It’s no wonder the Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomes millions of visitors every year. If you’ve ever been here before, you know how captivating the area is, with sweeping mountain views, babbling brooks, and wildlife wandering through the woods. The top destination in the park is Cades Cove, and once you visit this little valley, it’s easy to see why. If you’ve never traveled this scenic drive before, we want to share the information you need to know about visiting the Cades Cove scenic loop.
Picking Up a Parking Pass
The first thing you should know is that you will need a Smoky Mountain parking pass if you plan on visiting Cades Cove. You’ll have so many opportunities to stop your vehicle to explore historic buildings or take photos with the Smokies in the background. You can get a parking pass for a day, week, or year. You have the choice to pick one up in person at the Cades Cove Visitor Center, or you can buy one online before your trip.
Historic Stops Along the Loop
When you’ve arrived at the Cades Cove scenic loop, you’ll be blown away by the sheer beauty of the area. There are rolling hills covered in wildflowers in the spring and summer, and if you’re visiting in the fall, the colorful leaves brighten up the drive. You’ll come up on historic homesteads where you can walk through cabins and under barns. There are churches and cemeteries to look at, and about halfway through the loop, you’ll find the John P. Cable grist mill that still works!
Not only is Cades Cove full of preserved history with these buildings, there are also several hiking opportunities! The most popular hiking trail along the drive is Abrams Falls Trail. This out-and-back trail will take you through the woods and alongside Abrams Creek until you reach the 25-foot waterfall. There’s also Rich Mountain Loop, Cades Cove Nature Trail, and many others!
Wildlife Viewing Opportunities
Gorgeous views and historic buildings aren’t the only draw to driving the Cades Cove scenic loop. This is one of the best places to come if you want to see wildlife out and about. Black bears are spotted along the drive as they walk through the fields, across the road, and through the woods. People also see white tailed deer grazing in the fields, birds flying around, small animals traveling on their merry way, and so many other animals while driving around the cove!
Best Times to Visit
Many people wonder when the best time to drive around Cades Cove scenic loop is. It all depends on what you want to see! If we’re talking about time of year, Cades Cove is beautiful through all seasons. In the spring, the leaves are started to bud on trees and some wildflowers have begun to bloom. Summer brings full greenery, wildlife is up and at it, and there are still some wildflowers blooming. With fall, you’ll get to see the green change to red, orange, and yellow. With winter, you’ll be able to easily see through the woods and possibly experience snow!
If you’re curious about the time of day, it also depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to spot wildlife, early in the morning or right before sunset is the best time to explore. Anyone who wants to avoid more traffic should drive the loop early in the morning because it does get busier as the day goes on.
Now you know all about driving the Cades Cove scenic loop for your next trip! You’ll have a great time with friends and family in this beautiful mountain valley, no matter how you decide to spend your time there! If you love history, here are the top places you have to see while in Cades Cove!