The most popular destination in the Smokies
Cades Cove is a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There’s an 11 mile one way road that you drive to explore Cades Cove. Along the drive, there’s scenic pull-offs, hiking trails (see our write up of Abrams Falls for our favorite), and historical sites. We love Cades Cove so much that we go every single time we are in the Smokies for a vacation.
You’re going to want to make sure you have your camera out and ready while exploring Cades Cove, as this is your best chance of having the opportunity to see wild life. We’ve seen black bears, deer, and turkeys. We’ve seen photos others have taken where they’ve had the rarer opportunity to see a coyote, fox or bobcat.
Cades Cove is something you should set aside quite a bit of time to see. Be sure to bring food and drinks (snacks, at a minimum, but we tend to pack a lunch). It’s a very popular destination, and like everything, it will be far more busy on weekends. Since the road for exploring Cades Cove is only one lane, one way, it can become backed up. The most common cause of backups is wildlife sightings. Our family has taken to calling it a “Bear Jam” rather than a traffic jam, because the most likely reason you’ll find traffic stopped is that people ahead of you saw a bear.
Seeing a bear is a special treat! If you’re lucky enough to spot one, your appropriate behavior will protect yourself as well as the bear. Keep at least 150 feet between you and the bear. Never feed a bear or any other wildlife and be sure to dispose of your food in containers they cannot get into. A fed bear will begin approaching people and that will ultimately lead to it’s euthanization. A fed bear is a dead bear.
To extend your day even longer during warmer months, consider visiting the Townsend Wye for a swim!