Explore Scenic Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains

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A lush valley brimming with wondrous wildlife and historical features — Cades Cove is a must-stop destination on your Smoky Mountain vacation in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this picturesque valley area attracts millions of visitors each year. Boasting a gorgeous scenic drive, hiking trails, historic buildings, dipping valleys, horse pastures, wildflower meadows, a cascading waterfall, rushing rivers, gentle creeks, and stunning mountain views, there’s a lot to explore in Cades Cove! 

Scenic Drive on the Cades Cove Loop

An 11-mile loop circles Cades Cove, giving you a great opportunity to view all the area has to offer without leaving your car. This paved one-way road has 2 connecting roads that cut through the middle of the valleys in case you don’t have time to spend 2-4 hours around the entire Cades Cove scenic loop. 

Be prepared for many stops when it’s super crowded, but remember the slow pace is optimal for viewing, snapping photos, and making lasting memories with family and friends on your self-guided auto tour. And there are quite a few pull-offs so you can pause to really take in the scenery, walk to see structures up close, and let people pass. 

Take a peek inside Cades Cove!

Wildlife in Cades Cove
Spotting wildlife in Cades Cove is almost inevitable. This Appalachian haven among the valleys of the Smokies creates a beautiful environment that attracts many animals, which increases the likelihood of wildlife sightings on your mini road trip. Some critters you may see include raccoons, black bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, and even elk. For your best chance to glimpse animals in Cades Cove, visit in the early morning or late evening. 

Historic Structures
Originally hunting lands for the Cherokee and later occupied by early settlers and pioneers, Cades Cove has a rich history — one you can see remnants of along the Cades Cove Loop. In fact, Cades Cove protects the largest collection of historic log buildings in the eastern United States! You’ll also spot churches, homesteads, and farm structures in Cades Cove. Keep an eye out for the following!

  • Becky Cable House
  • Carter Shields Cabin
  • Dan Lawson Cabin (post office in Cades Cove), Corn Crib & Smokehouse 
  • Elijah Oliver Place
  • Henry Whitehead Place
  • John Oliver Cabin
  • John P. Cable Grist Mill
  • Methodist Church
  • Missionary Baptist Church
  • Primitive Baptist Church
  • The Tipton Place

Cades Cove Loop Hours
Open daily — sunrise to sunset
Vehicle-free Wednesdays — early May through late September

Location in the National Park
Cades Cove Loop Road
Townsend, TN 37882
Note: Little River Road connects the Parkway in Gatlinburg directly to Cades Cove.

Hiking & Biking | Cades Cove Trails

Along with hiking and biking the main loop, Cades Cove is home to a variety of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can take a moderate journey to Abrams Falls or enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Cades Cove Nature Trail. A few longer hikes in the national park begin here as well. And there’s a NEW paved trail (8 feet wide) that’s accessible for all needs in 2022 — the John Oliver Cabin Trail! 

  • NEW John Oliver Cabin Trail — 0.5 miles
  • Cades Cove Nature Trail — 2 miles
  • Abrams Falls — 5 miles
  • Rich Mountain Loop — 8.5 miles
  • Spence Field — 10.3 miles
  • Gregory Bald — 11.3 miles

Riverside Picnic Area in Cades Cove

Before or after touring the scenic loop, mountain biking, and hiking trails, sit down for a picnic lunch at the entrance, where the Cades Cove picnic area rests between Green Branch and Abrams Creek. There are 80 picnic sites with tables and charcoal grills for cookouts on nice days in the park. Accessible tables are available as well. And with a serene river view, your snack or meal will be memorable indeed! 

Cades Cove Riding Stables

Experience Cades Cove Appalachian style — on horseback — with Cades Cove Riding Stables. At the entrance of Cades Cove, this horseback riding stable features not only trail rides through the trees but also guided hayrides and carriage rides so all ages can participate. Whether you grew up on a horse or have never ridden, the professional tour guides of Cades Cove Riding Stables are there to help.

Riding Stables Hours 
Early March – late November
Daily — 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Location | Entrance to Cades Cove
10018 Campground Drive
Townsend, TN 37882

Camping in Cades Cove

After spending some time in Cades Cove, you may just want to stay the night! Camping in Cades Cove is offered at several locations. Set up camp — tents and RVs up to 35 feet — at the main campground that features 159 campsites and is open year-round. Or you can bring your horse to Anthony Creek or sleep beneath the stars in the Smoky Mountain backcountry. 

Wherever you choose to camp in Cades Cove, reservations are required through the national park service, and special permits are needed for backcountry camping. 

  • Cades Cove Campground — 877.444.6777
  • Anthony Creek Horse Camp — 877.444.6777
  • Backcountry Camping — 865.436.1297

Souvenirs at the Cades Cove Visitor Center

About halfway around Cades Cove Loop Road in the Cable Mill historic area, you’ll find the Cades Cove Visitor Center that sells souvenirs, gifts, maps, books, and locally made goods in a classic log cabin. Interpretive exhibits are inside as well, and the covered deck offers bench seating. Plus, there are restrooms available for bathroom breaks — a great convenience in the national park! Mountain views are gorgeous here, and you can branch out to hike trails and explore historic structures from the visitor center. 

Visitor Center Hours
Daily — 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. / 4:30 p.m. (winter)
Closed on Christmas Day

Location | Halfway Around the Loop
5686 Cades Cove Loop Road
Townsend, TN 37882

Smoky Mountain Cabin Rentals

Want an easy drive into Cades Cove? Curious about mountain cabin life? Stay near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a Pigeon Forge lodge! At Pigeon Forge TN Cabins, we have 260+ cabin rentals of all shapes and sizes — perfect for romantic retreats, family vacations, getaways with friends, and large group trips

Cabin Options
Amenities abound (see below) and offer plenty of comforts and conveniences to keep everyone happy and entertained while lounging at your cabin rental in Pigeon Forge, TN. We even offer luxury properties with top-of-the-line finishes as well as budget-friendly chalets with everything you need to enjoy your Pigeon Forge vacation. Bringing the dogs? Check out our pet-friendly cabins!

Cabin Amenities
After a long day in Cades Cove, unwind beneath the stars in a steamy hot tub or splash in your private indoor pool. Sip Appalachian moonshine or wine next to a crackling fireplace and enjoy scenic mountain views as the sun sets. Or send the kiddos to play in the game room while the adults set up movie night in the home theater. King suites and bunk rooms await sweet dreams in the Smokies, and you’ll have a fully equipped kitchen for meals, snacks, and drinks. And that’s not all!

  • Mountain, river, wooded, or city views
  • Private indoor pool or community swimming pool
  • Hot tub with massaging jets
  • Firepit or fire table
  • Wood-burning, gas, or electric fireplaces
  • Game room: pool table, foosball, air hockey, arcade games, etc.
  • Wet bar
  • Home theater with surround sound
  • Big screen TVs
  • Fully equipped kitchen 
  • Indoor and/or outdoor dining
  • King or queen suites with private baths
  • Garden or jetted tubs
  • Washer and dryer
  • High speed Wi-Fi

Explore scenic Cades Cove by car, bike, horse, or foot & recharge at your Pigeon Forge cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains.