Cherokee National Forest

Learn about camping and boondocking at Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee

Where to Camp for Free in Cherokee National Forest

Where to Camp for Free in Cherokee National Forest


Cherokee National Forest offers many places where you can camp for free. Tennessee’s most popular national forest is filled with dispersed camping areas, boondocking sites, and free campgrounds. If you want to camp for free in Cherokee National Forest, you’re in luck…

cherokee national forest
Overlooking Parksville Lake, Cherokee National Forest

Where to Camp for Free in Cherokee National Forest

Places we’ve listed below were selected based on our own experiences camping there, and based on popularity with other boondockers…

Tumbling Creek Campground

(GPS 35.01703, -84.46642) – Ocoee Ranger District – This is a “primitive” campground with up to eight (8) sites, first-come, first-serve. Most of these sites are suitable for small RVs, vans, and cars. The first couple of sites however will offer enough space for medium-sized RVs and trailers to turn around. The campground sits on the banks of Tumbling Creek, and during the Spring and early Summer you can enjoy the sounds of rushing water.

Lost Creek Campground

(GPS 35.15913, -84.46904) – Ocoee Ranger District – Another free, primitive campground with about ten (10) sites total. The road into this campground is dirt, and can be quite bumpy. Still, it’s suitable for 2WD vehicles, and it’s common to see folks towing small to medium sized trailers into here. Large trailers may have trouble getting into here. This campground can get busy at times, so its hit-or-miss if you’ll find peace here. The campground sits on the banks of Lost Creek, right at the confluence of Mary Branch, and deep into a canyon. There’s no cellular data here as a result.

Big Creek Campground

(GPS 35.04634, -84.54360) – Ocoee Ranger District – While this is an official Cherokee National Forest campground, it’s not listed on their website. There are about seven (7) sites along the creek. Some sites are small, but there are others large enough for medium sized trailers. The road in is very bumpy. The campground is in the bottom of a canyon, where Big Creek, Pace Branch and Peter Camp Branch, all come together. There’s no cellular data here. Read reviews of Big Creek Campground on FreeCampsites.

Sourwood Camping Area

(GPS 35.29414, -84.11177) – Tellico Ranger District – Located just south of the hamlet of Green Cove, along River Road (FR 210) this is a designated dispersed camping area that can accommodate three to four camps at best. It’s suitable only for small RVs, vans, and cars. Medium to large RVs would be too cramped in here. Otherwise, you’re camped right along the banks of the Tellico River.

Citico Road

(GPS 35.42882, -84.10620) – Tellico Ranger District – Citico Road (FR 35-1) parallels Citico Creek and along this path you’ll find dozens of clearings where you can pull into and set up camp. Don’t be fooled by the handful of developed campgrounds along Citico Road, these are not free. But anywhere outside of these campgrounds is open for dispersed camping. Many of the sites are right along the river bank. Some are large enough for full sized RVs, but the majority will be suitable for small RVs, vans, and cars. There are places where the road gets very bumpy. Read reviews of Citico Road on FreeCampsites.

Weavers Bend

(GPS 35.93234, -82.90543) – Unaka Ranger District – Weavers Bend is a sharp bend in the French Broad River. The bend creates a peninsula called “Weavers Bend”. Forest Roads (FR 209C, FR 209CA, and FR 209CB) are all named “Weavers Bend Rd”, and make up a popular dispersed camping area. The peninsula area itself has several riverside campsites, but the road on the north side of the railroad tracks also has several campsites too. Read more about Weavers Bend on FreeCampsites.

Paint Creek Corridor

(GPS 35.95087, -82.89217) – Unaka Ranger District – Forest Road 41 (aka Paint Creek Corridor) is a single-lane, paved road offering a scenic view of Paint Creek. There are a handful of free campsites along a five-mile stretch between Paint Creek Campground at the north (start) and French Broad River at the south (end). These campsites are very popular. It’s best to arrive between Monday and Thursday, otherwise all sites will be taken. Many of these sites have access to Paint Creek where there are waterfalls and swimming holes. Read reviews of Paint Creek Corridor at FreeCampsites.

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