When you set out to explore the Great Smoky Mountains, you’re taking on a journey of endless sights and no less than a couple hundred views that will stop you in your tracks. The beauty is never ending, and recording every part of it is an impressive task. And while there is no way to choose a favorite sight or scene in the Smokies, we’ve been lucky enough to become well acquainted with one part that is extra special to us – Cades Cove. This mountain-surrounded valley is a well-known treasure of the Smoky Mountains and can be considered one of many favorites in the park with both out-of-towners and locals visiting by the thousands. The 11-mile trip around the cove usually takes about 2-4 hours, and there’s a lot to see and learn about in that short distance and time. That’s why we’ve put together the only Cades Cove map and guide that you’ll ever need. Print this handy guide out or bookmark it on your phone to ensure you see and learn about all the beauty in Cades Cove.
Directions to the Cades Cove Loop Road
The Cades Cove Loop Road is an easy find. Heading towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg on the Parkway, look for Sugarlands Visitor Center on your right. Once you pass the center, make a right turn onto Little River Road. Stay on this road for approximately 25 miles before meeting a dead end at the entrance of Cades Cove Loop Road.
For more detailed information about Cades Cove, from the National Park Service, you can click here.
Starting the Tour
The Loop Road is a one-way, paved road that runs alongside an old logging railroad track. Toward the left as you enter the road, there’s a orientation shelter where a helpful team of park rangers and staff is waiting to answer any questions you may have before beginning your exploration of the Cades Cove map.
What You’ll See Along the Cades Cove Loop Road
Oliver Cabin – The first historical site on the Cades Cove map is John Oliver Cabin. A testament to architecture of the past, this cabin is held together by notches in the wood frame and its own weight, requiring no nails or pegs to stay in place.
The John Oliver Cabin was in the Oliver family for more than a century before becoming a part of the national park.
Primitive Baptist Church – The first of three churches in Cades Cove, Primitive Baptist Church, is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the second church to be built in the cove.
The church’s congregation halted worship in the church during the Civil War when their minister was forced to flee the area. They resumed service right after the war ceased.
Methodist Church – The fourth historic building on our Cades Cove map is the Methodist Church. Built in 1820, the church was constructed by carpenter and eventual minister J.D. McCampbell.
Missionary Baptist Church – The next point of interest on the map of Cades Cove is Missionary Baptist Church that was built in 1839. The church was built when the a portion of the congregation of the existing Baptist church split off to form a new church based in missionary work.
In the springtime, you can just barely make out “Co. 5427” written out in daffodils to the right of the church. A member of the Civilian Conservation Corps planted them when the park’s trails were forged.
Cooper Road Trail – Named for Joe Cooper, a settler credited with mass improvements to the wagon road, Cooper Road Trail is a moderately easy, 10.9-mile hike that takes you to the Abrams Creek campground. The hike features gorgeous nature scenes and interesting geological features.
Elijah Oliver Place – Remember our friend John Oliver from the Oliver family cabin? Elijah Oliver was his son and this was Elijah’s home. Although Elijah fled the Oliver Cabin during the Civil War, he returned to this spot on our Cades Cove map and called it home from then on.
Abrams Falls – Shortly after passing Elijah Oliver Place, you’ll find the trailhead of Abrams Falls Trail. As one of the most popular trails in the entire Smoky Mountains, the Abrams Falls Trail leads to a 20-foot waterfall whose ferocity is unmatched anywhere else in the park. The trail is approximately five miles roundtrip and moderately easy.
Cades Cove Visitor Center – Stop into the Cades Cove Visitor Center for a souvenir bag of flour from the grist mill, history books and anything else you can imagine. Modern restrooms are located to the left of the center.
Cable Mill – As the 9th destination on our Cades Cove map, this mill is worth the entire Cades Cove trip on its own, as Cable Mill is the only working grist mill in the Smoky Mountains. Historic buildings – barns, homes, a smokehouse, a blacksmith shop – are scattered around the mill, as well, making this spot a worthy spot to stop for.
Henry Whitehead Place – Henry Whitehead Place was the third of its kind in the park to be forged from log home and frame home styles, inspiring the term ‘transitional’ home. It’s also the only home if its kind still standing.
Cades Cove Nature Trail – The next stop on our Cades Cove map is a trail known for its blooming dogwoods in the spring. The trail is short and ideal for Cades Cove drivers who want to stretch their legs.
Dan Lawson Place – The next point of interest on the map is Dan Lawson Place. What piques your interest at this destination is the brick chimney right there on the building. While chimneys of every kind are typical today, these were unheard of at the time. In fact, every single brick was produced right in Cades Cove.
Other signs of remodeling are indicated by the addition of sawed lumber atop the original fitted logs of the home.
Tipton Place – Owned by Colonel Hamp Tipton, his daughters Lucy and Lizzie inhabited the home in Cades Cove where the two worked as school teachers.
Carter Shields Cabin – The last historic building on the Cades Cove map is the Carter Shields Cabin. Wounded at the battle of Shiloh, Civil War veteran George Washington ‘Carter’ Shields called the Carter Shields Cabin home for only 11 years after returning from Kansas following the war.
Hyatt Lane and Sparks Lane – During your tour of Cades Cove, you will notice two roads that cut through the middle of the loop that are open for motorists. Both Hyatt Lane and Sparks Lane are a useful if you and your family are running short on time, or if you would like to gain a different perspective of the views found in the area. For convenience, both of these roads are two-way routes.
If you would like to learn more about the Cades Cove Loop Road or the historical structures and history found along the way on our Cades Cove map, be sure to read up on Cades Cove history.