Cades Cove Loop: Guide To Auto Touring Cades Cove

The Cades Cove loop is an 11 mile road providing access to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. The road allows visitors to sightsee in the cove at their own leisurely pace. It is a very popular self guided auto tour. There is a self-guiding booklet available for purchase at the entrance to the one-way road. The center of the loop is acre upon acre of grass and wildflower fields that were once cleared by frontiersmen growing crops and raising cattle.

Driving Cades Cove Loop

The best time to embark on a tour of Cades Cove is early in the morning, as traffic is heavy for the remainder of the day. Summer and fall are the most popular times to visit the cove; expect your journey to take a couple of hours on most days. When driving on the road, be courteous to other visitors and use the pull-offs to stop and enjoy the scenery while others pass.

Cades Cove

When is Cades Cove loop open? The loop is available to drive from sunrise to sunset daily. There is only one way to access Cades Cove: via Laurel Creek Road from the Townsend Wye. It is always recommended to check the park website and Twitter page for the most up to date information on road closures, especially during the winter months.


Vehicle Free Days

On Wednesdays in early May through late September, the Cades Cove loop is designated vehicle free. This is a great opportunity for bicyclists to access the road without auto traffic, and even for hikers to complete the loop on foot. Check the national park's website for the exact dates of vehicle free Wednesdays each year.

NPS Website

Do you need a parking pass on vehicle free days? Yes. As of March 1, 2023, all vehicles that stop in the national park for more than 15 minutes will need a paid parking permit under a new program. This includes parking in the Cades Cove parking lot to access the loop on foot or bicycle. [More about parking passes]

Cades Cove Loop

Touring Cades Cove

Along the Cades Cove loop you are likely to see a great deal of Smoky Mountain wildlife as well as a handful of eighteenth and nineteenth century structures. These include three different churches, a working gristmill, and several log homesteads and barns. Europeans settled in the cove between 1818 and 1821, and the area's population grew to hundreds by the mid-nineteenth century. Notable structures include the John Oliver cabin and Carter Shields cabin.

Cades Cove Loop Lope

Every year in November the nonprofit organization Friends Of The Smokies holds the only organized foot race in the national park: the Cades Cove Loop Lope. A total of 750 runners run one of two course options. All funds raised from the event go directoy to benefit park projects and programs including historic preservation, wildlife conservation, and native plant restoration.

Cades Cove Loop Lope

For more information about things to do in this area, check out our page on Cades Cove. There are many hiking trails, a frontcountry campground and store, and plenty of history you can read about.

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