browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.
Our Great American Adventure Website Logo

The Beauty of Cades Cove…

Posted by on August 1, 2017


No, we didn’t see a bear. But we might have, and I knew this photo would get your attention.

OUR LAST DAY AT THE PARK. Today was our last day in Gatlinburg so we had to choose between many places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to visit. We chose Cades Cove, on the advice of several locals whom we met at breakfast the other day. There are so many things to see and do in this area we wish our schedule allowed for a longer stay. A two or three month summer vacation would be about right to see all that’s in the Park and also in the town of Gatlinburg. If you’re going to come here, don’t make the same mistake we made and cut your visit short. Figure out how much time you’d like to spend and then double it! Oh my gosh, I wanted so much to stay here longer but in order for us to reach Oregon and find a new home in a timely fashion, we have to move on. When I tried to push Florence for a longer stay here she reminded me of this. And, even if I’d pushed, my authority is pretty much limited to having her pass the chips and guacamole! What can I say?


Visiting this park has been one of the highlights of our Great American Adventure.

CADES COVE. Cades Cove is an isolated valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The valley was home to numerous settlers before the formation of the national park. Today Cades Cove is the single most popular destination for visitors to the park and attracts more than two million visitors a year because of its well preserved homesteads, scenic mountain views, and abundant display of wildlife. Wildlife? Perhaps today would be the day I’d spot a bear! Unfortunately I struck out.


Map of Cades Cove Loop Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We spent about three hours driving this eleven mile loop. Lots to see! So quiet and peaceful, too. 


THE LOOP. Even though it’s geographically isolated, the Cove is one of the “must see” areas in the national park. A one-way eleven mile driving loop took us more than three hours because of all there was to see today. If you come and you’ve got a mountain bike, be sure to bring it…cycling would be a super way to see the cove. Got a horse? Even better. When I was at UCSB in college, I had a horse and spent lots of my spare time riding in remote areas of Santa Barbara and along the beaches of Goleta and points north. All those memories flooded back today as we drove the loop. And even though we didn’t spot one, black bear sightings are very common here so make sure to keep an eye out when you come. And do come. This is one of the nicest places we’ve visited in the entire country, and we’ve seen a lot in the past four years!


Time permitting, we’d have found some Jeep trails through these meadows and spent some serious time looking for bears. They are out here, for sure!


A Park Ranger told me there had been a black bear sighting in this area earlier today, so when I saw Florence taking this picture I thought maybe she’d spotted it. But no bear today. It’ll have to wait for another day. I think the last bear we saw was in Washington State…and that’s been several years ago. 


A mountain stream off the beaten path in the Great Smoky Mountains.


CADES BEFORE THE NATIONAL PARK. For about a hundred years before the creation of the national park, the residents of the area were mostly farmers and loggers. Their livelihood led to mass deforestation in the Valley. At first, the National Park Service planned to let the cove return to its natural forested state. But it ultimately yielded to requests by the Great Smoky Mountain Conservation Association to maintain Cades Cove as a meadow. On the advice of contemporary cultural experts, the service demolished the more modern structures, leaving only the primitive cabins and barns which were considered most representative of pioneer life in early Appalachia. We saw many of these structures today. A history buff or a writer doing a piece on the area could and would spend weeks studying these buildings and learning about them. But since I’m neither, I’ll just include a few pictures of those I thought were the most interesting. 


Evidence of the pioneers in Appalachia many years ago. The National Park Service has done a wonderful job preserving these structures and maintaining the park.



An example of how well the park is maintained. This fence surrounds the house in the picture above.


Cantilever barn across the road from a farmhouse.

WHAT’S NEXT? In the morning, we’ll leave early and drive to Defeated Creek Campground, which sits along the banks of Cordell Hull Lake on the Cumberland River System near Carthage, Tennessee. The lake is situated among rolling hills covered in a mix of shady maple, hickory, oak, beech and chestnut trees. Wildlife, we’re told, is abundant around the lake. Whitetail deer, wild turkeys, quail, squirrels, rabbits and a wide variety of waterfowl are going to share the space with us. Unfortunately, no bears. My search continues! So plan to join us at our next stop. We’ll see you there in a few days.

I’ll continue my story next time.




4 Responses to The Beauty of Cades Cove…

  1. Jon York

    Nice blog Greg. I’m glad you included Cades Cove on your schedule. You saw a spectacular part of the park. I’ve visited several times and was awed each time. Such a beautiful example of a simpler time.

  2. Greg Alford

    Hi Jon. It’s hard to decide what to see at this park if you don’t have lots of time. Everyone said not to miss Cades Cove, so we drove it. I could stay in Gatlinburg and kick around in this park for months! There were lots of Jeepers with their roofs and doors removed having a good old time and I’d love to have extended our stay to join them!

  3. Jon York

    Where next?

  4. Greg Alford

    Hey Jon…Take a look at the last paragraph of the post. We’re now at Defeated Creek Campground. We had no internet connection for the last three days so we switched sites and now I can post some remarks and photos of this beautiful COE campground. We’ve extended our stay an additional week. You’ll see why when you read my next post.

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *