With over 2 million visitors a year, Cades Cove is hands down one of the most popular areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But what is it exactly that draws this incredible number of people to this area? Part of the reason is that it provides a special experience for families to enjoy together! Read on to learn about 5 family-friendly things you can only do in Cades Cove near Gatlinburg.
1. Explore Historical Buildings in Cades Cove
Aside from breathtaking scenic views and playful wildlife, the Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains is well known for all of the historic buildings that can be found there. These remarkable structures have stood the test of time from when the early settlers first built them over 100 years ago.
What is even more special is that guests to Cades Cove are able to explore around the cabins, even inside a few of them. Visiting these historic buildings in Cades Cove is a great way to sneak in a little history lesson for your kids during your family’s next vacation in the Smoky Mountains. Here are some of the most popular historical buildings you can see in Cades Cove:
- John Oliver Cabin
- Primitive Baptist Church
- Methodist Church
- Missionary Baptist Church
- Henry Whitehead Cabin
- Cantilever Barn
2. Tour the Only Working Grist Mill in Cades Cove
The John P. Cable Mill is the only still-functioning grist mill in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! In fact, guests who tour the mill can pick up a freshly-ground bag of meal at the Cades Cove Visitor Center located next door. The grist mill was an essential part of life in Cades Cove because it allowed them to grind their corn and wheat into flour to make bread. It was also used to cut lumber.
The Cades Cove Mill is probably one of the most well-known historic buildings in Cades Cove, and is a real treat for anyone who has had the experience of exploring it up close. You’ll be able to get a glimpse into what life was like in the 1800s.
3. Unique Smoky Mountain Hiking Trails in Cades Cove
Cades Cove near Gatlinburg is home to several unique Smoky Mountain hiking trails. Not only do these trails take you through some of the most beautiful areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but they also are a great way for you to explore the area that you could not otherwise see from your car. While many of these trails are considered more moderate in difficulty, there are some that are family friendly! You can choose the hiking trail that works best for your family.
Here are some of the most popular Smoky Mountain hiking trails in Cades Cove:
- Abrams Falls – 5 miles round trip; considered easy to moderate in difficulty
- Ace Gap – 11 miles round trip; considered easy to moderate in difficulty
- Gregory Bald Hiking Trail – 11.3 miles round trip; considered moderate to hard in difficulty
- Rich Mountain Loop – 8.5 miles round trip; considered easy to moderate in difficulty
A fun fact about the Smoky Mountain hiking trails in Cades Cove is that many of the trails were originally unpaved roads used by the early settlers of the area. They were used by residents of the Cove to travel to other communities and towns.
4. Drive the Motor Nature Trail in Cades Cove
The Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park rests around a peaceful 11-mile loop road. From the comfort of your car, guests can catch a glimpse of old historic home sites, churches and barns, as well as the occasional wildlife that are known to hang out in Cades Cove. If your family doesn’t feel like walking, the Loop Road provides the perfect opportunity to see the area.
The best part is, if you and your family come across an old cabin or something else you would like to explore, there are several pull-over spots along the road where you can park and get out and walk.
5. Go Horseback Riding in Cades Cove
Located at the entrance of the Cades Cove Loop Road, the Cades Cove Riding Stables are an excellent way to experience the beauty of the area like the early settlers did. Perfect for all experience levels, horseback riding in Cades Cove is by far one of the most exciting things to do in Cades Cove.
Not to mention, by touring the area on horseback instead of your car, you don’t have to worry about the seasonal traffic that the area is known for.
The friendly folks at the Cades Cove Riding Stables hold guided tours of Cades Cove from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, March through November 30. Cades Cove guided horseback ride rates are $35 for one hour.
More About Cades Cove
Cades Cove is located near the Townsend entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To get to Cades Cove from Gatlinburg, take the Parkway to the national park. After the Sugarlands Visitor Center, take a right on Little River Road. Follow that road for about 20 miles, and then you’ll arrive at Cades Cove. It is well worth the trip! Your family will love spending time experiencing everything that Cades Cove has to offer. Once you visit, you’ll understand why it’s one of the most popular places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Whether you’re viewing wildlife, going for a hike, or taking a scenic drive, your family is guaranteed to have a great time!
Need a relaxing place to stay after spending the day exploring all the family friendly things to do in Cades Cove? At Auntie Belham’s Cabin Rentals, we offer a variety of spacious Smoky Mountain cabin rentals that are located just a short drive away from Cades Cove. Learn more about our Smoky Mountain cabins and book your trip today!