Step back in time, to a place where early settlers made their home and nature has been unaltered by modern day. This is Cades Cove Smoky Mountains. Showcasing scenery specific to the Southern Appalachian Mountains, the wild nature of the lands and history of the area calls to many. To discover all there is to see and do at this nature preserve, read my guide to touring Cades Cove Smoky Mountains.

Visiting Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

Primary access to Cades Cove is via an 11-mile, one-way loop. This route is the same general path used by the farming community of Cades Cove Smoky Mountains circa 1900. Note that bicyclists can also use this auto-tour path. Also, be sure use the roadside pullouts to take pictures and view wildlife. Generally, the traffic moves fairly swiftly so you can take in the scenic sights without needing to pull over every time.

Cades Cove Smoky Mountains Auto Tour

While auto-touring Cades Cove, you’re treated to the splendor of nature as well as untouched history. Before you go, be sure to pick up a Cades Cove tour pamphlet at the park entrance. It’s an in-depth look at the rich cultural offerings in the area, as well as details on each historic site. In all, there are over 80 historic buildings in the park, ranging from cabins to churches to barns and grist mills. To give you an idea of the offerings, here are a few highlights.

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John Oliver Cabin: John Oliver arrive in Cades Cove Smoky Mountains in 1820 and bought the land his cabin sits on in 1826. His descendants lived in the cabin over the course of the next 100 years, until the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established.

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Methodist Church: Can you believe this church was built in 115 days for $115? J.D. McCampbell completed the task in 1902, replacing a log building that had served as the church since the 1820s.

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John P. Cable Grist Mill:  Built in the 1870s, the grist mill at Cades Cove still stands at its original site. Even more extaordinary—it is still operational.

Browse through the full slide show above to view even more of the incredible scenery found at Cades Cove.

Wildlife Viewing at Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife: Cades Cove is known for its white-tailed deer, turkey and bear population. The open valleys of the cove make wildlife viewing easy. Just be sure to never get too close, especially with bears. This is not a zoo and these animals are, indeed, wild.

Recreation at Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

As previously mentioned, biking riding is available at Cades Cove. Rent a bike at the Cades Cove Campground Store (Adults: $7.50/hr, Children $4.50/hr.) 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. It’s the perfect time to see the rugged beauty of nature—all while getting a workout! Another recommended activity is hiking to Abrams Falls. The five-mile roundtrip hike meanders along a Creekside ridge before arriving at the picturesque falls. At a height of 20-feet, it might not sound impressive but the large volume of water more than makes up for it. It’s truly one of the best waterfall hikes in the Smokies.

Now that you’ve seen all that Cades Cove has to offer, I’m sure you’ve added it to your upcoming Pigeon Forge vacation. Once you visit, you’ll fall in love just as so many others before you.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Pigeon Forge to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.