Everything You Need to Know About Cades Cove
Cades Cove is the most popular destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, bringing in millions of visitors every year. An 11-mile loop road travels through this serene valley surrounded by mountains, creating a beautiful oasis people of all ages love to visit. You may have all kinds of questions about this scenic area of the national park, and we want to answer them for you! Here’s everything you need to know about Cades Cove:
Where is Cades Cove?
Cades Cove is located just south of Gatlinburg. To get to the Loop Road, just follow the Parkway through downtown Gatlinburg and enter the national park. You will pass the Sugarlands Visitor Center on the right, and then you will make a right turn onto Little River Road. Stay on Little River Road for about 25 miles, and you will reach the end, where you will find the entrance to the Cades Cove Loop Road.
What are the Cades Cove Hours?
The Loop Road is open from sunrise to sunset all year, with the weather permitting.
On Wednesdays from May until September, Cades Cove will be open to cyclists and pedestrians only. No vehicle traffic will be permitted on Wednesdays during this time period so people can enjoy the loop by bike or foot.
Find out more about Cades Cove hours here!
When are the Best Times to Visit?
Since this area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is so popular, you probably want to know when the best times to visit are. We will break this down based on the time of day, during the week, and during each season.
Best Times to Visit During the Day
The best times to visit Cades Cove during the day are early in the morning, around lunch time, and in the late afternoon. Traffic slows down during these times, making it less congested.
Best Times to Visit During the Week
If you want to try to plan which day you should visit Cades Cove that will be less crowded, you should go during the week. More people visit the Smokies on the weekends, making popular places like Cades Cove more congested.
Best Times to Visit During the Seasons
The peak season for Cades Cove is from April to November. With spring, wildflowers and wildlife coming out from the winter makes Cades Cove popular, and people are planning vacations while kids are out of school in the summer. Fall is probably the most popular time to visit Cades Cove because of the colorful leaves. Winter brings in the least amount of traffic in the area, with it slowing down in December until March. Learn more about visiting Cades Cove during each season here!
Will I See Wildlife?
While we can’t promise you will see wildlife, Cades Cove is one of the places where animals are most active in the park. Many people see black bears, white-tailed deer, turkey, squirrels, birds, and much more as they drive around the loop. Find out more about wildlife and where to see them in the national park!
What Are the Must-See Things in Cades Cove?
As you drive along the 11-mile loop, you will find all kinds of historic buildings, scenic views, and sights you’ll want to see. The first stop along the Loop requires you to hike a short distance to the John Oliver Cabin. Then you will come up on the 3 churches with cemeteries, which are popular places to stop and stretch your legs. Other major stops include the grist mill, the cantilever barn, and Carter Shields Cabin. Check out our step-by-step guide to stops along the Loop Road to find out what else you can see!
Are There Hidden Gems?
The stops along Cades Cove are just off the road, but did you know there are some hidden gems in the area you’ll have to search for if you want to find them? The Pearl Harbor Tree is a memorial to the people who lost their lives on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, and you’ll get to stop and walk through the woods to try to find the plaque. Another fun secret spot you’ll want to find is Gregory Cave, which is just off the road right before the first cabin on the Cades Cove Loop Road. You’ll have fun trying to discover these hidden gems!
What Can I Do in Cades Cove?
You may be wondering if the only thing you can do in Cades Cove is drive the Loop, and while that’s one of the best parts of visiting the area, there is plenty of other activities and ways to explore! Right before you enter the Loop, there is a picnic area with over 80 sites. You can pack a lunch or bring hamburgers and hot dogs to cook on the charcoal grills at the picnic areas. A creek runs through the area, and your family will have a blast eating a delicious meal and then exploring the beautiful valley together!
Another popular activity in Cades Cove is horseback riding. The stables are located on the road with the visitor center, picnic area, and campground. Your whole family can enjoy riding on horseback as you look out at the sweeping mountains and rolling valley. The stables also offer carriage and hay rides throughout the year!
There are several hiking trails that start along the Cades Cove Loop as we;;. A difficult trail near the beginning of the road is Rich Mountain Loop, which is 8.5 miles roundtrip. Spring is a great time to explore this trail because of all of the wildflowers along the path. A more moderate trail that’s about halfway around the Loop is Abrams Falls, a 5-mile roundtrip hike with a waterfall at the end. This is one of the most popular trails, not just in Cades Cove but in the national park itself! If you want to hike a trail that’s short and sweet, stop at the Cades Cove Nature Trail.
Since you know more about what you can do in the area, find out what you shouldn’t do when you visit Cades Cove!
More About Cades Cove
Now you know everything you need to know about Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains, and it’s time to plan your visit! For help deciding what time of year you’d like to visit, check out our ultimate guide to Cades Cove throughout the seasons!