By Jeremy Patton
Cades Cove is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Blount County, Tennessee.
It is an undeniably gorgeous green valley surrounded by sprawling mountains. Unfortunately, it is my least favorite place in the park. Why? Traffic.
An 11-mile, one-way loop circles the valley. People drive it mainly to view wildlife. If any woodland creature makes an appearance, the road becomes a parking lot. Tourists will stop, exit their vehicles and take pictures. They do not care to block traffic.
I am from southeast Kentucky and spend a lot of time in the woods, so I do not get bent out of shape when I see wildlife. I love to observe bears and deer too, but many tourists act like they have never seen such creatures. As a result, a leisurely drive that should last an hour or two could take all damn day.
Cades Cove does not merit the traffic jam that you will probably get stuck in. There are countless attractions elsewhere in the park that offer better views. I am glad that I visited Cades Cove, but I will not return unless it is during the off-season, on a weekday, at dawn.
Cherokee Indians hunted in the area and Europeans settled it during the early 19th century. Historic buildings line the route, such as cabins, barns, mills and churches. I do not know much about the buildings or their history.
Several trails are accessible there, including Abrams Falls Trail. On 6/11/17, Shane, Angie and I drove to the trailhead and discovered that it was 5.2 miles round-trip, which was farther than we were prepared to hike. I am interested in this trek and will probably do it alone, in the winter.
It is not my intention to deter visitors from Cades Cove, because it really is a stunning place, but the hordes ruin it for me. You might be able to enjoy it if your timing is right.
I have heard that only bicycle and foot traffic are permitted on the loop until 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday from May until September. Contact the park for more information:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Directions: From Gatlinburg, drive south on US-441 then turn right onto Fighting Creek Gap Road. Continue straight onto Little River Gorge Road. Continue straight onto Laurel Creek Road. Continue straight onto Cades Cove Loop Road. The total trip is about 33 miles.