Cade’s Cove is an 11-mile one way loop through the Smoky Mountains. There are beautiful views along the way, and it is a great break from hiking. At the far end of the loop there is a visitor’s center along with some historic buildings. Many people also choose to bike the loop, which I could imagine as amazing. The loop begins pretty fare into the park, so give yourself plenty of time to navigate the twists and turns of the mountain roads.
Be aware that during the summer season there is often a lot of traffic. We were stuck in traffic for about an hour, but this was only because a yearling bear was posted up in a tree next to the road. Of course, everyone was stopping to take photos, which is completely awesome. Just remember to respect wildlife – by entering the park we are encroaching on their territory, and they are WILD ANIMALS. The ignorance of some of the tourists really awed me – a couple of families tried to follow the bear whilst others wanted to get closer to them to allow their kids to have a look. Please, don’t be that person. It is incredible to see a bear, but allow them to do their own thing. Do not interfere! (rant over).
If you are intending to see wildlife along the way, dawn is a the best time to go. The loop does close at dusk, so if you are planning on some hiking, plan accordingly.
As in the rest of the Smoky Mountains National Park, there are plenty of hiking trails off of Cade’s Cove including: Abraham Falls, Cade’s Cove Nature Trail, Thunderhead Mountain, and Rocky Top. While in the Smokies, we went on some great waterfall hikes to Rainbow Falls and Laurel Falls.