I believe the best way to see Cades Cove is the 11-mile Loop Road, which is a one-way paved lane where you can ride along and see all of the buildings and historic structures. The Loop Road takes you on a historical tour of early pioneer farms, fields, roads and trails, leaving you with the feeling that you just stepped foot into the history of the mountains.
I remember the first time I visited Cades Cove. I remember stopping at one of the overlooks and thinking: What kind of man goes into the Cove with all of these huge mountains around them. They are at least a two-day horseback ride away from the nearest town and decides “This looks like a good spot to make my home and raise a family”. But this is what happened in the early 1800’s. As you stop by the cabins and churches along the loop you can’t help but to think about what it must have taken to live there, what their daily routine would consist of. The hard work it must have taken just to survive.
It is almost impossible to stop by all of the buildings because after a while they start blending together. Make sure you stop by the Grist Mill area however. The Grist Mill is a working Mill so you will want to see how it works and how it was powered. The “Becky Cable House” also is very interesting. In a time when it is rare for a woman to own property and ever rarer to own businesses “Aunt Becky”, as they called her, accumulated over 600 acres and ran the boarding house. Reports said she could frequently be found working the mill and plowing the fields. This amazing woman lived until she was 96!!
BE AWARE As you go around the loop you may run into a “Bear Jam”. This is when all of the cars stop and pull over because someone has spotted a bear! I think Cades Cove is one of the best places to see wild bear, especially in the late afternoon and early evening. Be careful though, keep your distance and admire them without getting too close, especially if you see a cub.
Cades Cove is also open to hikers and bikers. You can rent bikes at the information center where you can also find maps for the different trails and difficulties so you can enjoy the Cove at your level of enjoyment.
Cades Cove is one of the spots we always bring people that are new to the area. To see bear, the awesome nature of the park and for the history of the area. For more information see their website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm