Cades Cove is one of the most popular spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take US 321 near Townsend, Tennessee or take Little River Road from Sugarlands Visitors Center in Gatlinburg and follow the signs. Cades Cove is a beautiful 4000-acre isolated valley first settled by the Cherokee Indians and later settle by European settlers in the early 1800’s. Today the National Park Service maintain Cades Cove for history and cultural preservation of early Appalachian settlement way of life.
Along the 11-mile loop road Cades Cove has log cabins, churches, barns, outbuildings, and Cable Mill. A total of 19 tour stops are on the loop road that make for a fascinating auto or bike tour. Traveling thru Cades Cove can take you back to a past era where life was hard but rich in heritage.
A ride through Cades Cove during the fall foliage season in the Great Smoky Mountains is a must. The scenery is just gorgeous during the autumn when the leaves are changing colors. Traffic on the 11 mile loop road on the weekends in October can be backed up for miles. It is one of the most popular areas in the Great Smoky Mountains during the fall.
View Cades Cove from above!
Cades Cove History
By 1850 there were 132 families settled in Cades Cove. Several home sites-cabins and outbuildings are along the 11-mile self-guided loop road including the oldest cabin built in 1820 belonging to John Oliver who was a veteran on the War of 1812. His son Elijah Oliver settled and built a cabin. His farm is the second cabin on the loop road tour.
Halfway along the loop road is the Cable Mill area with a working grist mill, a cantilever barn, a sorghum cane mill, a blacksmith shop replica, and the Gregg-Cable House. The Gregg-Cable House built in 1879 is thought to be the first fame housed built with sawed lumber in Cades Cove. The Cable Mill stop also has a Visitors Center and Shop and public facilities for visitors.
Other homesteads in the valley on the loop road are the Henry Whitehead Place, the Dan Lawson Place, and the Tipton Place. Cades Cove also has 3 historic churches: the Primitive Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, and the Missionary Baptist Church. Religion was an important part of the settlers life in Cades Cove.
In the warmer months of the year there are live demonstrations that take place including story-telling, the making of apple butter, and the making of lye soap as well as other types of demonstrations common to early Appalachian farm life.
But the natural beauty of the scenic landscape and display of wildlife is the greatest attraction of Cades Cove. While driving or biking thru the cove it is quite common to see deer grazing in the open fields and pastures, wild turkey and geese, raccoon and other small animals, and possibly a black bear. Black bear normally are seen in the early morning hours or late afternoon at dawn or dusk.
In the months of May thru September the loop road is closed to automobile traffic until 10:00 AM so walkers and bike riders can enjoy the road free of automobile traffic. There is also a horse stable located near the entrance where one can take a horseback tour on the horse trails. There are also several hiking trails with the most popular trail being Abrams Falls and Gregory Bald hiking trails.
Cades Cove attracts over 2 million visitors a year and is a very popular Great Smoky Mountains National Park destination. In the peak seasons the 11-mile loop road can be quite congested with slow moving traffic. It can sometimes take 3-4 hours to drive the 11 miles on busy days and weekends. A trip to Cades Cove in the month of October is a real treat during the fall foliage season. But whenever you go the scenery is beyond spectacular. Make sure you have a camera for picture taking. And if you see a black bear please keep your distance!
Here are just a few pictures of what you may see during a ride thru the cove!
Location of Cades Cove Loop Road