Cades Cove

Rule of Thumb for viewing wildlife.  A hand is held out with a thumb up.  a bear is in the distance.  Text: when viewing wildlife, hold your arm out straight and, if you can't cover the animal in your line of sight with your thumb, you're too close!
Are you too close? Approaching wildlife endangers both humans and wildlife. Even turkeys have been known to attack humans in the Smokies, so be a friend to wildlife, and keep your distance.

Smokies Life Graphic/Emma Oxford

Cades Cove is a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains and is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies. It 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.

Touring the Cove

Vehicle-free access along the Cades Cove Loop Road takes place each Wednesday from May through September.

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.

An inexpensive self-guiding tour booklet available at the entrance to the road provides a map and information about the cove.

Red cardinal flowers blooming in front of a cabin
Cardinal flowers blooming beside the Tipton Place.

Warren Bielenberg Photo


The valley has a rich history. For hundreds of years, Cherokee Indians hunted in Cades Cove but archeologists have found no evidence of major settlements. The first Europeans settled in the cove sometime between 1818 and 1821. By 1830, the population of the area had already swelled to 271. 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 gristmill, barns, log houses, and many other faithfully restored eighteenth- and nineteenth-century structures. Pick up the self-guiding tour booklet available at the entrance to the loop road for information about the buildings you'll see in the cove and the people who lived here.

Wildlife Viewing

White-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, turkeys, and other wildlife are frequently spotted in the open valley of Cades Cove. Wildlife viewing tips.


Numerous trails originate in the cove, including the five-mile roundtrip trail to Abrams Falls and the short Cades Cove Nature Trail. Longer hikes to Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top (made famous by the popular song) also begin in the cove. Download a park trail map.

Cades Cove Visitor Center

  • Located half-way around the loop road in the Cable Mill historic area, visitors can find restrooms and a bookstore.
  • Open daily except Christmas.


Cades Cove Campground

Anthony Creek Horse Camp

Backcountry Camping

  • Reservation and permit required.
  • Call (865) 436-1297 for information.

Mileage to Cades Cove

  • From Cherokee: 57 miles
  • From Gatlinburg: 27 miles
  • From Townsend: 9 miles

Recommended Reading

Cades Cove Story book

Cades Cove Story
Learn about farming, home life, religion, and recreation in the fascinating history of this beautiful, lively mountain community. Contains historic photos.

The cover of the Cades Cove auto tour booklet. White text says "Cades Cove Tour" with an image behind the text of two people walking on a paved road beside a fence. Trees showing fall colors are in the background.

Self-Guiding Auto Tour Booklet Cades Cove
Keyed to numbered posts or landmarks along the Cades Cove Loop Road, this tour booklet describes the history of the Cove and describes the homes, barns, churches, Cable Mill, and other historic buildings you'll see in the area. It features historic photographs and illustrations that show what life was like a century ago.

Books, maps and guides to the national park are available online from the park's nonprofit partner, the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

Day Hikes In and Around Cades Cove
Map and guide with descriptions of the nine best day hikes in the Cades Cove area. Full color topo map and elevation charts.


Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park's official online store for books, maps, and guides to the park. Operated by the nonprofit Smokies Life, proceeds generated by purchases at the store are donated to educational, scientific, and historical projects in the park.

Last updated: February 17, 2024

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Gatlinburg, TN 37738



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