Cades Cove Info
Cades Cove, which is the most popular area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, receives over 2 million visitors each year! This protected valley was home to hundreds of settlers and offers visitors the opportunity to view wildlife, visit historic buildings, hike amazing mountain trails, or drive one of the most popular scenic drives in the country.
Where is Cades Cove?
Cades Cove is located a scenic 27-mile, one-hour drive from downtown Gatlinburg. To reach Cades Cove, take the main Parkway through downtown Gatlinburg into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Immediately after the Sugarland Visitor Center (on your right), make a right turn onto Little River Road. Stay on this scenic road for about 25 miles of winding, beautiful roads. The road dead-ends into Cades Cove.
When is Cades Cove Loop Road (Scenic Drive) open for motor vehicles?
With the exception of Wednesday and Saturday, Cades Cove Loop Road is open to motor vehicle traffic daily at dawn and remains open until sunset. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 am between May 10 and September 27 motor vehicles are not allowed. After 10:00 am on Wednesdays and Saturdays, motor vehicles are allowed.
How long does it take to drive Cades Cove Loop?
Depending on your pace, plan on spending two to four hours on the Cades Cove Scenic Loop. In addition to the time driving the scenic loop, you should also plan on numerous stops to visit historical structures, view wildlife, take photos, and potentially hike. Traffic on the the scenic loop move slow and we encourage all visitors to take their time. When you consider the time required for the round trip from Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge and the time required to see Cades Cove properly, it is easy to see why this is an all day activity!
Does Cades Cove Loop Road have special hours for bicycles or pedestrians?
Yes! Each Wednesday and Saturday morning from May 10th until September 27th Cades Cove is closed to motor vehicles. This time, which is specifically set aside for bicyclists and pedestrians, is the perfect time to visit! In addition, if you are up for an early ride or run, the motor vehicles are not allowed into the Cove until after dawn every day.
When is the Cades Cove visitors center open?
The Cades Cove Visitor Center, which is located on the midpoint of the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road, is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day. Here are the hours by season for the visitor center:
Cades Cove Visitor Center – Hours of Operation
|January||9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.|
|February||9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.|
|March||9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.|
|April||9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.|
|May||9:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.|
|June||9:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.|
|July||9:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.|
|August||9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.|
|September||9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.|
|October||9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.|
|November||9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.|
|December||9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.|
When is the best time to visit Cades Cove?
While each season and has distinct advantages, our favorite time to visit is near sunrise and sunset on weekdays during lower seasons. During these times, traffic is minimal and your chances of experiencing wildlife are exponentially higher!
However, don’t forget that vehicular traffic is not allowed in Cades Cove on Wednesdays and Saturdays until 10 am.
What is the history of Cades Cove?
The first settlers of Cades Cove, which were Europeans in the 1820s, were self-sufficient and adventurous people who built log homes, farms, corn cribs, smoke houses, and more. Due to the perfect combination of reliable water sources, plentiful wildlife, cleared land for farming, and a protected valley, Cades Cove quickly experienced a population boom.
The population reached an astounding 685 people a brief three decades after the first settlers arrived. The community-minded settlers gathered frequently at the three churches and area mills to visit with one another and help each other out.
In 1927, the states of North Carolina and Tennessee began purchasing land to create a National Park. While some families opposed these efforts, many sold their land and moved out of the Cove. Unfortunately, the community began to fall apart as people left. In 1944, the last Cades Cove school closed and the post office closed shortly thereafter. By 1945, the National Park Service began to restore historical buildings and designated this beautiful area as historical area.
A common misconception about Cades Cove is that the Cherokee Indians were the first people to live here. This is not true. However, prior to the Europeans settling the area the Cherokee Indians did frequent the Cove to hunt bear, bison, elk, and deer.