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Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains – Tennessee

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Cades Cove is a beautiful scenic loop in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This eleven-mile loop is one way and is one of the best places for wildlife viewing in the park. Did you know that the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the few free National Parks in the country? For a complete list, see this post.

When we were there we saw to groups of black bears. A mama bear and her three cubs were together near the base of a tree a few hundred feet off the road.

There were two more black bears high in a tree. They could easily be missed if you don’t look carefully. There is one on either side of the tree about halfway up in the image.

We also saw several white-tailed deer.

We were there in the fall when the leaves were turning. It was so beautiful!

Plan on 2-3 hours to complete the 11-mile loop, depending on traffic and stops. When wildlife is near the road, then traffic slows because everyone wants to see it. I got out of the car and walked up to get my photos and then jumped back in when my husband and kids caught up. Also, most Wednesdays they close it to vehicles and leave it only open to bicyclists and pedestrians, so keep that in mind when planning a trip.

Cades Cove also has a rich history. Cherokee Indians hunted in the area for centuries. The first settlements were near 1820 and within a decade nearly 300 people were living there. As you drive around there are historical cabins and building. There is also a little gift shop/museum. There are a few parking places where you can get out and take a short walk to see the sights nearby.

Here is a map of Cades Cove:

Here are a few more photos of the beauty. That second one was taken as we were driving, so it’s a bit blurry, but you can still appreciate how beautiful it is.

Also check out my post of Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Stats: Distance – 11 mile loop
Approximate driving time – 2-3 hours
Bathrooms – Yes
Seasons – Year Round
Permits needed – None (Great Smoky Mountain National Park is free)
Pets allowed – Yes (they must stay in owner’s cars on this loop)

Map to Cades Cove

For more about the Smokies click on this link:

Also check out the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway while you are nearby.


We have so much beauty in Utah to explore! I love hiking and photography and can help you find your next favorite hike! All photos were taken by me!

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