Cades Cove panoramic view

5 Family-Friendly Things You Can Only Do in Cades Cove

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 quiet space?

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.

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 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.

Unique Smoky Mountain Hiking Trails in Cades Cove

Cades Cove 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.

Smoky Mountain hiking trails in Cades Cove and surrounding area include:

  • Abrams Falls
    • 5 miles round trip
    • Easy-moderate difficulty
  • Ace Gap
    • 11 miles round trip
    • Easy-moderate difficulty
  • Chestnut Top
    • 8.6 miles roundtrip
    • Moderate difficulty
  • Smoky Mountain hiking trails in Cades CoveGregory Bald Hiking Trail
    • 11.3 miles round trip
    • Moderate-hard difficulty
  • Parson Branch
    • 8.8 miles round trip
    • Moderate difficulty
  • Lumber Ridge Trail
    • 8.1 miles round trip
    • Easy-moderate difficulty
  • Middle Prong Trail
    • 8.3 miles round trip
    • Easy-moderate difficulty
  • Rich Mountain Loop
    • 8.5 miles round trip
    • Easy-moderate difficulty
  • Rocky Top
    • 13.9 miles round trip
    • Hard difficulty
  • Schoolhouse Gap
    • 3.8 miles round trip
    • Easy
  • Spence Field
    • 10.3 miles round trip
    • Moderate-hard difficulty
  • West Prong Trail
    • 5.4 miles round trip
    • Moderate difficulty

A fun fact about the Smoky Mountain hiking trails in Cades Cove is that many of the trails were original 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.

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.

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.

Go Horseback Riding in Cades Cove

horse back riding in Cades CoveLocated at the entrance of the Cades Cove Loop Road, the Cades Cove Riding Stables is 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, now through December 2. Cades Cove guided horseback ride rates are $30 for one hour.

Do you need directions to find out where in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Cades Cove is located? Here is a map that will help you find the best driving directions. 

Need a relaxing place to stay after spending the day exploring all the unique 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. To learn more about our rentals, give us a call today at 1-877-369-9694.