On a recent camping trip to the Gatlinburg, TN area my wife and I were driving around literally searching out tiny houses and tiny cabins. Certainly I can’t be the only one that does this. Alas, if you have ever visited the Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge areas you will know that small cabins or even small campers are certainly not what the rental market there is comprised of. Long gone are the Smoky Mountain hollers and hand-hewn cabins of mountain lore and in their place 2- and 3-story chalets and condos to rent. That is until you drive by a place like Camp LeConte Luxury Outdoor Resort with their quaint, adventurous, Safari Tents for rent.
Originally built in the early 1960’s, the LeConte Vista RV Park was a favorite place on Highway 321 for a number of families looking to visit Gatlinburg but still feel connected to the Smoky Mountain park(s). Originally closed in 2007, the property was completely remodeled in 2013 and is now Camp LeConte managed by Linzy and Ian Nicely. In talking via email with Linzy I found out how such unique units made it to the mountains.
“My dad, Clarence, travels all over the world. He first saw the tents in Australia and thought they were neat. After finding where the tents were made, Ian [husband] and my dad went to South Africa to find some. The ones in South Africa were in fact neat, however, they had metal frames and weren’t really the look we were going for. My dad and I then went to Europe and found the tents you see at Camp LeConte. They have wooden frames, furniture made from reclaimed lumber, and were built well. They were perfect!” Great story and so fitting for our impromptu visit to Camp LeConte.
Driving down Highway 321 and seeing the inviting pool (of course, a true, blue pool with only a guest or two resting in chairs is always inviting) we decided to stop in and inquire. It was only after turning in to what we thought was a typical campground (albeit one with incredibly manicured spots and well-landscaped common areas) did we see the Safari Tents. At what I can only guess is about 320 square feet or so the nine Safari’s are imported from Europe, set up on a wood platform, and a true touch of “glamping” right in the the Smokies.
There are four configurations of the Safari Tent offering different sleeping arrangements for your specifications. There are five bunkhouses (a Queen-size bed and a set of bunks), one ‘double up’ which has two double beds, two ‘honeymooners’ which have a Queen-size bed and a sitting area, and one deluxe bunkhouse with a Queen and two sets of bunks. Each tent save the deluxe bunkhouse has a great storage area before the sleeping area which has both closed and open cabinets, a countertop, and ample lighting overhead. All the Safari tents though have a very “fold art” style round table with four chairs as well as a porch swing complete with view of the mountain-scape.
Starting at just $119 per night the Safari Tents are made of quality materials including heavy duty vinyl, zippered, all-season windows, zippered entry, wooden support posts, and forged metal braces and brackets. The electrical work runs through contractor conduit and each space has a heater for the cold months and an air conditioner for the warm months. There are also overhead lights, a ceiling fan, and GFI outlets in each tent. We spent nearly thirty minutes walking around the tents, walking in them, swinging on the swing, talking about their application possibilities in other settings, and the like. They were…well, so cool! In their ruggedness they all at once gave off the sophistication and joie de vivre of glamping, the pure style and adventure of a Hemingway novel, and the cozy, warm feeling the Smokey Mountains are know for.
In addition Camp LeConte Luxury Outdoor Resort also offers full hook-up RV and Camper sites, primitive tent sites, a well-stocked camp general store, full-service laundry room, in-ground swimming pool, high-speed and dependable WiFi throughout the park, and a Gatlinburg trolley stop on property.