Looking for things to do in the Smoky Mountains? You won’t want to miss spending a day in Cades Cove. Nestled in a beautiful basin with the Smoky Mountains surrounding it, lies Cades Cove, a lush and fertile valley where Cherokee Indians once hunted and later, European settlers built their homes. Today, millions of visitors come every year to enjoy this beautiful valley. Here are the top 5 things to do on your day in Cades Cove.
You can tour Cades Cove by car on its 11-mile, one-way loop road. There are opportunities along the way to pull off and enjoy the scenery or look at wildlife.The road is free and open year-round (weather permitting), but keep in mind that on Wednesdays and Saturdays from early May until late September, the road is closed to motor traffic until 10 am. Allow anywhere from two to four hours to tour the cove by car.
Prefer to explore Cades Cove on foot? There are numerous trailheads in Cades Cove, including Abrams Falls, a popular, five-mile roundtrip trail that boasts a rushing waterfall and deep natural pool. The lengthier trail leading to Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top (yes, the one from the song) also originates in the cove. For a shorter hike, consider the Cades Cove Nature Trail.
What better way to enjoy the beauty and breadth of Cades Cove than by bike? Get there early (before 10 am) on a Wednesday or Saturday from early April to late September, to enjoy a car-free ride around the 11-mile loop road. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent one at the Cades Cove Campground Store.
Operated from April to October, the John P. Cable Mill in Cades Cove is a journey back in time. Built in 1867 by John Cable, the mill provided Cades Cove homesteaders with ground corn and wheat flour for bread. Today, the Smoky Mountains Natural History Association keeps Cable Mill up and running so visitors can learn a little about Smoky Mountain life in the 1800s.
Pack a lunch of all your favorites, bring a blanket, and soak up the beauty of the mountains with a good ole’ fashioned picnic. Maybe even hike towards Abram’s Creek to enjoy your meal by the waterfall. This is also a perfect opportunity to watch for wildlife—you’ll probably just see white-tailed deer, but the occasional black bear, groundhog, coyote, or wild turkey sighting is also possible.