All the natural glories of the Smoky Mountains can be experienced in one destination, making Cades Cove a favorite for many visitors to the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area! Roam the stretches of fields and tour historic homesteads and churches along a one-way 11-mile paved route. Want to experience a little more nature from outside the car windows? Hike one of Cades Cove’s numerous trails; a few lead to breathtaking waterfalls! Explore the land the way the first settlers did on horseback, too. You and the kids are sure to work up a real appetite during your expedition, so pack a lunch and enjoy it amongst all the picturesque views in the Cades Cove picnic pavilion.
However you like to explore – from the comfort of your car, on horseback, or on foot – Cades Cove is the natural jewel of the Smoky Mountains. Fill your tank with gas, pack your favorite picnic lunch, and head into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for Cades Cove in pursuit of heart-stirring views, teeming wildlife, and photos you will hold onto for years.
A Scenic 11-mile Loop
At the end of Little River Road, the entrance of Cades Cove is easy to find. You can download a Cades Cove Map to print or simply use on your smartphone. The map pinpoints each historic structure you will see along your drive on the loop. While the entirety of the 11-mile tour can take from 2-4 hours, there are 2 cut-through roads that allow for 2-way traffic to pass. If you passed a particularly beautiful area you wanted to revisit or if you are pressed for time, these roads make improvising your tour to meet your specific needs very easy. Traffic on the loop stays slow, so don’t worry about missing your landscape photo ops! Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center halfway along the loop to park and explore the historic Cable Mill and pick up a souvenir.
This is also where restrooms are conveniently located for you and the kids. Get back on the loop to finish the second half of your driving tour, passing by more historic structures and maybe even catching glimpses of black bears and wild turkeys! Finish your tour with a picnic under the pavilion located near the ranger’s station and horse stables. Enjoy sandwiches and healthy snacks as you watch horses graze in the fields among the mountains.
Horseback Riding in Cades Cove
The Cades Cove Stables staff are a team of highly experienced and enthusiastic hosts that want to give you a memorable and unique experience of Cades Cove. Riders of all levels are welcomed by professional trainers and experienced horses to explore the area. The 1-hour tour can take up to 9 guests at a time to travel through thick forest greenery, along streams and waterfalls, and to perfect spots for breathtaking views. Not really interested in mounting a horse? Cades Cove Stables also offers carriage tours narrated by informative guides. Sit back and relax in your private carriage as your tour guide tells you and up to 5 other members of your group all the best facts and secrets of Cades Cove. Reservations for horseback rides and carriage rides are not taken, so get to Cades Cove early to ensure your spot!
The Early Bird Spots the Wildlife
Getting to Cades Cove early has other perks, too. Get out in the crisp morning air and hike the numerous trails that vary in length and difficulty to spot some wildlife in the morning and early afternoon. Snag a trail map from the ranger’s station at the entrance of Cades Cove and get all the best hiking and safety tips from the park rangers. If you and your guests are more avid outdoorsmen, you will really enjoy the 3-4-hour hike to Abrams Falls. The 5.2-mile (roundtrip) trail runs through Smoky Mountain forests, leading you to a 20-foot waterfall named in honor of a Cherokee Indian chief. Be sure to remember this trail calls for more suitable footwear and preparation such as snacks and water. Take the Cades Cove Nature Trail for a short walk with the family through the pines. This .8-mile loop trail is lush with greenery and thick wildflowers because of the creek and moist soil along the trail. Catch glimpses of wildlife along the way, including amphibians, birds, groundhogs, and deer.
Biking Cades Cove
Cades Cove has yet one more way to explore besides driving, hiking, and horseback riding; cruise through the mountain air on bike! Bring your own or rent from the Cades Cove Campground Store. Helmets are included in the rental price to encourage safety anytime you ride; some helmets even have mounts for GoPros, so bring yours and make a full movie of your visit!
Ride along the loop through moderate hills and dreamy valleys. Safety is priority in Cades Cove, so cars are required to share the road and stay at low speeds. And if you show up early, you can have the trail all to yourself each Wednesday and Saturday from May to November. During this season, no motor vehicles are allowed on the loop until 10 a.m. Bring the tricycles, mountain bikes, and cruisers for a delightful morning in the mountain sunlight. Glide past fields of wildflowers and step into the past as you stop to snap pictures of restored original log cabins and churches.
Visit Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, Tennessee, and begin your expeditions below. There are more rock structures to be in awe of in the caverns, far beneath the mountain’s peaks. Explore caves that open to gigantic rock structures and “rooms” boasting space enough for a football field. Tuckaleechee Caverns are home to Silver Falls, the tallest subterranean waterfall in the Eastern United States, cascading 210 feet! While your eyes have been glued to the skies and mountain peaks, the earth hid all this beauty right underneath your feet. Don’t miss out on the guided cavern tours!
As stunning as your views from the rocking chair on your cabin porch may be, Clingmans Dome allows visitors 360-degree unobstructed views of the Smoky Mountains. Gaze in awe from an observation dome sitting 6,645 feet above the Smoky Mountain valleys. Cameras are definitely recommended to document these heart-stirring mountain views!
Want a hike everyone can join in on? Walk along the paved hiking trail at Laurel Falls to the 80-foot waterfall! The trail is 2.6 miles roundtrip, with an elevation of 314 feet. It continues to be a crowd favorite among groups of all ages.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park area and Cades Cove are an endless supply of scenic views, trails to journey, and adventures to be had, so be sure to book your cabin vacation and plan to explore all nature offers here in the Smoky Mountains!
After a busy day exploring Cades Cove and the natural wonders of the Smoky Mountains, our comfortable cabins will be just where you want to rest your head, kick up your feet, and take a break. From big screen TVs, king-size beds, fully equipped kitchens, and gorgeous mountain views from spacious decks to outdoor hot tubs, private indoor pools, game rooms, and cozy living rooms with wood-burning fireplaces, they’re perfect for relaxing in the serene Smoky Mountains.