Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains
Things To Do
Located just outside of Townsend, Cades Cove is a lush extensive valley in the Smoky Mountains. This picturesque valley is surrounded by an 11-mile loop and features multiple locations to view wildlife and enjoy the natural scenery. In addition to white-tailed deer, there have been sightings of elk, black bear, groundhog, coyote, wild turkey, skunk, raccoon and other animals. There is an extensive trail system in Cades Cove as well as campgrounds to help you get close to nature. Below are just some of the attractions available in Cades Cove.
Cades Cove Hours
Cades Cove is open every day from sunrise to sunset, weather permitting. The loop closes to automobiles and allows only bicycle and foot traffic every Wednesday from early May until late September. Check this NPS.gov link for the latest updates on vehicle-free days.
The beauty of nature doesn’t end above ground. Tuckaleechee Caverns is known as the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies”. It is opened to the public with a mile-long guided tour. The tour includes the Big Room which is over 400 ft long, 300 ft across, and 150 ft deep. It features 24 ft tall stalagmites, and a 210 ft high double waterfall called Silver Falls.
Clingmans Dome holds the distinction of being the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,643 ft. The observation tower located on the summit of Clingmans Dome allows visitors a 360° view of the surrounding countryside. On a clear day, it is possible to see for over 100 miles. There are several trails that either start at or cross this point, the Appalachian Trail is one of them.
Spruce Flats Falls
The falls themselves can be reached by walking the trail from the visitor center at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute. The walk is roughly 2 miles but can be a bit steep and rocky at times. The view of the falls will be well worth the effort though. The falls’ main section is approximately 30 ft.
John P. Cable Mill
If you’re looking for a bit of history, the John P. Cable Mill is a good place to start. This mill was built in the early 1870s and used an overshot water wheel as power for both a grain mill and a sawmill. The sawmill helped people switch from building log homes to lumber and frame construction.
There are many things to see and do in this wonderful part of the world. Make sure you take the time to see them all!
Cades Cove Activities
Bicycles are a popular way to travel the loop road. From early May until late September, only bicycle and foot traffic is allowed on the road until 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday. Bike rentals are available at Cades Cove Trading Company. Cycling opportunities in Townsend →
According to the National Park Service, “numerous trails originate in the cove, including the five-mile roundtrip trail to Abrams Falls and the short Cades Cove Nature Trail. Longer hikes to Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top also begin in the cove.” We recommend exploring with a friend, and always make sure to tell someone about your hiking plans. The National Park Service has tips and safety information for viewing wildlife.
Download a park trail map →
Hiking opportunities in Townsend →
Horseback riding is permitted within the cove. Visitors can easily reserve a site at Anthony Creek Horse Camp by visiting Recreation.gov. Please make sure to check ahead of time and follow all rules and regulations for horseback riding during your visit. More about horseback riding →
Today, visitors can still explore the remains of buildings that were once integral to the workings of a thriving mountain community. Resources are available at the entrance to the loop to learn more about the buildings you can discover in the cove. The following are listed in the order they are approached along the Cades Cove Loop Road.
- John Oliver Cabin
- Primitive Baptist Church
- Cades Cove Methodist Church
- Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church
- Myers Barn
- Elijah Oliver Place
- John Cable Grist Mill
- Becky Cable House
- Henry Whitehead Cabin
- Dan Lawson Place
- Tipton Place
- Carter Shields Cabin