Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Cades Cove

Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!

Cades Cove is a valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The valley was home to numerous settlers and many historic buildings, dating back to the 1800s,  are open to visitors along the 11-mile, one-way park loop road.


This section was the farthest section of the park from our Gatlinburg hotel, so we set off early in the morning, planning to spend the day there.


Our first stop was to Cades Coves stables, an official park concessioner that runs hay rides on the loop road. We were hoping to take one of those rides, but the timing just didn’t work out. Instead, we opted to take a horse-drawn carriage ride.  For about 45 minutes, our driver wound through the wooded park trails, entertaining us with the history of Cades Cove. We saw several deer.


Back at the corral, he pointed put some of the horses roaming free in the fields. One was blind and always ran with the same companion so he’d know where he was going. It was touching to see how the two looked out for each other.


Next we explored the loop road. Though only 11 miles long, this requires several hours.

There are a lot of other motorists on this road who don’t seem to know they should pull over when they see something they want to take a picture of.


We’d picked up the self-guided tour booklet at the entrance and stopped in a few places to go inside log cabins, old churches and walk a short trail or two.


The last stop on the return side of the loop is the visitors center with a few old buildings to explore and a working grist mill. You can buy the corn meal they produce at the store.


Location: Cades Cove, TN
Designation: National Park
Date designated/established: September 2, 1940
Date of my visit: August 13, 20