In the Smoky Mountains, a "cove" is a flat valley surrounded by mountains. Cades Cove is the most popular valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is due to its abundant wildlife and easy access from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Look for deer, black bears, and wild turkeys.
Before Cades Cove was an auto tour inside the national park, its idyllic scenery was the site of a thriving town. Today, many of the historic building have been preserved, dating back to the late 1800s. There's even a working grist mill. Come on inside and talk with the miller, open daily March to October and on weekends in November.
An 11-mile loop road circles the valley, and several trailheads take off into the wilderness from here. Even though 11 miles doesn't sound like a great distance, its many stops and tourist-looky-loos extend the drive time to four hours or more on busy weekends. Cades Cove can get very crowded, so plan to visit early in the day or in the off-season to beat the traffic jams.
Only bicyclists and hikers are allowed on the loop road before 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday morning from early May until late September. Otherwise the road is open to motor vehicles from sunrise until sunset daily, weather permitting.