Cades Cove Loop Road

The most visited valley in the Smoky Mountains

If there is only time in your schedule for one auto tour while you are visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, let it be Cades Cove.  Certainly there are other great auto tours in the Smokies (Greenbrier, Newfound Gap Road, Cataloochee), but Cades Cove is the end-all-be-all.  Famously full of cars, and beautiful even on a rainy day, this is THE auto tour.

Of course, one of the most interesting things about Cades Cove is the history, the fact that the people that lived here, lived here into the 21st century, many years after the founding of the National Park is amazing, the number of historical buildings, the wildlife that calls this valley home and all of the highlights that you get to visit as you drive around the cove.  Here are just a few of the things you will encounter as you make the drive:

  1. John Oliver Cabin
  2. Primitive Baptist Church
  3. Methodist Church
  4. Missionary Baptist Church
  5. Rich Mountain Road
  6. Cooper Road Trail
  7. Elijah Oliver Place
  8. Abrams Falls Trailhead
  9. Cable Mill Area Visitors Center
  10. Parsons Branch Road
  11. Henry Whitehead Place
  12. Cades Cove Nature Trail
  13. Dan Lawson Place
  14. Tipton Place
  15. Carter Shields Cabin
  16. Ranger Station
  17. Campground and Campground Store

Obviously this is not all you are going to see as you travel around Cades Cove.  You are going to see countless vistas, wildlife, wildflowers and much more.  The reason that people flock to Cades Cove is the beauty, the grandeur of this spot that used to be home to a community before the Park Service took over.  The sloping sides of the valley rise up to the tops of the mountains.  If you make it there early in the morning you could watch the morning fog roll over the mountain, watch as the fog that gave these mountains their name floats down over the mountains and makes it way into the valley.  You drive along in peace and solitude watching for the pits that are marked on one of the free guides you can pick up at the front of the loop road and just take in the beauty.

If you go during the height of tourist season, you will encounter traffic.  Don’t worry about it.  The eleven mile loop can become quite long but you are there to enjoy the view and nature, not to make record time getting out.  Drive at a slow pace, keep an eye out for bicyclist and of course keep your other eye peeled for bears.  You are apt to see them early in the morning and late in the afternoon.  Let the sun slide down toward the horizon and the bears will come out.  In fact, make a second or third loop around the cove and just keep scanning the horizon.

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