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Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park ...

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Cades Cove is a lush valley surrounded by mountains and is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies. This 11 mile loop is a peaceful driving tour and is used for bicycling. Throughout the Cove you will see historic buildings, including rustic log homes of original residents of the Cove, several churches, an old mill, molasses making equipment, and cemeteries.

The eleven-mile loop road follows many of the grades and turns of the old wagon roads, fording a stream now and then. Along the way you are likely to see wildlife: deer and wild turkey year-round; lots of groundhogs in the summer.

Carriage rides and hayrides are offered at the Cades Cove horse concession.

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Tour Cades Cove on a comfortable 19-passenger Educational Touring Vehicle with an experienced and friendly guide. Learn all about the history, personal stories, and natural resources that make Cades Cove so unique. And, since you’ve left the driving to us, you can finally focus on sharing the beautiful scenery and wildlife with your family and friends, instead of worrying about the brake lights in front of you. Reservations

Bicycles rentals: Available from April through October and in December. From approximately May 5 to around September 22, the loop road will be closed to motor vehicle traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the cove.

Horseback riding is seasonally available from near the loop road entrance. Daily hayrides offer another great way to see the Cove

A campground store is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm in spring and fall. It remains open to 7:00 pm in summer.

Blacksmith Shop
Cable Mill
Cades Cove Methodist Church
Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church
Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church
Cantilever Barn
Dan Lawson Cabin
Elijah Oliver Cabin
Gregg-Cable Cabin
Hayrides in Cades Cove
Henry Whitehead Cabin
John Oliver Cabin
Shields Cabin
Tipton Place

Cades Cove Cultural History

Cades Cove was part of the Cherokee Nation prior to 1818. The Cherokee never lived in the Cove, but they used it as a summer hunting ground. Arrowheads are common throughout the Cove.

In sum, the "good life" in the Cove was realized through industry, frugality, neighborliness and loyalty.

The Cades Cove Visitor Center is open daily, except in winter when it is open on weekends. Cultural history displays are integrated with sales items. Orientation information is also available.

cable mill cades cove
gregg cable house
methodist church cades cove
Cable Mill
Gregg Cable House
Methodist Church
fence dan lawson place sorghum mill cades cove
Cable Mill Dan Lawson Place Deer
cable mill cades cove
Cable Mill
Horses in Cades Cove

Man became part of Cades Cove beyond reach of human memory. Indians hunted here for uncounted centuries, but hardly any sign of them remains. White settlers followed the Indians to the Cove, and their sign is everywhere: buildings and roads, apple trees and fences, daffodils and footpaths. Cades Cove is an open air museum that preserves some of the material culture of those who last lived there.

The eleven-mile loop road follows many of the grades and turns of the old wagon roads, fording a stream now and then. Along the way you are likely to see wildlife: deer and wild turkey year-round; lots of groundhogs in the summer.

The cattle grazing here help to keep the cove from returning to forest. Please do not climb over fences or leave gates open. Do not drive on or in the fields. Remember, it is unlawful to feed wildlife.

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What You Don't See in Cades Cove:

Can you visualize this Cove in 1850, supporting the 685 members of 137 households?

Settlers first entered the Cove legally after an Indian treaty transferred the land to the State of Tennessee in 1819. Year after year they funneled through the gaps, driven by whatever haunted them behind or drew them in front, until they spilled over the floor and up the slopes. Most of them traced their way down the migration route from Virginia into east Tennessee (now more or less Interstate 81). Tuckaleechee (modern Townsend) was the last point of supply before the leap into Cades Cove. A few years later pioneers moved directly over the mountains from North Carolina. They all came equipped with personal belongings, and the tools and skills of an Old World culture, enriched with what they learned from the Indians.

The people of the Cove did not enter, settle and become shut off from the rest of humanity. They were not discovered by Park developers, still living a pioneer lifestyle. From the beginning they kept up through the newspapers, regular mail service, circuit riding preachers, and buying and selling trips to Tuckaleechee, Maryville and Knoxville. They went to wars and war came to them. They attended church and school, and college if financially able. A resident physician was here most of the time from the 1830s on. Telephones rang in a few Cove homes about as early as anywhere else (1896).

Although remote and arduous, life here was little different from rural life anywhere in eastern America in the nineteenth century. Household and farm labor were done according to one's age and sex. Men produced shelter, food, fuel and raw materials for clothing. Women cooked, kept house and processed things the husband produced. Children and the elderly took care of miscellaneous loose ends when and where they could. In this way the home was an almost self-contained economic unit. The community was an important aspect of life to the settlers in a rural society. It was an extension of the household by marriage, custom, and economic necessity . . . a partnership of households in association with each other. The community was democratic in a general sense: there were few extremes of wealth and poverty; there was widespread participation in community affairs; and, no clearly defined social classes locked people in or out. There were common celebrations like family gatherings, "workings," and funerals. Politics was tied to state, regional and national affairs. Law enforcement was personal in many ways. Justices of the Peace applied common sense, based on common law.

In 1820 this was frontier country, newly acquired by the State of Tennessee from the Cherokee Indians. Families did not simply wander in and say to themselves, "My, how pretty, let's settle here." The land was owned by speculators who bought it from the state. Settlers bought it from the speculators, whose intent was to make money. In this way Cades Cove became a typical cumulative community . . . a miscellaneous collection of people who were not oriented toward a common purpose, as in the early religious settlements of New England. It grew without a fixed plan, and families chose land that was available and affordable whenever they arrived. Most of the people came from established communities in upper east Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, and western North Carolina. Very few were "fresh off the boat."

By 1850 the population peaked at 685. With the soil growing tired, and new states opening in the West, many families moved out in search of more fertile frontiers. By 1860 only 269 people remained. Slowly, human numbers rose again to about 500 just before the Park was established in the late 1920s.

Beginning a new life in Cades Cove was basically the same for everyone. The east end of the Cove was settled first, being higher and drier than the swampy lower end. Huge trees were cleared by girdling them with an axe. The first crops were planted among the soon-dead timber. After a few years the standing trees were cut down, rolled into piles and burned. Orchards and permanent fields followed quickly on the "new ground." Common sense told farmers to reserve the flat land for corn, wheat, oats and rye. Their homes circled the central basin, and pastures and wood lots hung on the slopes. Apples, peaches, beans, peas and potatoes were supplemented with wild greens and berries. Meat was varied and plentiful. Cattle grazed in summer on the balds (grassy meadows "bald" of trees) high above the Cove, white deer, bear, wild turkey and domestic hogs ranged the woods.

The Civil War shattered Cades Cove. No slave ever worked the Cove, and the mountain people shared few cultural ties with the South. Still young men fought for both sides.

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