Cades Cove Loop Road

EASY 263 reviews

Cades Cove Loop Road is a 10.1 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Townsend, Tennessee that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

Distance: 10.1 miles Elevation Gain: 692 feet Route Type: Loop

wheelchair friendly

kid friendly

camping

road biking

scenic driving

walking

bird watching

running

paved

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no dogs

This road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park runs through a lush valley, see wildlife & historic buildings Cades Cove is a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains and is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies. It offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the park. Large numbers of white-tailed deer are frequently seen, and sightings of black bear, coyote, ground hog, turkey, raccoon, skunk, and other animals are also possible. For hundreds of years Cherokee Indians hunted in Cades Cove but archeologists have found no evidence of major settlements. The first Europeans settled in the cove sometime between 1818 and 1821. By 1830 the population of the area had already swelled to 271. Cades Cove offers the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in the national park. Scattered along the loop road are three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and many other faithfully restored eighteenth and nineteenth century structures. An 11-mile, one-way loop road circles the cove, offering motorists the opportunity to sightsee at a leisurely pace. Allow at least two to four hours to tour Cades Cove, longer if you walk some of the area's trails. A visitor center (open daily), restrooms, and the Cable Mill historic area are located half-way around the loop road. 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 (made famous by the popular song) also begin in the cove. Several designated backcountry campsites (camping by permit only) are located along trails. Only bicycle and foot traffic are allowed on the loop road until 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday morning from early May until late September. Otherwise the road is open to motor vehicles from sunrise until sunset daily, weather permitting.

scenic driving
4 days ago

Great drive. Fun for the whole family.

nature trips
14 days ago

We do this drive a few times a year. Its a beautiful drive and if you enjoy the historic side of it, I suggest you get the little booklet that tells all about the buildings you will see and the history behind them. The only thing I will complain about is the tourists not respecting the wildlife, the historic buildings, or respecting other people who are also there for viewing pleasures. It clearly states to keep back 50 yards from any wildlife encounter, yet people are right up on them with their phones. That alone is a federal offense. Yes, they are beautiful majestic animals, but give them their space. We are in their territory and they deserve to have their privacy. There are pull offs everywhere for you to stop and enjoy without hindering anyone, but again we have people who stop their cars in the middle of the road and take pictures. So a nice drive turns into almost 4 hours of just trying to get through the drive. There is graffiti all over the buildings of tourists carving their names everywhere. If you are a tourist and you're reading this, please please respect the wildlife and don't draw on the buildings. And please try your best to use the pull offs for your viewing pleasures.

hiking
19 days ago

drive or bike through. take a lunch and spend the whole day reading the book and looking at the history.

scenic driving
21 days ago

Just a lovely drive early in the morning around 10am. I focused on the mountains and the sky when going through the loop but wanted to take it again for the wildflowers. The second time around was so busy! Barely drove 10 mph and it was before 12pm.

road biking
22 days ago

Biking this trail was much better than driving it. It’s a bit of a workout, but they restrict vehicle access before ten so it’s very very enjoyable.

hiking
1 month ago

The views and photo opportunities here alone make it 5 star, besides that it’s still amazing

hiking
1 month ago

Go early or you will be bumper to bumper for the entire thing.

1 month ago

Great area to see wildlife. We saw deer and turkeys. It gets crowded so definitely go early !

hiking
1 month ago

Awesome hike! Awesome views!!

very beautiful drive! Seen a bear, coyote, and deer.

hiking
1 month ago

Fantastic drive with gorgeous scenery - both mountain and forest. We saw wild turkey and deer, and some cars saw bears. It was car intensive and definitely takes four hours if you take in the stops and views. Beautiful and I can’t imagine how gorgeous in the Fall!

hiking
2 months ago

Cycled the loop on a Wed morning without autos. It was awesome! Beautiful scenery—go early to see wildlife.

scenic driving
2 months ago

A beautiful area to see wildlife. The morning we went we saw several turkeys, a groundhog, a young buck, and a doe with a 1-2 day old fawn. It was nice to walk thru the old houses and buildings along the loop.

scenic driving
2 months ago

One of our favorite places in the Smoky Mountains. This is a high-trafficked area from May to September and on nice weekends year-round. Be prepared for slow traffic and a lot of wildlife crossing. There are two bathrooms on the loop, one at the first ranger station as you enter the cove and a second at the General Store halfway through the park. Enjoy the many hiking trails, old churches and structures along the trail! **Please do not bother our beloved black bears - let them be in peace within their natural surroundings. Many people will try to encroach their space; we’ve seen baby bears scared from people chasing them, resulting in the mama bringing them food up in the tree for days at a time.

hiking
2 months ago

The scenic loop drive is a must do! Always so beautiful no matter what time of year. Lots of places to get out and walk to old cabins and churches. Usually see wildlife. Saw 2 does, turkeys and a yearling black bear run across the road in front of us.

hiking
3 months ago

Lots of wildlife and gorgeous views! Just be courteous if you see wildlife. Don’t be an idiot and get close to it and keep the traffic flowing.

scenic driving
3 months ago

This loop is primarily a drive. Pick up a booklet at the start to know what you're looking at at each numbered viewpoint. There are several places to stop, get out, and walk to an historic building. There's a visitor center with a good sized parking lot, bathrooms, and a gristmill and several interesting buildings demonstrating life in the Cove in the old days. There are a number of hiking trails and picnic spots just off the loop as well. We learned a lot and enjoyed the pace. Saw a young bear walk across the road near the end. Please don't be the guys in front of us that stood on top of a moving vehicle and chased after it into a wood.

hiking
3 months ago

Was raining so we drove the loop the hiked Abrams trail without getting soaked! Very enjoyable loop. Lots of wildlife-bears, deer, turkeys and salamanders.

hiking
3 months ago

wonderful, paved road. would rather walk it than bike it. only took 3 1/2 hrs. relatively easy but long. had a front seat to view all the wildlife without sitting in traffic.

3 months ago

it was great

4 months ago

Interesting. Go early. It gets crowded.

4 months ago

If you don't get an early stay there are more cars than I like to deal with.

4 months ago

Gorgeous, sweeping vistas and lots of wild life to see as you pedal along the 11 mile loop. Unfortunately, you pedal with automobile drivers who do not adhere to signs saying do not stop, use pull offs The scenery must disengage the driver's ability to signal so the cars are more of a challenge than the long uphill slopes. This is a ling and winding road and worthy every pedal. Mountains, bears (look in the trees, too - not just on ground). Wild Turkeys, blue skies, green meadows and forests and smokey mountains.

5 months ago

Very beautiful to drive through and so much wildlife!

5 months ago

beautiful trail.

5 months ago

great for biking, especially early morning, or mid week when traffic is low.

scenic driving
5 months ago

Lovely views, busy road and unfortunately no wildlife as I’ve been told.

6 months ago

my favorite place. drove it too many times to count an I have strarted walk it an when walking it makes one see it in a different view . see things that I would have never seen when driving it. I would recommend walking it atleast once.

hiking
8 months ago

Wildlife and historical

8 months ago

We love driving the loop but was a great way to see it hiking it instead this time! This place never gets old !! Just beautiful!

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