June 07, 2022
Inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will find an array of places to visit, including a ghost town and one of the premier places to view elk in the United States. One of the most common destinations in the park is Cades Cove! This area features a vast selection of hiking trails, historic buildings, and a scenic drive where you can spot all types of Smoky Mountain wildlife. Here is the ultimate guide to a trip to Cades Cove in the Smokies:
One of the neat things about this amazing area of the Smoky Mountains is that you can experience all the beauty without ever leaving your car. The Cades Cove Loop Road covers 11 miles and features a little bit of everything, including mountain views and wildlife. During your drive, be on the lookout for animals strolling through the grass field or climbing the trees. Some of the critters you might come across include white-tailed deer, coyotes, turkeys, and many different species of birds.
Of course, the real prize is when you see one of the unofficial mascots of the Smoky Mountains, the black bear! The best time to spot these beautiful animals is either during the early morning hours or around dusk because that is when they are out looking for food! There are many pull offs along the loop where you can take a break from driving and breathe in the fresh mountain air of the Smokies! Also, be sure to bring your camera along to capture some incredible photos of the mountain landscape.
As you make your way along the scenic drive, you will come across many historical buildings. While you can spot some of them from the road, others you will have to hike to. We guarantee it will be worth the extra effort once you see the beautiful structures that encompass a ton of Smoky Mountain history. One of the buildings you will want to step inside is the John Oliver Cabin. It is thought to be the oldest human structure still standing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The cabin belonged to owners John and Lucretia Oliver, who were the first permanent white settlers in the area. They moved to the Smokies in the fall of 1818, even before the area had operating grist mills!
Cades Cove is also home to many historical church buildings that you don’t want to miss! The first church that was built in the area was the Primitive Baptist Church, which was established in 1827. The building that sits along the roadside today however was not constructed until around 60 years later. You will find the Methodist Church located just a little ways down the road, with its distinct feature of having two doors on the front. The reason for this was so that men would have their own door, and women and children were forced to use the other entrance. The final church building that came to the area was the Missionary Baptist Church. It was constructed in 1915 when it replaced the original church on Hyatt Hill.
If you want to get out and stretch your legs during your drive on the Cades Cove Loop Road, there are plenty of amazing Smoky Mountain hiking trails to check out. One of the most common hikes for families in the Smokies is the Abrams Falls Trail. It is only 5 miles round trip and features one of the most stunning waterfalls in the mountains. While the waterfall is only about 20 feet high, it is amazing to see the large volume of water that rushes over the falls. In fact, it is by far the most voluminous waterfall in the national park.
For those looking for longer hikes, be sure to add a trip to Thunderhead Mountain to your itinerary. This trail covers 14.5 miles and features more than a 4,000 foot elevation change. Once you reach the peaks of Rocky Top, you will understand why this is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Smokies! Because of the difficult nature of the hike, it is recommended you give yourself at least 8 to 9 hours to complete the trail.
Now that you know a little more about Cades Cove, be sure to check out some of the other Smoky Mountain attractions to visit during your stay in one of our Smoky Mountain cabins! We look forward to seeing you soon!