Cades Cove is one of the most visited parts of America’s most visited national park, but there’s more going on in these Tennessee woods than breathtaking natural beauty. Visitors to the Cove with a taste for history will get more than their fair share when they experience the famous Cades Cove loop for themselves.

How to Do the Loop

Cades Cove is a wide valley famous for its wildlife viewing, and it’s also one of the most accessible ways to experience a national park. No hiking is necessary; visitors can drive an 11-mile, one-way loop road through the park, and pull off at certain points to stretch their legs and experience the Cove. It takes from 2 to 4 hours to make it through the Cades Cove Loop in a car, but bikers and pedestrians have the loop road all to themselves on Wednesdays and Saturdays before 10 AM, and so they won’t be slowed down by traffic.

Look Out for the Locals

Cades Cove isn’t just popular with people; animals like white-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, ground hogs, and wild turkeys also love the valley. Foxes and even the occasional beaver also make the region their home. The hiking trails nearby, like the trail to Abrams Falls or to Rocky Top, offer even better chances to see some animals in action, since they are less likely to be spooked by crowds. Birders will want to keep their eyes peeled for Great Blue and Green Herons, as well as Golden Eagles and American Kestrels.

Check Out the Architecture

Cades Cove was settled by Europeans beginning in the 1820s, and some of their architecture is still standing. Pioneer life in early Appalachia wasn’t easy, and the buildings reflect that. The John Oliver cabin, built in 1822, is sturdy and still stands, as do a number of churches from the mid-1800s, and other 19th– and early 20th-century pioneer cabins and outbuildings.

Cades Cove is also famous for the John Cable Grist Mill, which features the typical mill wheel. The mill actually still works; Cades Cove visitors can watch grain being ground, and then purchase the results at the Cades Cove Visitors Center (along with various jams, jellies, and locally-made trinkets). How’s that for a taste of history?

Take in History, Step by Step

One of the great things about Cades Cove is how visiting these buildings in the Tennessee woods feels like stepping directly into the past. Make sure to stop at the Cades Cove Visitor Center for trail maps and historical information to give you all the context you need to fully appreciate your visit, and don’t procrastinate about taking your trip to see Cades Cove. Even history buffs shouldn’t wait forever!


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