Cades Cove Loop Road with view of Great Smoky Mountains covered in morning mist
July 1, 2024

Cades Cove is the most popular destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! This section of the park is open year-round and offers a number of fun activities, ranging from educational to exciting adventures. Here’s a list of the top things to do in Cades Cove along the 11-mile loop that you won’t want to miss during your visit!

1. Explore Historical Sites

One of the best things to do in Cades Cove is explore historical sites! Before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, this area was first used by the Cherokee as hunting grounds and then became home to European settlers in the early 1820s. There are a number of cabins, churches, barns, cemeteries, and other historical structures that are still standing throughout Cades Cove. You’ll see these sites as you drive along the Cades Cove Loop Road, and many of the buildings allow you to step inside and explore them up close. This is a great way to learn more about early settler life and connect with the past!

2. Hike a Trail

Abrams Falls in Cades Cove

One of the most popular things to do in Cades Cove is hiking! There are many great hiking trails in the area that allow you to explore nature on foot. As you walk through the woods, you could see vibrant plant life, historical sites, waterfalls, mountain views, and possibly even local wildlife! One of the best hikes is the Abrams Falls Trail, which leads to an impressive 20-foot-tall waterfall. You can also hike up to Gregory Bald, a peak with incredible panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Other popular hikes include the Cades Cove Nature Trail and Rich Mountain Loop.

3. Bike the Cades Cove Loop Road

While most people choose to drive along the Cades Cove Loop in a vehicle, you can also experience it on a bicycle! You can bike around the loop throughout the year, but if you visit on a vehicle-free Wednesday, then you won’t need to worry about sharing the road with cars. The loop is closed to vehicles all day on Wednesdays from the first Wednesday of May through the last Wednesday of September. If you don’t have your own bicycle, you can rent one from the Cades Cove Campground Store!

4. Have a Picnic

picnic table and charcoal grill at Cades Cove Picnic Area

Are you looking for relaxing things to do in Cades Cove? Have a picnic! Pack a lunch and stop at the Cades Cove Picnic Area before or after you explore the cove. You can find this picnic area on the left as soon as you enter the Cades Cove Loop. There are 81 picnic sites, many of which are right next to the peaceful creek, creating a beautiful backdrop for your meal. Most of the picnic tables have a charcoal grill that you can use to cook hot dogs, hamburgers, or other cookout favorites! Just make sure you clean up after you’re done and properly dispose of food and trash to protect the local wildlife.

5. View Wildlife

Cades Cove is known as being a great place to spot wildlife! While there’s no guarantee that you’ll see animals as you explore the area, it is common to see local wildlife in this section of the national park. Some of the most common animals to see along the Cades Cove Loop include squirrels, deer, birds, and bugs. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot the most popular resident of the Smokies: the black bear! If you spend time near bodies of water, you might also get to see fish, salamanders, and turtles.

6. Ride a Horse

horses in Cades Cove pasture

If you want to explore nature in a unique way, then one of the top things to do in Cades Cove is horseback riding! You can go on a guided trail ride through the woods and valleys of Cades Cove on the back of a friendly horse. These tours last about an hour and include information about the area from a knowledgeable guide. If you’re looking for an even more relaxing ride, you can go on a guided carriage ride! Sit back and relax in a horse-drawn carriage as a guide leads you through the trails of Cades Cove, entertaining you with tales and information about the area. Both horseback riding and carriage rides are seasonal activities.

More Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

These are some of the best things to do in Cades Cove that you won’t want to miss! Are you looking for more ways to enjoy your time in the Great Smoky Mountains? Check out this weekend guide to visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to discover all the must-do activities!

Related Blog Posts

sugarlands visitor center
July 21, 2021
Top 3 Reasons Why You Need to Visit the Sugarlands Visitor Center
laurel falls in winter
December 16, 2022
6 of the Best Winter Trails for Hiking in Gatlinburg
great smoky mountains national park sign snow
December 1, 2022
4 Popular Winter Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains
Black bear walking through the mountains
September 22, 2014
The Absolute Best Place to See Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains