A Loop Around Cades Cove in the Smokey Mountains

Continuing on with the road trip that I took from Boston to Nashville, and back, this month for a conference! Starting from the beginning…..

A Quick Tour through Virginia
Snippets of Civil War in Knoxville

Nashville’s Civil War History at Fort Negley
Nashville’s Centennial Park
Some of Nashville’s Military Burial Places

I finally finished up with meetings early evening on the last day of the conference. I’d decided ahead of time that rather than stay at the hotel another night, I’d just hit the road for maybe 3-4 hours – that way I’d get a head start on my long drive east, and those few hours would be put to more productive use than simply vegetating in the hotel room for the evening.

So I ended up driving to Sevierville, TN. I’d picked the location quite randomly, based mostly on how far I wanted to drive that evening. It turned out to be a very lucky choice. The Sevierville region itself was very interesting! I knew nothing about the town before I arrived, but quickly learned about it just driving through to the hotel. It’s kind of Dolly Parton country, so had all that kind of tacky, fun stuff going on around the town, as well as a huge outlet mall literally next door to the hotel. So if that’s the kind of stuff you enjoy, it’s a great location for you to get your shopping fix and your Dolly Parton kicks!

Next morning I also discovered that I was pretty close to the most popular place in the Smoky Mountains – Cades Cove. So I decided to take some time to head out there – I certainly didn’t want to miss the chance to see it while I was so close. Who knows when I’d ever get back there again?

I was so glad I drove out there anyway. Cades Cove is an eleven mile, scenic loop road on the valley floor in the TN Smokey Mountains, and it only took about 30 minutes for me to drive there from the town. It was another absolutely glorious day of bright sunshine and blue skies, so was perfect for the drive and to capture the scenery in its full glory.

As I headed closer to the mountains, there was obviously some elevation gain, and there was an increasing amount of fallen snow around, especially once I got into the cove itself. It all looked beautiful.

The cove is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and is well-known for its amazing mountain views.

Before the Smokey Mountains National Park was formed, however, it was home to many early European settlers, and in addition to its wildlife and scenic views, it is still home to some very well-preserved settlers’ homesteads.

Way out in the distance at the end of the path you can see John Oliver’s Cabin – the first cabin in the Smokies, set up by two European immigrants who were the first settlers to this part of the mountains. The two little guys in the foreground weren’t pleased about me invading their space, by the way!

There’s also Elijah Oliver Place – son of John! Seems he was one of those charitable kind of folk that aren’t so commonplace nowadays – he had a “strangers room” built on his front porch. Basically a hospitality room for fisherman who’d come to the cove and be in need of lodging.  Talk about a good example!

There were various other historical structures throughout the cove, including a couple of churches. I loved the Primitive Baptist Church – and incidentally, the Oliver family is buried in the cemetery behind it.

So there’s lots of interesting history to be had in Cades Cove. But I have to say that the surrounding scenery is so breathtaking that it just draws you out there.

The loop road is a one way, single track road with a low speed limit. Apparently it can take as much as four hours to get around in the height of tourist season! It probably took me an hour and a half, maybe two hours – it wasn’t busy at all, but being the nosey photographer that I am, as usual I was in all kinds of strange places looking for vantage points for photographs! You could easily wander around at a leisurely pace and take in the scenery in about an hour.

Oh and just in case you do head out there – there’s no gas station once you get into the cove, so don’t arrive on an empty tank! Immediately at the start of the loop road, there’s a parking area where you can buy a brochure about the cove for $1 – it points out all the historic sites and gives a little information on each of them, so it’s worth getting.  There’s also a visitor center about halfway around, with restrooms, but other than that, you’re on your own.

A truly lovely location – swing by sometime if you’re in the area. I promise you won’t regret it.

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6 responses to “A Loop Around Cades Cove in the Smokey Mountains

  1. Another beautiful photo set!
    It’s great that you can go on a work trip and find time for yourself too.

  2. Great photos!

  3. You really are capturing your area beautifully. 🙂

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