Spot colorful wildlife and enjoy the delightful natural landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via scenic drives and hikes.
Cades Cove is a sprawling green valley in the midst of the Great Smoky Mountains. Discover magnificent ridges, dense forests and stunning waterfalls. Visit historic churches and the homesteads of early settlers and spot native wildlife. Once the Cherokee Indians used the area as a hunting ground. From the early 1820s European pioneers cultivated the fertile land of Cades Cove for corn and other crops. Today, the valley is one of the most visited regions of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
A great way to see the valley is to drive along the 11-mile (18-kilometer) Cades Cove Loop. This one-way road cuts through thick woodland and broad meadows, which offer views of towering peaks. Pause at the historic buildings, many built in the 1800s by European settlers. Among these are the John Oliver Cabin, Tipton Place, John Cable Grist Mill and Primitive Baptist Church.
Several hiking trails lead from the loop road and snake their way through the cove. Walk the 5-mile (8-kilometer) roundtrip to Abrams Falls or the 9-mile (14-kilometer) roundtrip Chestnut Top Trail for wildflowers and mountain views. Feel on top of the world as you hike the Rich Mountain Loop up 3,686-foot-tall (1,123-meter) Cerulean Knob. Challenge the strenuous hike to Rocky Top, one of the peaks of Thunderhead Mountain.
Be alert for the varied wildlife native to the valley. Spot black bears, coyotes, elk, turkeys and white-tailed deer. The best time to see black bears is in the early morning or late evening in spring and early summer. The Cades Cove Nature Trail offers excellent wildlife-spotting opportunities and is suitable for all ages and levels of fitness.
Find the valley in the western section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Townsend, an hour from Pigeon Forge and 90 minutes from Knoxville.
Cades Cove is open year-round, although the loop road is subject to closure during extreme weather conditions. Pick up a self-guided pamphlet and trail maps at the Cades Cove Visitor Center.