The Cades Cove Loop is a scenic 11-mile one way loop drive that the whole family will enjoy. According to the park rangers, it is one of the best locations for viewing wildlife. In addition to wildlife, there are also many historic sites along the trail where you can park and explore historic churches, cemeteries, log cabins, cantilevered barns and even a working mill at the Cades Cove Visitors Center.
Cades Cove loop is a one-way road that winds through this section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that was once part of an old European settlement from the early 1820’s.
Insider Tip: Be aware of the time needed to make your way through the 11 mile loop. Drivers go at a slow place while they take in the scenes and observe wildlife. It took us a little over 2 hours (not including stops at the historic buildings or Abrams Falls Trail) just to drive the loop. Plan accordingly.
Driving Cades Cove Loop
When traveling the scenic loop road, we encourage visitors to get out and take in the history of the area, getting out of your car and visiting some of the original and restored buildings along the property. One of the first stops we made during our trip was to an old Baptist church and cemetery. This gave us the opportunity to stretch our legs, but to also get a unique view into the history of the property. To our surprise, we found a tombstone for a Revolutionary War Soldier.
Abrams Falls trail is also located in Cades Cove. This 5.25-mile round trip hike is relatively flat compared to the other hikes in the Smoky Mountains and proides visitors with views of one of the highest water flowing falls in the park
Finally, we encourage all visitors to stop at the Cades Cove Visitors Center. There is plenty of parking and restrooms for you to take a break from the driving. During this stop, you can see historic sites including original log cabins, cantilevered barns and a working mill. There are many volunteers onsite that share information about the history of the area and answers any question you may have.
The Cades Cove Loop is truly an exciting time for the family, filled with a wide range of activities. While the time commitment can be more than most hikes within the park, this adventure offers visitors with a blend of history, beauty and hiking in one location. We strongly recommend that all visitors get out and enjoy the Cades Cove Loop.
Cades Cove Loop Trail Quick Guide
Total Distance: 11 miles loop (one way loop with multiple stops along the way)
Restrooms Available: Available at the visitor center, roughly half way through the drive
Directions: From Gatlinburg, take the Parkway to the National Park. Immediately after the Sugarland Visitor Center (on your right), make a right on Little River Road. Stay on this winding road for about 25 miles. The road dead-ends into Cades Cove.
Interested in finding more fantastic hiking opportunities within the Great Smoky Mountains, check out our picks for the best Smoky Mountains Hiking Trails.