkmont Historic District, allowing hikers to stop for views of the old cabins. The trail is part pavement and part dirt. Dogs are not permitted because it’s within the national park.
This trail consists of two paths: one more difficult that goes through wooded areas and streams, and the other smooth and easy along a river.
Some reviewers said they went counterclockwise, starting with the more challenging path first.
Jakes Creek to Avent Cabin
Jakes Creek Trail is a 2.7-mile hike. It’s heavily trafficked and primarily good for hiking, seeing as it’s friendly to all skill levels. Again, the park doesn’t allow dogs on the trail.
A highlight of this hike is the Avent Cabin, the summer studio of artist Mayna Treanor Avent. The home was built in 1845, and Avent used it as her studio from 1920-1940. Inside the cabin, you’ll find a notebook full of laminated pages showing her work and biographical information.
There’s also a porch where hikers can take a break.
Best Camping Near Elkmont
The Elkmont Campground is an easy walk to the Elkmont Historic District, and it also provides access to the Cucumber Gap, Little River, and Jakes Creek trails.
The campground goes along the Little River, with some sites actually on the river, offering beautiful views and pleasant sounds of nature.
There are 220 gravel sites here, and tent camping is permitted. It’s open from May to November, and rates are around $15-$25 per night. RVs are limited to 35 feet, though. The Elkmont Campground currently has only port-a-potties and no dump station or threaded faucets.
The Greenbrier Campground offers 116 full hookup sites and tent camping, and the largest reported RV was 40 feet. There’s a little beach by the river, and the campground offers a trolley to Gatlinburg.
Reviews indicate that the restroom facilities are very clean, and some say the sites are narrow. Rates range from $66-$82, with the most expensive sites being on the river.
Is a Road Trip to the Elkmont Historic District Worth It?
The Elkmont Historic District captures an awkward moment in National Park History where a park drove people out. However, the remnants of old and restored Elkmont buildings, combined with the natural beauty of the park and trails, make for a memorable tableau.
So, yes, we think it’s worth a visit. But don’t wait too long, or the rest of the old cabins may be gone. Have you been to the Elkmont Historic District? Tell us about your experience!
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