The first Europeans settled in the cove sometime between 1818 and 1821. By 1830, the area's population swelled to 271. Cades Cove offers the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in the national park. An inexpensive self-guiding tour booklet available at the entrance to the road provides in-depth information about the buildings and the people who built and used them.
Cades Cove is an open-air museum that preserves some of the material culture of those who last lived there. Breathtakingly beautiful and surrounded by mountains, Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies. Deer are almost always sighted in the fields, and observations of other wildlife, including bear, wild turkey and fox are possible. For your own safety, never approach or feed animals. A wide array of historic buildings dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries is scattered throughout the cove. These include a gristmill, a variety of barns, three churches and a marvelous collection of log homes and outbuildings. An 11-mile, one-way loop road takes you around the cove. Traffic can be heavy during the tourist season in summer, fall and on weekends year-round. Numerous trails originate in the cove, including the five-mile roundtrip trail to Abrams Falls and the short Cades Cove Nature Trail. Longer hikes to Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top (made famous by the popular song) also begin in the cove. Several designated backcountry campsites (camping by permit only) are located along trails.
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