You may have heard of Elkmont campground, one of the most frequently visited and used campgrounds in the Smoky Mountains, but did you know that just steps away from the campsites you'll find a real ghost town to explore? The Elkmont ghost town is an abandoned resort that still stands eerily in the mountains. Read on about this unique sight in the Smokies and plan to walk to abandoned resort paths on your next trip.
The History Of Elkmont Ghost Town
The Elkmont area has human use dated back to somewhere around 8,000 years ago. Euro-Americans settled into Elkmont in the 19th century and the area was primarily a logging community throughout the 19th and early 20th century. A community was built, complete with a railroad line, a school, church and plenty of homes.Elkmont Information
Elkmont transitioned into becoming part of the tourism industry in the early 1900s. Around 1910, the Little River Lumber Company who owned Elkmont TN sold some of the land to individuals who created the Appalachian Clubhouse. This property expanded to allow members to build vacation cottages, which happened alongside the construction of an additional property, The Wonderland Hotel.
The National Park was established in 1934 and following this, the NPS began purchasing land previously owned by the Little River Lumber Company. Eventually, the owners of the Elkmont cottages were asked to sell their land. In return, they received lifetime leases. Individuals who were within the National Park boundaries were forced to sell their land no matter what. Any leases that remained expired officially in 1992.
Elkmont Ghost Town
After the park service purchased the land and the leases expired, over 70 buildings stood in the park with nobody to maintain them. They began to deteriorate and turned into what is known as the "Elkmont Ghost Town" in the Smoky Mountains. The eerie feeling of exploring the remains of a once lively logging town is a unique experience that is hard to match in the mountains.
The original plan was for the NPS to remove all the cottages and structures to let the area return to its natural state. The National Register of Historic Places, however, placed many of the cottages on a protected list. This prevented many of the cottages from being torn down. As a result, many still stand abandoned today, with only a few of them being restored.Historic Places
In 2018, the National Park demolished some all but 19 of the buildings in Elkmont. The protected buildings that still stand will be preserved and restored to their previous states. They will be a great destination for visitors to explore someday, but in the meantime the area feels just like a ghost town, abandoned and left to fall apart. You can hike there and see for yourself.Elkmont Nature Trail
Of the remaining buildings, some of the most popular sights to explore are the Levi Trentham cabin that was already restored in 2017 and the Elkmont Troll Bridge. Visitors can still hike the Jakes Creek and Little River trails and find signs of previous cabins including chimneys, crumbled walls and more.