Cades Cove

The sun rises over the mountains on a frosty winter morning in Cades Cove.

Kristina Plaas photo

Cades Cove is a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains and is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies. It offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the park. Large numbers of white-tailed deer are frequently seen, and sightings of black bear, coyote, ground hog, turkey, raccoon, skunk, and other animals are also possible.
Touring the Cove
An 11-mile, one-way loop road circles the cove, offering motorists the opportunity to sightsee at a leisurely pace. Allow at least two to four hours to tour Cades Cove, longer if you walk some of the area's trails. Traffic is heavy during the tourist season in summer and fall and on weekends year-round. While driving the loop road, please be courteous to other visitors and use pullouts when stopping to enjoy the scenery or view wildlife.

An inexpensive self-guiding tour booklet available at the entrance to the road provides a map and information about the cove.

Only bicycle and foot traffic are allowed on the loop road until 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday morning from early May until late September. Otherwise the road is open to motor vehicles from sunrise until sunset daily, weather permitting.

Red cardinal flowers blooming in front of a cabin

Cardinal flowers blooming beside the Tipton Place.

Warren Bielenberg photo

The valley has a rich history. For hundreds of years Cherokee Indians hunted in Cades Cove but archeologists have found no evidence of major settlements. The first Europeans settled in the cove sometime between 1818 and 1821. By 1830 the population of the area had already swelled to 271. Cades Cove offers the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in the national park.

Scattered along the loop road are three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and many other faithfully restored eighteenth and nineteenth century structures. Pick up the self-guiding tour booklet available at the entrance to the loop road for information about the buildings you'll see in the cove and the people who lived here.

Wildlife Viewing
White-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, turkeys and other wildlife are frequently spotted in the open valley of Cades Cove. Wildlife viewing tips.

Experience the cove by bike! The loop road is closed to motor vehicles until 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday morning from early May until late September to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the cove. You can rent a bike at the Cades Cove Campground Store. The State of Tennessee requires that children age 16 and under wear a helmet. We strongly recommend that all riders wear helmets, use rear view mirrors, and ride properly fitted and well-maintained bicycles. Please obey all traffic regulations. Visit the campground store's website at for additional information.

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. Download a park trail map

Visitor Center
  • Located half-way around the loop road in the Cable Mill historic area
  • Open daily except Christmas
  • Restrooms
  • Bookstore


Cades Cove Campground
• Open year round
159 sites
• Tents and RVs up to 35 feet
• Call (877) 444-6777 or visit to reserve a site.

Anthony Creek Horse Camp
• Call (877) 444-6777 or visit to reserve a site.

Backcountry Camping
• Reservation and permit required
• Call (865) 436-1297 for information

Mileage to Cades Cove:
from Cherokee-57
from Gatlinburg-27
from Townsend-9

White-tailed deer in a field in Cades Cove with a mountain rising in the background.

Kristina Plaas photo.


Recommended Reading

Cades Cove Story
Learn about farming, home life, religion, and recreation in the fascinating history of this beautiful, lively mountain community. Contains historic photos.

Self-Guiding Auto Tour Booklet Cades Cove
Keyed to numbered posts or landmarks along the Cades Cove Loop Road, this tour booklet describes the history of the Cove and describes the homes, barns, churchs, Cable Mill, and other historical buildings you'll see as you tour Cades Cove. Features historical photographs and illustrations which show what life was like a century ago.


Day Hikes In and Around Cades Cove
Map and guide with descriptions of the 9 best day hikes in the Cades Cove area. Full color topo map and elevation charts.


Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park's official online store for other books, maps, and guides to the park. Operated by the nonprofit Great Smoky Mountains Association, proceeds generated by purchases at the store are donated to educational, scientific, and historical projects in the park.

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