Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Cades Cove

Friday April 22nd 2011
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

After being in Cades Cove with Nancy & Bill Mills
to hike the Abrams Falls Trail,
David decided he wanted to bike the loop.
I wasn’t so sure given the auto traffic.
But, I’m a good sport.

We didn’t get as early a start as I would have liked
and it was about 11 in the morning
by the time we had driven the gorgeous 20 miles
between Elkmont and Cades Cove.

We parked at at the Orientation Center
at the beginning of the loop.
There are restrooms here
and at the visitor’s center just over half way around. 
No other facilities in the Cove.

Off we went on the 11 mile loop. 

Gorgeous vistas EVERYWHERE

but TOO many cars
even in April.
We had forgotten that it was Good Friday
and the start of a Holiday week-end
when a lot of folks might be on a 3 day week-end.
Those sorts of things happen when you
are on the road.
You forget the date, the day of the week,
your own name………..oh no that’s
not because you are on the road.

Were I to do it again
or make recommendations to you,
I’d say come during the very first week
they close the loop to cars
until 10 in the morning on two days each week.  
It happens some time in May.

One of my “suggestions” to the park
is going to be that they close the loop
one day a week as soon as they open Cades Cove Campground. 
Hopefully when you come some April, that will be the case. 

The loop is hilly,
like the rest of the park,
and you really don’t need to be
sucking car exhaust while climbing.

We stopped at each numbered site
on the loop to see the homes and outbuildings
of the people who lived here until 1936
when the park took over the land. 

This is the John Oliver Place which was
constructed by the cove's first European settlers
John and Lucretia Frazier Oliver in 1822.

All of the houses with sleeping lofts had one
version or another of these stairs.

On the rear porch, John Phillips has an interesting display of information
about the Olivers and was an engaging and knowledgable interpreter.

Only 80 buildings in the park have been maintained
of the hundreds of families who lived
in the various communities. 
Cades Cove was the biggest of those. 
In 1900 about 125 families lived here,
but no longer. 

Some of the current residents of the cove........

There are 17 stops on the loop
and I took 197 pictures today. 
Not all of them on this post but
you may feel like they are by the time you finish.
Click on any to enlarge.

The cove had its share of churches and they are
among the first stops on the loop.
They are located very near to each other. 
The Primitive Baptist Church formed in 1827 by the Olivers
and known as Cades Cove Baptist Church
until the 1830's Anti Mission Split.

At that point, 13 members left to form the
Missionary Baptist  Church and located just down the road.

The Methodist Church was organized in
the 1820's as well as a result of the circuit riders.
In 1902, J.D. McCampbell replaced the original log church
with this one which he built in 115 days for $115.
Usually two doors indicates that men sit on one side and women on the other.
But not here, the two doors are there
because the church borrowed the building plans
of another church that did divide its congregation by gender.
I thought that was a riot!

All around us...........

After all the churches, we came to the
Elijah Oliver Place.
He was the son of John and Lucritia.
His was my favorite of the houses on the loop.

We parked the bikes at the foot and walked
up the shady lane to the house.

This is a "dog trot" style house,
historically two log cabins under one roof
separated by a "breezeway" (dogtrot).
The windows opening onto the breezeway
create air currents cooling the house.
The style is thought to have originated in the southern Appalachians.

Can you see the steps from one "house" to the other in the dogtrot?  

How about now?   

Front cabin.  

How about this spring house?

They used this channeled log raceway to bring the water
nearer to the main house.   Very clever.  

View of the Main House from the Spring House

We found more wildlife as we checked out the barn

We’d come 6 miles
when we reached the Visitor’s Center
at about 3:30.

We found some old timey music to enjoy
on the visitor center porch,

Within the visitor's center complex is the Cable Mill Area.
The Mill itself stands on its original site. 
Other historic buildings, including the Gregg-Cable House,
were brought from elsewhere in the park.

In 1887, Rebecca Cable "Aunt Becky" and her brother Dan bought the house.
She ran a boarding house, took care of the farm
and reared her brother's children after he was hospitalized
for mental illness.
She ultimately owned more than 600 acres and died at
age 96 in 1940.

On the the mill

The mill was operating and the miller
told us the  the two granite mill stones are original
have been in use since 1868.

We had lunch at a lovely site by the Mill Creek

This was our view

I think the late lunch,
which for me was just a couple of fruits
and some potato chips, was,
too little,
too late
and  not enough protein. 

When we started down the gravel
Forge Creek Road

to the Henry Whitehead Place

and my tires were having trouble with the stones, 
I decided I was too tired
and had had enough of the car exhaust and climbing hills.
David, who wisely had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch,
offered to ride the rest of the loop back to the car
and come back for me.  
My reply was “great idea”.
And so he did, 

covering the remaining 5 miles in 45 minutes.

We did the last 4 sites by car
like all the other folks.

How about this view from the porch
of the Henry Whitehead Place?

The Tipton Place

with its great cantalievered barn.
What a setting!

Would the park service approve of this exploration?? 

The last stop on the loop was the Carter Shields Cabin

 with the narrowest set of stairs I have ever seen.

I would definitely do this loop again on a bike

but only with plenty of protein snacks
on a day when there were no cars.
I do recommend it if you like to bike
and don’t mind serious hills,
some of which,
unless you are in really good shape
and have the appropriate bike,
you may have to walk
even without the cars
on this very narrow lovely road.

But who cares…………it’s beautiful,

you’re outside
and have all the time in the world!!


  1. What a great travellog of Cade's Cove, feel like i have been there and it is really beautiful!

  2. Wow, Sherry!! You took us on the ride we never got to do!! We brought our bikes, but never got back to do the ride...so thanks so much for taking us along. Would have loved to see that bear!!

    Next time, perhaps we will be out there with you guys and we can bike it together ;o))

    Hope the weather is improving where you are.

    Stay safe... Nancy

  3. I love Cades Cove. I tent camped there a few days in 2003. I said I would be back and now after reading your wonderful post, I will certainly to back.

    Thanks, Beth

  4. Great posting about Cades Cove. It is a lot less stressful to bike the loop when it is closed to vehicles. Such a beautiful place!

  5. We considered biking it, but after we got a late start that day we ended up driving it instead. As we were driving, I was keenly aware of some of those hills! You go girl!!

  6. We are wanting to go here in the summer. We have never camped in this area of the US before. And because of our post, my husband and I am SOLD! Cant wait to book it! Thank you so much, Ginny


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