Top 4 Strangest Abandoned Places to Visit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Old wagon parts near one of the abandoned places to visit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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From hiking trails to scenic overlooks, you may think you have seen it all when it comes to the Smoky Mountains. However, you can make your next trip to the area even more memorable by adding one or all our favorite abandoned places to visit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to your travel itinerary.

Not only will these sites give you a sneak peek into the rich culture and history that helped shape our area into the popular travel destination it is today, you will also learn a lot about the people who once lived here and learn more of their stories.

1. The Wonderland Hotel

Abandoned building in ElkmontAs of late, the Wonderland Hotel has quickly become one of the most famous abandoned places to visit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park after a hiker’s video went viral of him ‘re-discovering’ the area. In the film, he takes you in and around several of the buildings that surround the former lodging site.

In its prime, the Wonderland Hotel was a bustling destination for both locals and tourists wanting to relax in the scenic beauty of the area for a couple of days. It housed 26 guest rooms, each that came with their own private bathroom with claw-foot tub. These features made the hotel one of the most luxurious in the area.

Located in the Elkmont area of the national Park, The Wonderland Hotel first opened its doors in 1912. In 1995, the majority of the original building was lost in a fire. In 2006, the National Park Service sent a team to save any artifacts and historically significant objects they could for preservation. Today, all that is left of the once-famous hotel are the abandoned buildings that are still standing.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Wonderland Hotel was destroyed by a fire in April 2016. The fire also damaged area hemlock and rhododendron trees, but thankfully the trees were there because they slowed the spread of the fire. The structure’s historic materials were removed in 2006, and the building was already slated for demolition pending funding.

To see the full video of one hiker’s tour of The Wonderland hotel, watch the video below!

2. Cades Cove

Abandoned home in Cades CoveDrawing over 2 million visitors a year, we will admit that it is a bit of a stretch to call Cades Cove abandoned. However, for the purposes of this list, we are not talking about the area itself as much as we are the historic homesites and churches where people once lived and prayed.

The next time you visit this scenic place, remember the families who lived in the rustic cabins you hike to. Imagine the children that once played in the fields and the congregations that once met in the churches. Once you find out about the secrets of Cades Cove, you will find a whole new appreciation for the area, more so than just the natural beauty that it is known for.

Little Greenbrier School3. Little Greenbrier

Located near the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area, Little Greenbrier is one of our favorite abandoned places to visit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park because of how unique the area is. Here, you can find both an old school and the former home of The Walker Sisters, some of the last remaining residents of what is now the national park.

The Little Greenbrier School was much more than a school. It was a place of learning as well as a place of worship for the Primitive Baptist church. Between 1882 and 1936, it educated a countless number of students and employed nearly 50 teachers.

4. Civilian Conservation Corps Camp (Kephart Prong Trail)

Kephart Prong TrailIn case you aren’t familiar, the Civilian Conservation Corps was a group of young men from the area who worked to build the hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The organization was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt under his New Deal program that provided unskilled manual labor jobs to aid in the conservation and development in rural areas. In addition to helping create the park that we know and love today, the CCC also helped families who struggled to find work during the Great Depression.

Today, you can see remnants of one of the old CCC camps when you hike along the Kephart Prong Trail. Although the houses and buildings are no longer standing, you can still see an old chimney from one of the barracks and the old rock framing for what was once the camp’s signboard.

Do you know of any abandoned places to visit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that we missed on our list? Let us know in the comments below!

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13 thoughts on “Top 4 Strangest Abandoned Places to Visit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  1. Gary Mustain says:

    Cades Cove? Elkmont? Little Greenbrier? You call these places abandoned? All of them have tens of thousands of visitors a year. The only place that maybe belongs on this list is the CCC camp. What a crap article.

  2. S. Roark says:

    I have visited cades cove the places that are a small walk for older people are great. My problem is that this place is supposed to be for everyone I’m talking about the trails they are for young people in great shape, but take a veterans that had their legs blown off how can they see the park. What I’m saying is that why not let four wheelers and side by sides drive on the old log roads at a slow speeds with quiet pipes and spark arresters. The best visit I have had lately is to clingmans dome after the beetles killed all of the trees my wife and I could see all over because the trees were gone.

    • Panda Maltz says:

      are you stupid? you are saying that the best visit you had is because the trees were ruined by invasive beetles….. THE PARK IS ABOUT THE TREES. NOT ABOUT YOU AND THE VIEWS YOU CAN SEE. why not allow 4 wheelers? maybe because they are a detriment to the woods, the animals and the environment. This is the most stupid comment I have ever read. Go somewhere else if you do not like nature.

      • S. Roark says:

        Your HATRED of disabled people has been noted. Maybe they could give everybody a physical before they let them in. All I’m saying is places like Royal Blue charge $30 a day to ride on old log roads. The park claims to be broke and can’t maintain trails. That’s because hiking brings in very little money.

  3. Rob Hendrix says:

    Though none of these are “unknown,” my favorite abandoned places are Shuckstack Fire Tower located a few miles up the AT from Fontana Dam; the tunnel at the end of “The Road to Nowhere” located just out of Bryson City, NC; and the Caldwell House in the Cataloochee area of the park. The buildings in Cades Cove are indeed fascinating. The Elkmont abandoned building are intriguing for sure. I’ve not seen the CCC camp remains. I’d like to look for those on a future hike. Thanks for the fun article.

    • Chad Morin says:

      That is in Greenbriar on 441 in Gatlinburg. Stop in the Rangers Station and they will give you a map on how to hike to it.

  4. Gregory L. Sakata says:

    I find it a stretch to say that Cades Cove is, or was abandoned; and not because the area receives millions of visitors each year. Truth be told, Cades Cove was taken over by the US Government (National Park Service) after the creation of the National Park system and the proposal of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. (The same thing happened all over our country as a result as well.)

    Initially, the families which lived in the cove had been assured that their lands would not be incorporated into the park, but things changed and they soon realized that they were going to lose their homes and lands. By 1927 the Tennessee General Assembly had approved the funding to buy the lands for the park, and at the same time gave the park commission the power to seize the land within the proposed boundaries under eminent domain laws.

    While some of the ‘hold-outs’ who fought to keep their land and homes finally gave up, in a sense abandoning their homes, to claim that they were simply abandoned in the sense of the word as you describe it is irresponsible and inaccurate.

    Cades Cove is yet another example of the power of the government to control and take what they want, when they want, from whomever they want. It does not belong on this list.

  5. Mike says:

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say Cades Cove and Little Greenbrier are “abandoned” for the simple reason that they are conserved and maintained as a museum. The ghost town at Elkmont definitely fits the “abandoned” because the park plans to save only a few of these buildings and none of these buildings are maintained. My favorite abandoned place in the park would the “Road to Nowhere” tunnel. I talked to one of the locals there and they claimed it is haunted, so there is some stories that are floating around about that location.

  6. Melinda Tipton Stites says:

    The photo for the Wonderland Hotel section is the Appalachian Clubhouse, which is now renovated for day rentals as is the Spence Cabin. My favorite, and lesser known, abandoned structure is the old rock house, clock tower, and remnants of a CCC camp on Old Sugarlands Trail.

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