Uncovering Tennessee’s Hidden Ghost Town: The Story of Elkmont


Nestled among the magnificent hills of Tennessee is a hidden gem: an abandoned town steeped in mystery and long forgotten by many. Despite its unique history and attractiveness, this town is little unknown to the general public. With its desolate streets and deteriorating buildings, it serves as a mute reminder of a bygone era.

It was once busy with life and activity, but today it echoes with whispers of the past, ready to be explored by brave explorers and history buffs. Join us as we reveal the secrets of this overlooked treasure, a lost chapter in Tennessee’s rich tapestry of history and intrigue.

A Look Back in Time: Elkmont’s Journey From Humble Beginnings to a Bustling Community

Elkmont’s history dates back to the 1800s when the first wave of immigrants came in the Little River Valley. These hardy pioneers were enticed to the fertile land and abundant resources, and they founded the Little River Settlement. They erected small cottages, farmed the land, and hunted for food, establishing a quiet existence amidst the gorgeous mountains.

As the nineteenth century proceeded, the discovery of lumber supplies in the region signaled a time of major change. Logging became the community’s lifeblood, bringing more people and prompting the town’s official name change to Elkmont. Sawmills hummed with activity as lumberjacks cut down the huge pines and oaks that blanketed the slopes. Elkmont grew into a thriving commercial town, complete with general stores, saloons, and even schools to serve the expanding population.

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The Allure of Escape: Elkmont as a Resort Town for Wealthy Atlantans (Early 1900s)

In the early twentieth century, Elkmont’s story took another unexpected turn. With Atlanta’s growth as a major metropolis, wealthy city inhabitants began to seek an escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The quiet and natural beauty of Elkmont drew a group of Atlanta businesspeople, who saw an opportunity. They bought large areas of land and began an ambitious endeavor to turn Elkmont into a premium vacation destination.

Elegant cabins were built, with modern conveniences such as electricity and running water. A beautiful lodge, complete with a swimming pool and tennis courts, functioned as the social hub for the wealthy clients. Elkmont became a haven for the wealthy, where they could relax, reconnect with nature, and engage in outdoor activities like fishing, horseback riding, and trekking through the unspoiled countryside.

The Inevitable Decline: Factors Contributing to Elmont’s Abandonment

However, Elkmont’s moment of success was not to endure. The Great Depression of the 1930s cast a long shadow, hurting the country’s economy and severely affecting the luxury resort industry. Elkmont, which relies primarily on tourism, bears the brunt of the economic downturn. The luxury resort gradually declined, forcing wealthy guests to cut back on expensive holidays.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, established in 1934, had a crucial role in Elkmont’s abandonment. The National Park Service (NPS) aims to protect the region’s natural beauty and unique ecosystems.

Explore the Elkmont Historic District: A Step Back in Time

The Elkmont of today is a testament to the town’s bustling past and eventual abandonment. The National Park Service has designated Elkmont as a historic area, providing visitors with a rare opportunity to travel back in time and explore the vestiges of a bygone age. Crumbling chimneys, skeleton frames of once-grand cabins, and overgrown paths present a moving picture of a village being gradually reclaimed by nature.

The Interesting Stories Held Within the Dilapidated Structures

While the structures themselves are in varied states of disrepair, their very presence sparks the imagination. Each edifice tells the story of the lives that have unfolded within its walls. The Elkmont Lodge’s high chimney suggests raucous parties and laughter ringing throughout the rooms. The ruins of the schoolhouse conjure up visions of youngsters studying and playing in a simpler period.

The National Park Service has scrupulously conserved some of Elkmont’s structures, providing visitors with a more concrete link to history. Restored cabins, such as the Daisy Place and the Mingus House, exemplify early twentieth-century architectural and interior design trends. Walking inside these cottages, with their period furnishings and décor, visitors can almost hear the discussions and laughter that once filled these rooms.

Enchanting Trails Lead Through Lush Forests and Historical Sites

Elkmont’s true enchantment is found in its lovely network of paths that wind through the surrounding woods. The meandering trails, blanketed with fallen leaves and dappled sunlight, invite tourists on a journey of discovery. Hikers can explore the remains of the Little River Railroad, a narrow-gauge railway that originally hauled lumber from the valley. The old Elkmont Cemetery, with its aged headstones, is a heartbreaking reminder of the lives lived and lost in this unique community.

Elkmont and the Surrounding Area Provide Unique Recreational Activities

Elkmont’s position in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park makes it an excellent base camp for a range of outdoor activities. Hikers of various skill levels can embark on tough hikes like the Alum Cave Trail, or choose a softer approach like the Metcalf Bottoms Trail, which is ideal for families and casual hikers. The Little River, a ribbon of blue water that winds through the valley, provides chances for calm kayaking or canoeing excursions.

Hiking in the Breathtaking Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Beyond Elkmont, the immensity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park awaits discovery. Hikers can conquer the famed Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Maine to Georgia, or climb Clingmans Dome, Tennessee’s highest point. The park’s rich ecosystem includes gushing waterfalls, beautiful views, and a wealth of species, making each hike unique and unforgettable.

Paddling the Beautiful Little River for a Peaceful Adventure

For those looking for a more peaceful sport, the Little River provides a tranquil paddling excursion. Visitors can hire kayaks or canoes and paddle along the calm stream, surrounded by lush foliage and the sounds of birdsong. This quiet excursion provides a unique viewpoint on Elkmont, allowing a glimpse into the town hidden among the vivid tapestry of the national park.


Elkmont, Tennessee, a forgotten treasure buried in the hills, is home to a rich history amidst its crumbling streets and abandoned buildings. Elkmont, once a thriving timber town and later a luxurious resort destination, fell victim to economic downturns and the growing impact of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Today, travelers can explore its historic neighborhood, unearthing stories from bygone ages amidst nature’s embrace.

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