Elkmont, TN: History & Information

Elkmont, TN is an area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just above the Little River Valley in Sevier County. It was a pioneer Appalachian community in the early 1900s before the national park was established. Today it is mostly recognized as the location of one of the most popular park campgrounds as well as the site of an abandoned ghost town.

Elkmont Ghost Town

Because of this, the legislature to turn the Smokies into a National Park exempted Elkmont, allowing the owners of their cottages to obtain life time leases on their homes. A majority of the leases expired between 1992 and 2001, at which time ownership changed to the national park, when the buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Elkmont Ghost Town

The Wonderland Hotel

In 2005, the largest of these buildings, the Wonderland Hotel, collapsed due to structural failure and was cleared, with exception of parts that were deemed historic, which were removed. Only a chimney fall and the annex remain. In 2009 plans were announced to restore the historic clubhouse, as well as 18 of the remaining cottages to their previous state. The remainder of these buildings will be documented and carefully removed and placed outside the park.

History Of Elkmont TN

Some of the more affluent citizens of Knoxville held summer cottages in Elkmont, TN, one of these people was Willis P. Davis. After a visit to Yellowstone in 1920, Willis Davis began to suggest the idea of a national park in the area. Davis’s idea was heard by David C. Chapman, who put the idea into motion, lobbying along with business owners who saw the potential of a national park.

Elkmont Nomenclature

A former logging community, Elkmont TN is named for the elk who inhabitated the area years ago. Elk are slowly being released back into the area. After the trees were harvested, the logging community turned into a vacation resort, and was home to the Wonderland Hotel, which was put on the national register of historic places in 1994, along with several of the nearby rustic cottages.

Though Elkmont was home to the original national park movement, it was also home to the largest of the anti-park movements. Spearheaded by Jim Wright, an attourney for the Little River Logging Company, Wright and other businessmen preferred the Smokies become a national forest, through which a railroad could run, increasing the value of the land.

Where Is Elkmont?

Elkmont is located on a flat valley at the junction of Little River and Jakes Creek. Surrounded by steep ridges, the valley is shadowed by Meigs Mountain to the west and Sugarland Mountain to the east. To the south is Blanket Mountain and Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Smokies lay just beyond.

Google Maps

Elkmont Troll Bridge

About 100 feet into the Little River Trail from the Elkmont Campground is a small spur trail to the right. Travel down this unmarked walkway to find the Elkmont Troll Bridge, an old stone structure atop a small creek. The bridge is one of the original Elkmont area structures that, like most of the others, has become overtaken by nature.

Little River Trail

Elkmont is home to the largest and most popular frontcountry campground in the national park. In addition to its 200 standard tent and RV sites, it also has 20 walk-in sites and 9 ADA wheelchair accessible sites.

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