This beautiful, sheltered valley is a mixture of forests, meadows, and an outdoor museum of pioneer life. Remnants of a more primitive way of life still exists in Cades Cove. Everyone can enjoy the Cove, whether by car, on foot, by horseback, or bicycle. Spring, summer, fall or winter, you will not want to miss Cades Cove while travelling through the Smokies.
Without leaving your car, you may drive the eleven-mile, one-way, paved Loop Road. Deer and wild turkeys are frequently seen on this drive, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. Scenery along the way includes three churches and cemeteries which once served residents of Cove, the Cable Mill area, and several pioneer cabins and houses which have been preserved.
Cable Mill is a water-powered grist mill which demonstrates the grinding of corn into meal. There is a Visitor Center at the site with restroom facilities. We recommend that as you enter Cades Cove, you stop and purchase a copy of the auto tour booklet published by the Great Smoky Mountain Natural History Association. It is available in a stand by the roadside at the beginning of the loop road and also at the Ranger's Station. The cost is about $1.00.
For touring Cades Cove at a more leisurely pace, bicycles may be rented (April through October) at the Cades Cove bike shop. On Saturdays from June through Labor Day, the Loop Road is closed to autos, and it is bicycles only from sunrise until 10 a.m.
Once the quickest mode of transportation in the mountains, you may rent horses by the hour at the Cades Cove Riding Stables. Guides will take you along cool, wooded trails, over small mountain brooks, and up to vistas of trees and wildflowers.
A fun and unusual way to see Cades Cove is from the back of a hay wagon from April through October. Departing from the Cades Cove Stables, the hayrides are available beginning at 6 p.m. Groups of 15 or more may reserve hay wagon for day trips beginning as early as 10 a.m.
Trails and Hiking
Only on foot can one really get a taste of the wilderness that the pioneers fought , depended on for raw materials, and most of all, loved. Abrams Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the National Park, is reached only a 5 mile (round trip) hike. Longer trails to Gregory Bald or Spence Field are available for more veteran hikers.
Nature lovers can take the 1/3-mile self guided nature trail located half-mile behind the Cable Mill parking area on the Loop Road.
The picnic area is located near the campground . Grills and tables are provided, or you may pack a lunch and eat along a trail in the area.