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Cades Cove: Top 8 Best Things To Do

10 mins read
Cades Cove
Source: mladylake / Pixabay Copyright 2020



Cades cove is one of the most visited places in the famous Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with millions of visitors visiting it annually. But what is it specifically about this place that attracts such many people?

One of the most tranquil and pastoral locations on earth is Cades Cove. There is nothing like the stunning views of pastureland, majestic trees, rolling hills, sunsets, and roving animals. The 11-mile loop surrounds this lovely valley, with several spots where you can see wildlife and take in the surrounding landscape. To help you get in touch with nature, Cades Cove has a vast path network and campgrounds. Doesn’t all this stimulate your adventurous spirit? So, continue reading to find out more about Cades Cove.

About Cades Cove

Cades Cove
Source: Aaron Clinard / Unsplash Copyright 2022

Cades Cove is the most well-liked tourist destination in the Great Smoky Mountains, receiving more than two million people annually. The soft sandstone that previously filled the Cove was eroded over millions of years, creating the Valley. The result of erosion was a vast, fertile valley perfect for farming and flanked by stunning mountains now known as the Smokies.

Cade’s Cove boasts the greatest diversity of historic structures in the entire national park because of the early 1800s settlement of European settlers. You can visit historic buildings along the path, including restored churches, former gristmills, and pioneer log homes. Its rich past has left a lasting impression that may still be felt today. A visit to Cades Cove offers the chance to travel back in time and become engrossed in the culture and history of early Appalachia.

Things to do in Cades Cove

It might take several days if you go ahead to Cades Cove to enjoy everything it has to offer. However, all you need for a pleasant and rewarding trip is one action-packed day. Plan to arrive early in the morning and depart before dinner to get the most out of your visit. Bring a filling lunch, snacks, and drinks with you on your trip. Choose your favorite activities from the list below to create the ideal fun day!

1) Driving or Bicycling the Cades Cove Loop Road

Cades Cove
Source: hrockhardin / Pixabay Copyright 2020

The 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road is accessible every day from sunrise to sunset, although from early May to late September, Wednesday and Saturday mornings are restricted to motorized vehicles until 10 AM in the morning. Every Saturday and Wednesday from the beginning of May through the end of September, the route is only open to bicycle and foot traffic up to 10:00 a.m. The good news is that tourists can ride or walk on the road at this time without worrying about sharing it with cars!

In order to complete the entire loop on a bicycle on these weekdays, it is better to get going early. Use pullouts when stopping to see wildlife and take in the landscape because traffic is frequently high during the busiest travel season and on weekends all year long. For a drive or bike to the loop, it is recommended to set aside at least two to four hours.

Driving the Cades Cove Loop Road alone will provide you with scenic views of the most popular destination of the national park; Cades Cove!

2) Explore the Cades Cove Nature Trail

Visitors can enjoy a low-impact stroll through some of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s most breathtaking terrain on the Cades Cove Nature Trail. About 7 miles into Loop Road and one mile past the visitor center is where you’ll find the trail. Given that it is only a few miles long and is considered easy, hikers of all ages should be able to complete it without incident.

Since the trailhead is located only off the Cases Cove Loop Road, accessing the path is also very simple. As you complete your journey, you will virtually return to where you started because the track is circular. The stroll should take visitors an hour or so, assuming a fairly moderate pace. The trail and potential sights you might view while hiking is described in brochures that are available at the visitor center.

The Nature Trail generally provides an excellent opportunity to view Cades Cove’s native plant life, and there is a decent possibility that you may also spot some of the cove’s wildlife. During their hikes along the path, visitors observed everything from raccoons to black bears. The nature walk is rarely busy, so it won’t affect your experience even though you might see other hikers there.

3) Discover the Rich History of the Cades Cove

Cades Cove
Source: MikeGoad / Pixabay Copyright 2018

The Smoky Mountains have a compelling narrative to share. You can explore various historical places there, including several old cabins and structures. There are many ancient civilizations ruins at Cades Cove, and they all have fascinating histories. Visitors get to explore the historical ruins that were once essential to the operation of a thriving mountain populace. The Cades Cove Visitor Center is a great resource for learning about Cades Cove’s history.

At the start of the loop, there are materials you may use to learn more about the structures you can see in the cove. Following is the list of historical structures in Cades Cove that visitors should visit while on their trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

  • Dan Lawson Place
  • John Oliver Cabin
  • Primitive Baptist Church
  • Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church
  • Elijah Oliver Place
  • Tipton Place
  • John Cable Grist Mill
  • Carter Shields Cabin
  • Becky Cable House

Though the list may seem a bit long, these are some historical places one should definitely make some time to visit. Make sure to have your camera ready to capture these incredible historic buildings!

4) Try Out Some of the Best Hiking Trails

Cades Cove
Source: Susan Elizabeth Jones / Unsplash Copyright 2022

One of the best things about Cades Cove, which attracts many visitors, is there are many terrific and adventurous hiking trails around Cades Cove. The nature trail we talked about before is not exactly for hiking, if you are looking for a real hiking experience, try out the trail to Abrams Falls.

One of the top hiking trails in Cades Cove is Abram Falls. It descends to the enormous Abrams Creek Gore through areas of mountain laurel and pine forest. The walk will lead you to the impressive Abrams Falls waterfall, which has a significant water flow. There is a beach area where you may unwind at the bottom of the fall.

Take Cades Cove Loop Road to get to this trail. You’ll come across an Abrams Falls sign while driving. Drive until you notice a parking lot as you approach this sign. It is a challenging trail. Hike it if you are up for an adventure.

Another well-liked hiking trail in Cades Cove is the Crib Gap trail. The route is ideal for first-timers to hiking. Whereas Gregory’s Bald is another well-liked hiking route in Cades Cove that leads to a mountain covered in wildflowers. You may take in the picturesque vistas of Cades Cove and the mountains that surround it while climbing this mountain. Additionally, if you visit this location in June, you will delight in the picturesque views of the wildflowers that grow on this mountain.

The thunderhead hiking trail and Rocky Top, which lead to two mountain peaks and offer stunning views of the Smoky Mountains, is another well-liked Cades Cove hiking trail. This trek is challenging, though, so you should only go it if you have previous hiking expertise.

5) Horseback Riding at Cades Cove

Cades Cove
Source: Michael Chambers / Unsplash Copyright 2020

The wide open spaces beckon you to take to the wind and run! Horseback rides in the Cove are fantastic, whether you’re an experienced rider or a novice. From places like Cades Cove Riding Stables and Davy Crockett Riding Stables, guides lead horseback excursions.

At the start of the loop, the road is where you’ll find Cades Cove Riding Stables. To learn more about the nature and wildlife of the Smokies, they can go on a number of guided horseback trail rides. They also provide seasonal hayrides and carriage rides. Children love the fully narrated hay rides, which are among the most entertaining activities in Cades Cove.

6) Wildlife Viewing at Cades Cove

Cades Cove
Source: Susan Elizabeth Jones / Unsplash Copyright 2022

Millions of photographers visit Cades Cove each year, attracted by the picturesque surroundings and an abundance of wildlife. While driving around the loop, you may spot black bears, white-tailed deer, turkeys, squirrels, birds, bugs, and more.

You can encounter wildlife anywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, from chickadees high in a ridgetop forest to a rare glimpse of a bobcat by Creekside rhododendrons. But with the wide, broad sightlines and the foraging opportunities its lush meadows and woodlands provide for wildlife, Cades Cove is just about the best site to do so.

You get many opportunities to see almost everything from white-tailed deer and coyotes to red foxes, groundhogs, and very perhaps one of the legendary black bears of the Great Smoky Mountains if you plan your drive for the early morning or evening.

Visitors are often more enthusiastic about bears since, for most of them, it’s their first time seeing a black bear in the wild. But visitors should be careful to maintain a proper distance and avoid giving them any food. The Great Smoky Mountains are home to numerous black bear sightings, and the park makes it simple to look for them. They typically are active in the morning, evening, and night. While in Cades Cove, you can frequently see black bear mothers with young cubs.

7) Picnic and Camping at Cades Cove

There is no way you wouldn’t have thought of picnicking and camping while encountering the beauty of Cades Cove. Prepare for a meal by the stream at the picturesque Cades Cove Picnic Area, accessible all year and has 81 places. Outside the park’s entrance, you will find a great picnic area with plenty of shade and a brook running down both sides.

However, if you want to have a romantic experience at Cades Cove with your partner, bring a picnic lunch and a blanket, choose a site on the first half of the Loop, get out of the car, and climb over the barbed-wire fence. Several picnic tables are nearby, and the Smoky Mountains make a stunning backdrop. Kids are free to play after dinner, and adults can unwind in the lovely setting.

There are many wonderful camping options in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but few are as enjoyable as staying at the Cades Cove Campground. This campground places visitors in the heart of the most beautiful region of the park, just a short distance from Cades Cove loop road.

The Cades Cove Campground is one of the park’s front country-style campgrounds, which means it is intended for visitors who bring their vehicles rather than backpackers. In Cades Cove, people enjoy both tent and RV camping. Use the opportunity to camp nearby to enjoy the sunrise over the mountains since it is incredibly breathtaking and well worth getting out of your sleeping bag to witness.

8) Go Fishing in Codes Cave

Cades Cove
Source: Brady Rogers / Unsplash Copyright 2020

How about catching your lunch yourself? Fishing is a lovely way to spend time outside and in nature, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to connect with your friends and family. You can cast your reel while listening to the tranquil sounds of the water flowing all around you. There is no finer location than Cades Cove to go fishing. Many pull-offs along Little River provide quick access to the river so you can try your hand at trout fishing.

Before packing your fishing rods, let me inform you that you will need a valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is where you may buy a fishing license. Both annual and temporary licenses are available for purchase.

Compared to non-residents, Tennessee residents get a significant discount on their fishing license. In open waterways, fishing is permitted all year long. Fishing is permitted in Cades Cove from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes following sunset. It is crucial that you carry your fishing license with you and have it with you at all times.

In the vicinity of Cades Cove, you may locate Abrams Creek. The trip there will be tranquil, just right for a fishing trip. The Horseshoe is a local favorite spot near Abrams Creek. Although some wading may be necessary for this part to reach the huge trout and smallmouth bass that live there, most fishermen won’t mind once they catch some of them.

Best Time to Visit Cades Cove

Cades Cove
Source: Chloe111 / Pixabay Copyright 2021

You want to know the best times to visit, given how popular this region of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is. Let’s categorize this based on the week, the day of the season, and so on.

  • The Most Ideal Times of Day to Visit

    Early morning and late afternoon are the ideal times to visit Cades Cove during the day. During certain periods, traffic slows down, reducing congestion. Also, it is the best time of the day for wildlife viewing.

  • The Most Ideal Days of Week to Visit

    Avoid going on weekends, since you will find the place crowded. Wednesdays and Saturdays are ideal days if you want to go biking.

  • The Most Ideal Times of Year to Visit

    Cades Cove is idyllic all year round. You can always expect to see stunning scenery when you visit. Each season, from snow-covered trees in the winter to wildflowers in the spring, adds unique beauty to the region.

    April to November is Cades Cove’s peak season. People are booking holidays in Cades Cove during the summer break from school when wildflowers and wildlife emerge from slumber in the spring. Due to the vibrant leaves, fall is perhaps the most popular year for tourists visiting Cades Cove. But if you want to avoid traffic during the winter, with a slowdown beginning in December and continuing through March.

In the End

Cades Cove
Source: bradfordachase / Pixabay Copyright 2018

Cades Cove has all the things you need to spend a wonderful vacation. Lastly, I recommend you experience your trip to Cades Cove the way the first settlers did. Enjoy the scenic views of Cades Cove riding a horse, and forget all about your worries. Be ready to appreciate a slower pace than you might be used to wherever you choose to spend your time in Cades Cove.

You won’t want to skip any of these enjoyable Cades Cove activities. You only need to pack your stuff because you already know what you want to do when you visit the location. When you’re at this stunning location, you ought to take your time and enjoy it. You may see why people keep coming back to Cades Cove yearly by visiting it.

Now that you know all the things you can do at Cades Cove how about exploring the other places in the Great Smoky Mountains? Get to know about Smoky Mountains Waterfalls that you can visit.

Click here to read more like this. Also check out “Things to do in San Diego

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