Cades Cove lies peacefully in a tranquil valley. It was home to hundreds of families before the formation of the Park. Open fields stretch between 5,000-foot mountain peaks. At Cable Mill Visitors Center there is a fully operational grist mill with a working waterwheel and other historic structures. Wednesdays and Saturdays from early May to late September the loop road is closed to motor vehicles until 10:00 a.m., allowing a safe, quiet experience for bicyclists, pedestrians, and the adventurist on horseback. Summer programs include apple butter making and performances in the amphitheater. Come by the Cades Cove Visitors Center, on the far end of the Loop Road, for more information.
Cades Cove is a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains and is the most visited part of this National Park, and offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the park. Large numbers of white-tailed deer are frequently seen, and sightings of black bear, coyote, ground hog, turkey, raccoon, skunk, and other animals are also possible. (See Animal Safety & Precautions for information about observing wildlife peacefully and lawfully.)
Cades Cove offers the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in the National Park. Scattered along the loop road are three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and many other faithfully restored eighteenth and nineteenth century structures. An inexpensive self-guiding tour booklet available at the entrance to the road provides in-depth information about the buildings and the people who built and used them.
An 11-mile, one-way loop road circles the Cove, offering motorists the opportunity to sightsee at a leisurely pace. Allow at least two to four hours to tour Cades Cove, longer if you walk some of the area's trails. Traffic is heavy during the tourist season in summer and fall and on weekends year-round. While driving the loop road, please be courteous to other visitors and use pullouts when stopping to enjoy the scenery or view wildlife.
A visitor center (open daily), restrooms, and the Cable Mill historic area are located halfway around the loop road.
Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to motor vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. from May 8 through September 25 to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the Cove. Otherwise the road is open daily from sunrise until sunset, weather permitting. (See Biking for more information about biking Cades Cove Loop Road.)