While dawn is breaking, the 11-mile Cades Cove loop, bordered by wildflowers, is tranquil and picturesque, a mountain sanctuary for walkers and bikers.
With peaks in the distance, white-tailed deer watching passersby, and herons greeting the rising sun, many Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitors travel the loop in serenity.
On mornings until 10 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, March to September, the loop is closed to automobile traffic.
Cades Cove, a popular destination in the Great Smokies, sits as a broad valley surrounded by mountains, perfect for wildlife viewing, catching a glimpse of a black bear, and enjoying the beauty of the mountains. It is located nine miles from Townsend, set at the northern base of the Smokies.
“It’s quite breathtaking to see it up there, especially at dusk or in the morning. It’s quiet and peaceful,” said Jeff Muir, communications director for Blount Partnership Chamber of Commerce, which works to promote the Smoky Mountains.
Guided horseback riding tours, hay rides, hiking, picnicking and visiting a 1800s settlement are options for groups at Cades Cove, which is part of the national park.
Lookouts provide magnificent views of 5,000-foot mountain peaks. Cades Cove Visitors Center features the fully operational Cable Mill grist mill, a working waterwheel and other historic structures including Becky Cable House.
Historic farmstead homes from European settlers include cabins, a church, barns and houses.
Hiking trails range from a half-mile to six miles long, many perfect for the novice hiker.
The park offers cabins and other nearby lodging options.
Cades Cove Heritage Tours offers guided bus tours for groups.
The 500,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest piece of wilderness east of the Mississippi River. It features 800 miles of trails.
Cades Cove Heritage Tours
Great Smoky Mountains National Park