Cades Cove Vehicle-Free Days

What is Vehicle-Free Day?

Cades Cove access will be motor vehicle-free all day Wednesdays from May 5 to September 1, 2021 as an extended pilot project to provide opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists to experience Cades Cove without motor vehicles.

 
Open road near John Oliver Cabin on vehicle free day
Open road near John Oliver Cabin on Vehicle Free Day

Lisa Nagurny photo

How to get the most out of your Vehicle-Free Day visit


1. Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle! Safety is the most important thing, and you don't want your visit to be ruined by an injury that could have been prevented. Children under 16 are required by law to wear a helmet, but everyone on a bicycle should wear one!

2. Park only in designated parking spots. Roadside parking poses a safety risk when pedestrians and cyclists are sharing the road with vehicles while trying to get from their parking spots to the Loop Road. Please find a designated parking spot to leave your vehicle while you enjoy your time in Cades Cove.

3. You don't have to come early in the morning! There tends to be a rush for parking spaces first thing in the morning. After parking spaces are full, vehicles will be turned away and asked to return later in the day.

4. Have what you need. Due to the terrain of the Cades Cove Loop Road, it often takes people longer than they expect to make it back to their vehicle. Make sure you have essentials (such as food, water, and a first aid kit) before you start. You are unlikely to have cell signal so you can't call someone to bring you what you forgot!

 
 
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Duration:
1 minute, 36 seconds

Park Rangers share tips and tricks for staying safe while biking in Cades Cove on Vehicle Free Days.

 
Cyclists along Cades Cove Loop Road
Cyclists ride along Cades Cove Loop Road

Warren Bielenberg photo

Background


In previous years, motor vehicle closures occured on Wednesdays and Saturdays until 10am. In 2020, the Cades Cove Loop Road was closed on Wednesdays from June through September as a pilot program. The full-day closure was intended to spread use throughout the day and therefore address congestion, parking and safety issues associated with vehicle-free periods.

During the pilot in 2020, congestion along Laurel Creek Road, leading into Cades Cove, was greatly reduced on vehicle-free days. However, parking was frequently full in designated lots, resulting in extensive roadside parking. Roadside parking damages plants growing along the road and can lead to safety concerns as visitors walk/bike along the crowded road to get from their vehicle to their destination. In some cases, roadside parking can even hinder emergency vehicle access.

Vehicle free days continue as an extended pilot in 2021 with staff actively managing parking and traffic flow. The park will assess the effectiveness of the pilot at the end of the 2021 season.
 
Bear in field with trees and mountains in background
Bear in field at Cades Cove

Lisa Nagurny photo

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How will I know if parking is full?
    • Park staff will notify visitors when parking is full with signage along Laurel Creek Road.
  • Can I bring a vehicle with a trailer to vehicle-free day?
    • Parking is very limited for oversized vehicles. While trailers (such as horse trailers) and other oversized vehicles (such as RV’s) are not prohibited, parking in designated spaces is required and the number of spaces available is limited on vehicle free days.
 
  • Where can I go for a scenic drive if the Cades Cove Loop Road is closed?
    • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is very scenic! Other options include the Foothills Parkway between Chilhowee Lake and Wears Valley for scenic views; Little River Road for a scenic drive along a river; and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail for a scenic drive with opportunities to explore historic structures.
  • Are the campground and picnic area still open on vehicle free days?
    • Yes! The campground (with a reservation) and picnic area are still open on vehicle free days. However, parking in the picnic area is limited, especially in the morning. Other picnic areas in the park include Metcalf Bottoms, Chimneys, and Collins Creek (North Carolina).
  • Are the horse stables and campground store open on vehicle free days?
    • Yes! The horse stables and campground store remain open on vehicle free days.
  • Is there somewhere I can rent a bike in the park?
    • Yes! There is a bike rental near the campground store. Be prepared to wait as bike rentals are very popular.

Last updated: July 29, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Phone:

(865) 436-1200

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