Menu Close
cades cove loop

Cades Cove Loop: Ultimate Guide for First-Time Visitors

DATE : December 18, 2023

If you’ve been to the Smokies before but have never experienced the beauty and peace of Cades Cove, then you’re missing out. It’s the most visited area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a reason! Keep reading to learn more about the Cades Cove Loop before you visit for the very first time!

Cades Cove History

john cable mill in cades coveThe history of Cades Cove is rich with pioneer stories and its simple way of life. You can find lots of information about this little Appalachian community at the Cades Cove Visitor Center, which is open year-round. Then as you tour the many historic sites, you’ll be able to see for yourself what it must have been like to live in this beautiful valley. A few highlights along the Cades Cove Loop include:

  • John Oliver Cabin– the first structure you’ll find along the loop road. 
  • Primitive Baptist Church– the existing building was built in 1887. 
  • John Cable Mill– built in the 1870s, it’s the only remaining grist mill in the area.
  • Cantilever Barn– a unique barn structure that allowed shelter for animals and an upper loft to store hay. 
  • Henry Whitehead Place– this homestead stands out due to its real brick chimney, a rarity at the time. 

What to Do 

This Smoky Mountain scenic drive is 11 miles long and features sprawling fields with surrounding mountain peaks, beautiful woods, hiking trails, old homesteads, and more. You can choose to simply drive through the loop road without stopping, or you can take your time and get out to explore the many churches, cabins, and other structures scattered throughout Cades Cove. Of all the activities in Cades Cove, hiking to Abrams Falls is a must! This moderate hike takes you to a magnificent waterfall that is both picturesque and awe-inspiring. You can also go horseback riding, camping, and fishing! 

Cades Cove Hours

abrams falls in cades coveOne of the best things about the Cades Cove Loop Road is that it’s open all year long from sunrise to sunset, weather permitting! The campground and visitor center are also open to the public year-round, although the riding stables do close during the winter months. Here are the current hours for the Cades Cove Visitor Center: 
December – February: 9 AM to 4:30 PM
March – November: 9 AM to 5 PM 
Closed on Christmas Day. 

Tips for Visiting 

Even if you’ve driven through the Cades Cove Loop before, it’s good to be reminded of some helpful tips for when you’re visiting this area of the national park. Here are a few top things to keep in mind:

  • Drive slowly- be mindful of the posted speed limit and expect moments of stopped traffic during peak times. 
  • Be patient– the Cades Cove Loop is one of the busiest parts of the national park, so be prepared to spend more time than you might think. 
  • Watch for wildlife– this is one of the best areas to view wildlife. We recommend bringing a pair of binoculars and remember to take lots of pictures! 
  • Bring a picnic– there are several picnic spots along the Cades Cove Loop so you can stop and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature while you eat!
  • Check the weather– during the winter, Cades Cove is a great place to see snow in the Smokies, but it’s always a good idea to check the GSMNP website for weather-related road closures. 

Now you know what to expect during your time in the Smoky Mountains and going through the Cades Cove Loop for the first time. Book a Gatlinburg hotel room today and get ready for an unforgettable adventure you’ll never forget!