Adventure seekers and nature lovers looking to experience the spectacular beauty of the Smokies will find the perfect retreat in Cades Cove, a sprawling 6,800-acre valley on the western side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This majestic landscape offers dramatic mountain views, a latticework of scenic hiking trails, historic cabins and churches along with plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife such as wild turkeys, coyotes — and even black bears.
Explore Cades Cove on an 11-mile loop, a paved, one-way road that winds through the park with numerous sightseeing spots along the way. Take a peek into the past by stopping at one of the rough-hewn log cabins built by early settlers, the working gristmill dating back to the 1870s and old graveyards situated alongside historic churches.
For a moderate hike, turn off at the Abrams Falls trailhead (just past stop #10) for a 5-mile round-trip trek through pine, oak and hemlock forests, leading to a rushing waterfall that ends in a deep blue pool.
Early mornings hold the promise for peaceful moments. Every Saturday and Wednesday from early May until late September, the loop road is closed to motor vehicles until 10 a.m., allowing bicyclists and pedestrians the opportunity to experience the serenity and solitude of these ancient forests. Pause for breathtaking views of thick fog rising off dew-drenched meadows and herds of white-tailed deer silently grazing in an open valley.
Before venturing into the national park, make a stop at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, located in nearby Townsend. You’ll find educational exhibits showcasing the region’s culture and history as well as special events such as arts festivals, musical concerts, storytelling sessions and more.
Departing from the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center are Cades Cove Heritage Tours, perfect for visitors looking to experience the best sights while learning about the area’s history and personal stories. These fully guided, interpretive bus tours allow individual visitors and large groups alike to sit back and soak up the natural beauty and heritage of the park without having to drive. Tours are available April 15–Nov. 15, and group tours with a minimum of 10 people are available year round.
Bring your own horse – just swing by the ranger station first for a trail map – or rent one at Cades Cove Riding Stables and sign on for their professionally guided trail ride.
Relax and enjoy the scenery, snap photos and view wildlife on a guided hayride through the park. Advanced reservations are highly recommended for these popular outings.
Townsend comes together to celebrate the area’s many spring and fall festivals. Two don’t-miss events include the Spring Festival and Old Timer’s Day the first weekend in May and the Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timer’s Day the last weekend in September. Festivities include live bluegrass music, arts and crafts, food vendors and games and activities for the family. Visit the full calendar of events for details.
Start planning your Great Smoky Mountains and Cades Cove trip with these eclectic places to stay.