Between this historic community’s settlement in the early 1800s and being annexed as part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1930s, up to 700 people lived and worked in Cades Cove. It was a farming community with log cabin homes, churches, stores, and its own grist mill that ground meal. Most of the buildings are now gone but the dozen or so that remain are a tribute to a way of life in 1800s Appalachia. The one-way, 11-mile road has many stops to get out of the car and learn about American history.
An important thing to note is in June 2020, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the implementation of vehicle-free access along the Cades Cove Loop Road each Wednesday from June 17 through September 30, 2020, as part of a study to improve the visitor experience. The park proposed the study because of congested parking areas and disruption of visitor services associated with keeping the road closed to cars before 10 a.m. on Wednesday and Saturday mornings during the summer months that have been in effect for several years.
By eliminating the Saturday morning closures, more travelers in cars can access the Cades Cove area on what usually is the busiest day of the week.
Enter via Laurel Creek Road
The most popular way to enter the Cades Cove Road is at its northeast corner where it becomes a one-way, counter-clockwise loop. At this entry point, there is a quick left-turn to get to the campground and store before entering the loop.
Two-way road that cuts across the loop. This road is often used as a shortcut when bicycling or to get back to the campground and picnic area.
John Oliver Place
John Oliver was a veteran of the War of 1812. Although he did not have the first legal land title in Cades Cove (that honor goes to the Tiptons), John Oliver and his wife Lurena Frazier were the first permanent European settlers in 1818. The couple struggled through their first winter but survived by eating dried pumpkin given to them by friendly Cherokees. The next spring, the Olivers got a hear of cattle and two milk cows which made their lives much easier. The Oliver farm remained in the family until the Cove became part of the national park, more than 100 years after they settled in the community.
Primitive Baptist Church
Turn left on a short lane to visit the church. The Primitive Baptist Church was established in 1827 by Euro-American settler. The crudely-built original log church was replaced in 1887 by the one now standing. During the Civil War, the church closed because its membership were Union people surrounded by Rebels in the community.
In the 1920s, this church was built by J. D. McCampbell in 115 days for $115.00. McCampbell was a blacksmith, carpenter, and the church’s minister. The original log building was replaced with the current one in 1902. As with the Primitive Baptist Church, America’s Civil War divided the church. So much so that a second church, Hopewell Methodist Church, was built on the opposite side of the Cove for half of the congregation. That church no longer stands.
Two-way road that cuts across the loop. This road was originally part of a Cherokee trail.
Rich Mountain Road
Rich Mountain Road is a seasonal, two-way road that exits the Cades Cove loop and leads to the town of Townsend. However, with its low speed limit and numerous tight curves, it is faster to exit Cades Cove at Laurel Creek Road and drive to Townsend on Hwy. 73.
Missionary Baptist Church
Yet another bit of historic church turmoil, the Missionary Baptist Church was formed by a group of parishioners that were expelled from the Primitive Baptist Church. Why? Because they believed in missionary work. This church too closed during the Civil War and reopened after the war was over. The church closed for good in 1944.
Cooper Road Trail
An old wagon trail now used for hiking.
Elijah Oliver Place
Elijah was the son of John Oliver (previously mentioned), and was born in Cades Cove.
Abrams Falls Trailhead
This 5-mile round trip trail ends at the 18-foot high Abrams Falls named after a Cherokee chief whose village was downstream. The pool at the bottom of the falls has an undertow, so don’t swim there.
John P. Cable Grist Mill and Visitors Center
Tour a historic, water-powered gristmill where settlers ground their corn and wheat into flour. Located along the Cades Cove loop road; open daily March to October and on weekends in November. You’ll also find a visitor center with restrooms, a bookstore, and a gift shop here.
Cades Cove Nature Trail
Henry Whitehead Place
After Henry Whitehead’s wife died, he courted Matilda Shields, a single mother abandoned by her husband. After their marriage, Henry built Matilda this large home to raise her children along with his three daughters. This house is the last “transitional” home still standing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was built by a process that is half log home and frame construction using sawed lumber.
Dan Lawson Place
Dan Lawson was Peter Cable’s son-in-law. His home is unusual for the area and time period because it had a chimney built of bricks. The bricks were built on site during construction.
“Colonel Hamp” Tipton’s daughters Miss Lucy and Miss Lizzie, lived here. Both were local school teachers.
Carter Shields Cabin
Crippled during the Civil War, Carter Shields moved away and came back to the Cove a couple of times. He only stayed in this home for 11 years starting in 1910.
Cades Cove Campground and Picnic Area
The perfect end to your Cades Cove Loop Tour. Here you’ll find a picnic area, campground, bike rentals, horseback riding stable, amphitheater, general store, and restrooms.