Cades Cove is a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains and amazing views! This scenic, one-way loop winds its way through The Great Smoky Mountains. The loop is an 11 mile, one-way road that circles the cove and provides stunning views of the mountains, great opportunities for wildlife viewing, and nature.
Where is Cades Cove
Cades Cove is located in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, about 27 miles from Gatlinburg, TN and 57 miles from Cherokee, NC.
History of the Cove
Cades Cove is full of history. It is said the Cherokee Indians hunted in Cades Cove for hundreds of years.
The first European settlers came sometime between 1818 and 1821.
There is a large variety of historic buildings in Cades Cove. As you ride the scenic route you can see 3 churches, a working grist mill, many barns, and log houses.
The Cades Cove Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Wildlife in Cades Cove
During your time in Cades Cove, you may be lucky enough to see black bears, white-tailed deer, elk, coyote, racoon, turkey, and other wildlife. We saw a few black bears and it was thrilling! They were right by the road, near cars, and moving fast through the brush!
Wildlife viewing tips:
- Sit quietly by a trail and see what wildlife comes out
- Scan the trees for animals who spend their days in branches
- Carry binoculars
- Look for wildlife in the early morning and early evenings
- Do not feed or approach any wildlife
If you see a black bear:
- Do not approach the bear and don’t let the bear approach you
- Remain watchful of the bear
- If the bear is at a distance but continues its natural behavior, feeding/walking, you can proceed with caution
- If the bear changes its behavior, stops feeding or changes direction, then you are probably to close, and this could promote aggressive behavior
- Aggressive behavior would be things like the bear running towards you, the bear making loud noises or swatting the ground
- Do not run, instead slowly increase the distance between you and the bear
- Change your direction
- If a bear is coming at you, talk loudly or shout at it in attempt to intimidate the bear
- Don’t run or turn away from the bear
- Don’t leave food for the bear
- Use bear spray if a bear is within 20 yards of you
- If needed, fight back aggressively and do not play dead!
Hiking in Cades Cove
There are numerous hiking trails in the Cove. You can pick up a self-guided tour guide and trail maps at the entrance. There is a 5-mile roundtrip trail to Abrams Falls, as well as the Cades Cove Nature Trail. There are longer hikes to Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top that can start in the cove.
Camping at Cades Cove
Camping at Cades Cove Campground is open year round. There are 159 sites and the can accommodate tents and RVs up to 35 feet. For more information or reservations, call
There is a nice visitor center, about half-way around the loop road, in the Cable Mill historic area.
It is open daily, except on Christmas. There is a bookstore, restrooms, picnic tables, and plenty of room to take a break, relax, and enjoy the amazing scenery!
Other Things You Should Know
Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to all motor vehicles on Wednesday from May 4-September 28, to allow for pedestrian and bicycle use. This is a great time to go if you want to hike and leisurely walk around the historic buildings.
Traffic is heaviest during summer and fall, as well as on the weekends year-round.
Be courteous to other visitors and drivers. Be sure to use the pullouts to stop and enjoy the scenery and wildlife.
Also in the Area
- Clingmans Dome
- Gatlinburg Skylift Park
- Ripley’s Aquarium
- Chimney Tops
- Newfound Gap Road
- Soco Falls, Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls
- Tuckaleechee Caverns
- Gatlinburg Ghost Tours
- Space Needle
We loved our ride through Cades Cove and the area! The day we were there it was very hot, reaching 100 degrees while in Cades Cove Loop Road!
We also got stuck in traffic! Although this is a slow moving, scenic ride, we did not expect the traffic.
While talking to others in the park, most said this was not normal for the ride. We also entered the park in the middle of the afternoon. We later found out that it’s best early in the morning or early evening!
During this ride, we also made stops at Soco Falls and Clingmans Dome. We had a great dinner in Gatlinburg and then headed back into The Great Smoky Mountain National Park where we saw another black bear and a heard of elk!
Have you been to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park? What activities do you like to do in the mountains? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear about your adventure!