One of the most exciting destinations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cades Cove, a beautiful valley that offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the park! Cades Cove also contains a fascinating glimpse into the history of the area with many faithfully restored 18th and 19th-century structures! The best part is that you can easily tour this popular area of the park by driving along an 11 mile, one-way loop road that circles the cove! Here are just a few of the highlights that you can expect while exploring the Cades Cove Loop Road:
If you are hoping to see some wildlife during your visit to the Smoky Mountains, Cades Cove is one of the best places to visit! White-tailed deer, coyotes, turkeys and other wildlife are frequently spotted in the open valley, and you may even get lucky enough to see a black bear! If you happen to be driving along the Cades Cove Loop Road during the winter months, the wildlife is even more visible as deciduous trees have lost their leaves. As a safety precaution, be sure to use binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras with telephoto lenses to enjoy the wildlife rather than approaching an animal!
Unique Historical Structures
Cades Cove has a rich history dating back to the Cherokee Indians, and the first European settlers arrived to the cove between 1818 and 1821. By 1830, the population of the area had grown to 271! Today, you can drive the Cades Cove Loop Road and discover the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Some of the structures that you can visit along the loop road include several churches, barns, log houses and even a working grist mill! As you enter the loop road, simply pick up a self-guided tour booklet for information about all of the buildings that you will see in the cove.
Fun Hiking and Biking Opportunities
If you brought your bicycle with you on vacation, you will be excited to know that you can experience the Cades Cove Loop Road by bike! Although the road is especially popular during the summer season, it is closed to motor vehicles until 10 AM every Saturday and Wednesday morning from early May until late September. While you will have to share the road during the other times of the year, there is less overall vehicular traffic in the cove. If you prefer to hike, there are multiple trails that start in the cove, including the 5-mile round trip trail to Abrams Falls and the Cades Cove Nature Trail. For those who have a full day to spend in the area, consider one of the longer hikes to Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top!
Driving the Cades Cove Loop Road is just one of the great things to do in the Smoky Mountains! Take a look at more fun things to do in the area, then start planning your vacation.