About Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains

Deer in Cades Cove in the Smoky MountainsCades Cove in the Smoky Mountains is the most visited area of the national park–and for good reason. The natural beauty of Cades Cove is just a glimpse of everything the national park has to offer the Smokies visitor. Interesting Tennessee cabins, grist mills and other pioneer structures dot this cove and tell the history of its early inhabitants. Wildlife is abundant. More than a dozen hiking and horseback riding trails originate in Cades Cove.

The Smoky Mountains, which tower all around Cades Cove, are absolutely stunning! Cades Cove is home to trout streams for the fly-fishing enthusiast and campgrounds are available for those who want to experience Cades Cove around the clock.

The Cades Cove Loop Road in the Smoky MountainsView of the Cades Cove Loop Road in the summertime

The Cove is best seen via Cades Cove Loop Road, which is a one way paved lane where you can ride along and see all of the buildings and historic structures. The Loop Road takes you on a historical tour of early pioneer farms, fields, roads and trails, leaving you with the feeling that you just stepped foot into the history of the mountains.

Cades Cove Loop is open to auto, bicycle and foot traffic every day of the year from sun up to sundown with a few exceptions. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has designated that May through September on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the loop is reserved for hikers and bicyclists from sun up to 10 a.m. only. Auto traffic on those days is permitted in Cades Cove after 10 a.m. Expect to spend at least 2 hours on the Cades Cove auto tour including a few stops along the way. Hikers and bicyclists will, of course, spend considerably more time in this Smoky Mountain paradise. Bicycles can be rented for a small fee at the Visitors Center at the beginning of Cades Cove.

Before It Became Known as Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains

Cades Cove was once known as “Kate’s Cove,” after an Indian chief’s wife. The Cove drew the Cherokee Nation back again and again with its abundant wildlife and good hunting. Later, the Cades Cove wildlife drew European descent frontiersmen to make it their home. They and cleared the fertile valley floor and built farms to sustain them. The pioneer families lived in Cades Cove for many generations before the cove became part of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Today, Cades Cove is still as full of wildlife as before but draws not hunters, but millions of visitors to the Smoky Mountains.

The field of Cades Cove in the summerPreserving Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains

The Cove has been preserved by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to look much the way it looked in the 1800s. Once home to a small mountain community, whose settlers came from mainly from Virginia, North Carolina and upper east Tennessee, Cades Cove is now the largest open air museum in the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cades Cove has original pioneer homesteads, barns, businesses, pasture and farmland–a fitting tribute to the people who lived there.

Most of the settlers homes and home sites will be outside of the road you as you travel the Cades Cove Loop. To the center of the loop will be acre upon acre of grass and wildflower fields which were once cleared by frontiersmen for growing crops such as wheat and corn. These remaining original structures, as well as abundant wildlife, are easy to spot as you travel through Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains.