Unlike a click-bait article that stated that a hiker at Great Smoky Mountains National Park “discovered” a ghost town as fact – it was long discovered by locals and outsiders alike for decades. It’s no secret: Elkmont, Tennessee is being partially rehabilitated for use as rental cabins and gathering places, boasts a well-used campground and is the trailhead for several amazing hikes.
Elkmont was a pioneer Appalachian community, later becoming a logging town and resort. In 1908, the Little River Lumber Company established Elkmont as a base of logging operations for the Little River and Jakes Creek region. Two years later, the company began selling plots of land to wealthy hunting and fishing enthusiasts from Knoxville, who established the Appalachian Club just south of the logging town.
In 1912, the Wonderland Park Hotel, a resort hotel, was constructed on a hill that overlooked Elkmont. Over the years, the area evolved into an elite vacation hotspot. In 1934, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed and most of the cottage owners at Elkmont were given lifetime leases. When the last person in the structure would pass away, the lease would transfer to the federal government. In 1952, the leases were converted into 20-year terms, renewed in 1972. But in 1992, the National Park Service refused to renew the lease, and under the park’s General Management Plan, the cottages and hotel would be demolished.
Elkmont was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Elkmont Historic District, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1994.
Back in 2011, I did a several day backpack starting from Elkmont. I had brought along my camera gear in my pack and began my journey by photographing some of the wonderful cottages that still existed at the time.
Elkmont, Tennessee hadn’t been just recently “discovered.” It had been known for decades!