This national park is huge! To even get to a point you want to drive (you can drive a great deal of it) through or park and hike, you sometimes have to put some mileage in first. Cades Cove is one of the, if not THE, biggest attractions that draws in the visitors. To get to the loop drive of Cades Cove is 25 miles from the entry visitors center with top driving speed of 45mph – sometimes slower depending on how winding the road is.
Cades Cove is an isolated valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; the park is located in parts of Tennessee and North Carolina. The valley was home to numerous settlers before the formation of the national park and some of their log cabins remain and you can go visit them.
Here is the one bedroom cabin of a Carter Shields; built around 1830. Like the other buildings in the area, it is open to the public. Unfortunately, some of the public take liberties with the properties and decide to leave their mark on them. You can get a hefty fine if caught doing that. It disgusts me that anyone does this to these or any historic place.
Another one of the biggest attractions of the park, and here in Cades Cove no less, are the black bears and wouldn’t you know it, we did NOT see a single bear while there. We did not get up early enough nor out late enough. Plus, there was a cold snap during our visit and I guess the bears hunkered down. But the following week it warmed back into the 70’s and the bears came out in mass! So much so that one day they had to close one of the visitors center as all the bears decided the acorns around it were extra tasty.
I was so bummed! But it gives me a reason to go back.
We did see elk, deer, turkeys and other birds. And some horses but they weren’t wild, they were just grazing in the field being part of the Cades Cove Riding Stables.
The drive to the cove is beautiful with hiking trails, waterfalls and other historic homes and churches along the way. Once you get to the Cades Cove loop then things can slow down quite a bit as the road becomes one way and depending on what people see on the drive, there can be traffic jams or as the rangers call it – bear jams or deer jams. We only got caught up in one deer jam; would’ve loved a bear jam instead.
In this image you can see why they’re called the “Smoky” mountains.
We planned to get here when the autumn leaves were at their best and they were indeed.
More road trip tales coming next week!