Cades Cove Campground

Thinking about getting in the Smokies to go camping, but don’t want to get too far into the Smokies? Cades Cove is home to a wonderful campground and a number backcountry sites you can reach via one of the many hiking trails. The main one is right on the left as you enter Cades Cove. At last count, they offered 159 camping sites and can handle trailers up to 35 feet. RVs are allowed to be a little larger than 40 feet. Sites are equipped with picnic tables, fire rings and a tent surface. And you can also find camping supplies at the Cades Cove Campground store.

You’ll also find that the Cades Cove Campground has a wealth of other conveniences in the form of comfort stations with toilets and running water. However, there are no showers at the Cades Cove Campground so our suggestion is to shower up before coming or just jump in a creek. No, in all seriousness, we’ll leave that one up to you.

On Bears: Fair warning, there are bears in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, so if you do decide to camp in Cades Cove you’re very likely to see one, or two, maybe even three. Attacks however are rare, and the ones that have occurred usually have to do with food left unattended. So, don’t leave food out at your campsite or store it in a tent. The Black Bears that call the national park home have a keen sense of smell and even the smell of toothpaste can lure them to a campsite. If you do see one in the campground, bang something together to create a loud noise, shout, wave your arms and act like you’re a loon…. Anything to try to scare them away. If nothing works, RUN to a building, into a car, whatever.

Upon your departure, please attempt to leave no trace of food or litter in the campground that will attract bears. No burying or burning of food either. If you bring something in to the Cades Cove Campground, you must pack it up and take it out when you leave.

On occassion, you may see photos of people interacting with park bears. Still, Smoky Mountain Black Bears are extremely unpredictable when it comes to their interactions with humans. It’s in your best interest not to try to interact with them or attempt to feed them.

Outside of the Cades Cove Campground, Russell and Spence fields provide shelters and there are 16 backcountry campgrounds as well throughout the Cades Cove trail network. To make reservations, call 865-436-1200.

Davy Crockett Riding Stables in Townsend, TN

So you want to get out to parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that you can’t see leaning out of the window of your car? Well, Townsend, Tn has the answer for you – Davy Crockett Riding Stables. Get off the road into the backcountry and take a relaxing horseback ride in Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Davy Crockett Riding Stables in Townsend has immediate access to backcountry horseback riding trails in the Smokies. What better way to get more in touch with nature and spend some quality family time than to experience it like the mountaineers who first traversed the Smokies did – on horseback. Davy Crockett employs some of the best Smoky Mountain horseback guides in the area, each with a vast understanding of the area and the animal alike. Each equestrian professional is a trained guide with the hours of experience necessary to lead groups on horseback throughout the park.

Once you’ve explored the Smokies on horseback, you’ll want to come back again and again just to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Good luck with that as the national park is as expansive as it is majestic. It’s not just a 30 minute in and out trip either, guests have a choice of five different trips to choose from, each with varying rates:

  • A $22 per hour ride
  • A $15 per half hour ride
  • A $33 per hour and a half ride
  • $44 for two hours
  • And a half day trip for $90

In season, guests can come ride on the spot, but reservations are required during the off season. For Davy Crockett Riding Stables, peak season runs from March 15 to November 15. Davy Crockett is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, call 865-448-6411.

Davy Crockett Riding Stables
505 Old Cades Cove Road
Townsend, TN

Rich Mountain Road – A scenic Townsend drive.

If you are a yearly visitor to the Smokies, you probably spend part of one of your days in idyllic Cades Cove.  If you want to change up your trip the next time you head around the loop, try taking Rich Mountain Road.  This rugged journey, that starts almost halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Road, is not for everyone but it does offer a different view of the mountains and the valley that is Townsend, TN.  The road is gravel and dirt from start to finish but on a clear day, the views are worth it.

Scenes like this one are prevalent along Rich Mountain Road during the fall.

While there is only one way into Cades Cove, there are three ways out.  Either you can follow Cades Cove Loop road out of Cades Cove, or you can take Rich Mountain Road or Parsons Branch Road.  Rich Mountain Road is the more popular of the two alternative routes as it drops you out in Townsend.  If you have gotten one of the self-guided tour maps you will see the turn off for Rich Mountain Road across from the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church.  You will turn to the right before you get to the church and follow the road out of Cades Cove.

The road you find yourself on is gravel and dirt the whole way.  Make sure that you are prepared for this because once you start down the road, you will not be able to turn around.  Rich Mountain Road is a one way road that allows you to leave Cades Cove and take an alternate route to Townsend.  During the winter, this road is closed due to bad road conditions. Keep that in mind when you decide to take this alternate route.  Also remember that the road is closed to RVs and campers.  In fact anything bigger than a truck will make some of the turns a little difficult to simply impossible.

Looking down into Cades Cove from Rich Mountain Road.

But though the road is twisting and mountainous, you get to see some amazing scenery as you climb your way out of Cades Cove.  One of the highlights is always the view of the Primitive Baptist Church.  The setting is incredible and it is perfectly set against the mountainside for a vacation photograph that you will love to see and take home.  Also, as you creep along the mountain you can watch wildlife that is not as viewed nearly as often as the wildlife in Cades Cove proper.  The animals tend to climb the mountains to get away from the tourist traffic and the possibility to see not only bears but smaller mammals is greater here.  Along the way, you will come across small waterfalls and some old growth forest along the ridge lines as well.

All in all, you need to add Rich Mountain Road to your bucket list.  Make sure at one point while you are on vacation in the Smoky Mountains that you make the trip from Cades Cove down Rich Mountain Road.  Follow this gravel road from the middle of Cades Cove and see a different side of the Smokies as you work your way to the “Peaceful Side” of the Smokies:  Townsend, TN.

Hiking Townsend – Abrams Falls Trail

Hiking to Abrams Falls by way of Cades Cove and Townsend, TN.

As far as Smoky Mountain hikes go, the Abrams Falls Trail is one of the most conducive to beginners and weekend hikers. It’s an easy 5-miler (round-trip) that families can plan a weekend or day-trip around. Set aside 3 hours to fully enjoy the hike however, longer if you plan on enjoying the waterfall. Starting in Cades Cove, just outside Townsend, TN, the trek to Abrams Falls is a great way to get to know the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

So lets talk about the trail itself, which ascends to 1,800 feet at one point. Once you reach Abrams Falls you are actually 300 feet lower than when you began. To get there, take Little River Road from Gatlinburg or Townsend (refer to map below), take the one-way Cades Cove Loop Road 4.9 miles and turn right onto a gravel road that leads to a parking area. If you reach the Cades Cove Visitors Center you’ve gone too far. The Abrams Falls Trail begins at the end of the parking area. You’ll cross the wooden bridge at Abrams Creek to start out. At the 0.5 mile mark, the Elijah Oliver Place is present and the trail goes left to begin the hike to Abrams Falls. For the most part Abrams Creeks will run right with the trail, with one exception when it veers to a highly fished horseshoe bend. Wilson Branch appears at mile 2.5 and the short side trail leads to the falls.

You’ll notice that Abrams Creek resembles a narrow chute before transforming into a beautiful, yet violent 20-foot plunge over a ledge. This natural pool is a haven for swimmers and sunbathers during the hot summer months. In June, laurel and rhododendron frame the falls on its banks. The mist from the falls is a welcome break for hikers as an easy way to cool off and enjoy the park’s natural beauty.

For those looking for an even bigger challenge, the remaining two miles of the trail are much more isolated and unkempt. Ending at Abram’s Creek Ford, get on the Hannah Mountain Trail (left for 1.9 miles to the Rabbit Creek Trail at Scott Gap) and the Hatcher Mountain Trail (right 2.8 miles to the Cooper Road Trail and the Beard Cane Creek Trail). Or just retrace your steps to the Abrams Creek Trail and return to Cades Cove. You’ve completed the 5-mile round trip.

hiking.jpgA quick word of advice, wear hiking boots or shoes comfortable enough for a good walk. For day-hikers, running shoes should suffice, but the National Park’s uneven trails require hiking boots. Please stay on the trail. Hikers can easily lose their way when they leave the trail. If you get temporarily lost, try to retrace your steps until you cross the trail again.

Consider packing yourself some rain gear and a wool sweater as well. Both could be the difference between a terrible hike or a memorable one, especially  if it rains. During the spring and summer you never know when one of those afternoon showers are going to pop up. Even during the summer rain can lead to hypothermia. Having said that, don’t let a fear of hypothermia, getting lost, or bears prevent you from enjoying the Abrams Fall Trails, or any other trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for that matter.

Thinking about bears now? Most park rangers will tell you that more likely to see a bear’s behind as he runs off than meet one face to face. “Incidents” occur when people try to feed or bother the bears or bear cubs.

Directions: To get to the Smokies area from where you are, see directions to get to Gatlinburg or Townsend, Tennessee. From Townsend take TN 321 to the park entrance, turn right on Little River Road to Cades Cove. From Gatlinburg, turn right at the Sugarlands Visitor Center onto Little River Road and on to Cades Cove, where you will travel nearly halfway around the 11-mile loop road to the parking area for the 5-mile round-trip hike to Abrams Falls.

Townsend Winter Heritage Festival (Feb. 2-5, 2012)

The Townsend Winter Heritage Festival is a seasonal celebration of the natural beauty, heritage, and cultural traditions of Townsend, TN; Cades Cove; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The event combines a number of the areas most renowned businesses and community groups in one large get-together.  It’s a FREE event, with the exception of lunches and dinners, where there are reservations required, with a charge for each meal.  Music workshops also require pre-registration.

So, whether it’s music and live performances that you like, or southern cuisine like some of the area’s best BBQ, or getting more familiar with nature and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend’s Winter Heritage Festival really answers the call to the Smokies-lover in all of us. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors, Townsend, and spend some time with the family.

Some of this year’s festival highlights include:

Festival Kick Off at the Blount Co. Historical Museum: Hear storyteller Charles Maynard, listen to live music with Pistol Creek Catch of the Day, view the various Civil War exhibits, and get refreshments at the kick-off celebration. Thursday, Feb. 2, 6-8pm.

Special musical guest:  Wayne Erbsen
Come listen to the sounds of Wayne Erbson on Saturday evening, Feb. 4. He will also be presenting an Appalachian music workshop that afternoon. Call 865-448-6134 to sign up.

Mountain Dulcimer Workshop with Sarah Morgan:  If you’ve ever had an interest in the dulcimer and its beginnings sign up for Sarah Morgan’s workshop Friday afternoon, Feb. 3.  Call 865-448-6134 for details and to sign up.  Limit 20.

Sarah Morgan holds her annual Mountain Dulcimer workshop.

Music of the Civil War: We know that there are always a number of Civil War enthusiasts among our visitors. It’s not always you get to hear the songs and music they went to battle to. This presentation includes tunes and songs with Conny Ottway at the Chocolate B’ar, Friday, Feb. 3.

Listen to a great Young Fiddler – Carson Peters
Carson will be fiddlin’ up a storm with his family at the Mountain Music Showcase on Saturday. It’s a performance not to be missed!

Cast Iron Cooking by members of the Blount County Fire Protection District will take place Saturday, Feb. 4.  Come by and taste some delicious cobblers, biscuits, beans and more!

Lunchtime Programs: at the Chocolate B’ar Cafe, with good food, talks, and music, both days. Friday: Conny Ottway, sponsored by Rocky Branch Community Club Saturday: Tommy and Tammi McCarroll with Bobby Fulcher, sponsored by The Chocolate B’ar.  Call for lunch reservations, 865-448-9432.

Friday evening at Dancing Bear Lodge, with supper and entertainment by flute player Randy McGinnis.  Reservations required.  865-448-6000.

Saturday night BBQ Supper at The Barn Event Center: with Wayne Erbsen concert sponsored by Great Smoky Mountains Association, and called country dance with live band “The Truffle Hounds”, sponsored by Big Meadow Campground. Saturday evening, Feb. 4.  Reservations required. 865-448-3812.

Book-signing: Appalachian Tales and Heartland Adventures, Bill Landry; Noon to 3:00pm both days at the Townsend Visitors Center.

“Precious Memories” Homecoming with the Cades Cove Preservation Association on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 5. Location to be announced.

Full Winter Heritage Festival Schedule Day by Day:

Schedule subject to changes and for updates call 865-448-6134.

(Events with a * require pre-registration and those with meals have a charge.)


Thursday, Feb. 2: 


At Blount County Historical Museum and Cades Cove/Thompson Brown Museum:

– 6-8pm: “Festival Kick-Off”, Blount County Historical Museum and Cades Cove/Thompson Brown Museum.  Civil War Exhibit, refreshments, and 6:30pm storytelling by Charles Maynard, plus music by Pistol Creek Catch of the Day.


Friday, February 3:  Events take place at several locations.


At Townsend Visitors Center:

– 9-9:45am:  “Cora’s Story”, Cherel Henderson, East Tennessee Historical Society.

– 10-10:45am: “Preserving our Heritage-The Foothills Land Conservancy”, Elise Eustace, Foothills Land Conservancy.

– 11-11:45am: “Thomas Sumter”, Charlie Rhodarmer, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum.

– Noon-3pm: Book-signing by Bill Landry, Appalachian Tales and Heartland Adventures.

– 2-3pm: “Mountain Dulcimer Workshop” * with Sarah Morgan. To register, call 865-448-6134. (Free) Limit 20.  Sponsored by Friends of the Smokies.

– 3:15-4:15pm: “Music of the Mountains”, Lisa Free.

– 4:30-5:15pm: “Black Leaders of Blount Co. during Reconstruction”, Robert Glenn Slater, University of Tennessee.


At Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center:

Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4:

– 9am-5pm: Cades Cove Preservation Association talks and Families of Cades Cove exhibits.


– 9-9:45am:  “Bear Creek Tales”, Lonnie McMillan

– 10-10:45am:  “A Cades Cove Long Rifle”, Stephen Weber

– 11-11:45am:  “Horace Kephart-The Back of Beyond”, Butch McDade

– Noon  (Lunch break)

– 1-1:45pm:  “Living in the Cove”, Bernard Myers

– 2-2:45pm:    “Sacred Places of the Smokies”, Gail Palmer

– 3pm: Panel Discussion, Cades Cove Preservation Association


At Little River Railroad Museum:

– 3-4pm: “Walking Tour of Townsend”, Don Headrick.


In Great Smoky Mountains National Park-Cades Cove:

– 1-3pm:  “Hike to Gourley Pond” *, Ranger Mike Maslona.  Meet at the Lequire family cemetery on the far side of the Cades Cove Loop Rd.  *Call 865-448-6134 to sign up.


In Great Smoky Mountains National Park-Tremont:

– 9-11am: “Waterfall Hike”, Dawn Dextraze.  Meet at the Tremont Visitors Center (office).


At The Chocolate B’ar:

– 11am-12pm: “Music of the Civil War”, Conny Ottway. Sponsored by Rocky Branch Community Club. Followed by lunch.

Call for lunch reservations * : 865-448-9433 or 865-448-9895.


At Townsend Artisan Gallery:

– 4-6pm: “Open House and Artist Reception”


At Dancing Bear Lodge:

– 6:30-8:30pm: Dinner and entertainment by Native American flute player Randy McGinnis.  * Reservations needed:  865-448-6000.


Saturday, February 4: Events take place at several locations


At Townsend Visitors Center:

Mountain Craft Showcase:

– 9-9:45am: “Dollmaking”, Carolyn Gregory.

– 9:45-10:30am: “Pottery”, Carol Ware.


– 11-11:45am: “The Forgotten Baskets of the Mountains”, Bill Alexander.

– 11:45am-12:30pm: “Blacksmithing”, Hugh Bowie.

Mountain Music Showcase:

– 1:30-2:30pm: “Appalachian Music Workshop”, Wayne Erbsen. * Call 865-448-6134 to sign up (free)

– 2:45-3:45pm: “Fiddlin’ Carson Peters Band”, Carson Peters and family

– 4-5pm: “The Mountain Dulcimer”, Sarah Morgan

The Mountain Craft and Mountain Music Showcases are funded by an Arts Build Communities Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission and a sponsorship from Great Smoky Mountains Association for Wayne Erbsen.

– 11am for White Oak Sinks Hike, Butch Mcdade.  11am-3PM.  Meet on Townsend Visitors Center front porch and carpool to trailhead.

– Noon-3pm: Book-signing by Bill Landry, Appalachian Tales and Heartland Adventures.

– 11am-5pm: Cast Iron Cooking Demonstration with members of the Blount County Fire Protection District.

– 10am-5pm: Cherokee Finger Weaving by Charaity Hubbard and Historic Weapons Display with David Hubbard.


At Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center:

Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4:

– 9am-5pm: Cades Cove Preservation Association talks and Families of Cades Cove exhibits.

Saturday, Feb. 4:

– 9-9:45am: “Smoky Mountain Bears, Bucks, and Wildflowers-A Video Presentation”, Kate Marshall

– 10-10:45am: “Bloomery Forge in Cades Cove”, David Ledbetter

– 11-11:45am:  “A Park by Any Other Name”, Kent Cave and Raymond Palmer

– 12:00  (Lunch break)

– 1-1:45pm:  “Noah and Sarah Brown Burchfield of Cades Cove”, Larry Sparks

– 2-2:45pm  “Photographers and Photos of Cades Cove”, Missy Green

– 3pm: Panel Discussion, Cades Cove Preservation Association


At Little River Railroad Museum:

– 10am-12pm: “Tremont Walking Tour”, Ron Briggs.

– 3-4pm: “Logging Railroads of the Smokies” Rick Turner.


In Great Smoky Mountains National Park-Tremont:

– 10:30am-12:30pm:  “Winter Tree ID Hike”, Ken Voorhis.  Meet at the Tremont Visitors Center (office).


In Great Smoky Mountains National Park-White Oak Sinks Hike:

– 11am-3pm:  “Hike to White Oak Sinks”, Butch McDade.  Meet on the front porch of the Townsend Visitors Center and carpool to trailhead.


In Great Smoky  Mountains National Park-Little Greenbrier/Walker Sisters:

– 11am-2:30pm: “Hike to the Walker Sisters Family and Friends Homesites”, Mark and Janet Snyder.  Bring a sack lunch, drink, raingear, and good hiking shoes.  There will be off-trail walking.  Meet at the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area.


At The Chocolate B’ar:

– 11am-12pm: “Old Time Mountain Music”, Tommy and Tammy McCarroll and Bob Fulcher. Sponsored by The Chocolate B’ar.  Followed by lunch.

Call for lunch reservations *: 865-448-9433 or 865-448-9895.

At Townsend Artisan Gallery:

– 9am-4pm: “Open House and Demonstrations by Artists”


At The Barn Event Center:

– 6pm:  Doors open; 6:30pm: BBQ Supper.  * Call 865-448-3812 for reservations, $25.

– 7-8pm: Wayne Erbsen Concert. Sponsored by Great Smoky Mountains Association.

– 8-9pm: Country Dance with caller and live band, “The Truffle Hounds”. Sponsored by Big Meadow Family Campground.


Sunday, February 5

At Location to be announced:

– 2-4pm: “Precious Memories-Cades Cove Homecoming”, Cades Cove Preservation Association.  Refreshments and sharing time.  865-448-6134.

The Cades Cove Campground Store

The Cades Cove Loop Road is everyone’s go-to point when discussing a trip to Cades Cove in Townsend, TN. But what about once you’re there, have traversed the loop, and now you’re deciding what to do next? Where can you take a break, or get a bite to eat?

The loop can be an exceptionally long 11 miles at times, something to quench your thirst or your appetite might be in order – especially if you’re traveling with small children Being in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, most people decide to go to the Cades Cove Campground Store. Most people don’t even know it’s there and that’s a real shame. At the Cades Cove Campground store you can purchase food and drink, convenience items, rent bicycles and get some of the best ice cream around during those hot summer days.

For those of you still thinking, “it’s only 11 miles, it won’t take that long”, you’d be surprised. Depending on the time of year, it could take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple hours. On average, during the summer months especially, the 11 mile loop around Cades Cove is going to take a few hours. When you finish the loop and the kids are clamoring for something to eat, take a right when you come off the loop road. Across from the Ranger station you’ll see the Cades Cove Campground Store. Pull into the parking lot and head inside for something to eat. There is plenty of food for everyone, from burgers and chips to pizza and nachos; they’ve got all the summer staples. The store is also located right next to the picnic area, near River Road. So, if it’s a picnic you’re after, stop by the campground store for all the trimmings and enjoy your next meal in Cades Cove.

Bicycles to rent at the Cades Cove Campground Store.

Another of the perks offered at the Cades Cove Campground Store is bicycle rental. Bikes can be rented by the hour and taken around the loop. The one-way, slow traffic on the Cades Cove Loop Road means that you’re ensured a safe ride. The loop road only allows a meandering pace for cars giving cyclists an easy glide throughout the Cove. Geared bike rentals start at $6 per hour for adults and $4 per hour for kids. This is an ideal activity for anyone staying at the campground that has kids. Wednesday and Saturday mornings throughout the year the road is closed to motor vehicle traffic and bike riders have the loop road to themselves. You can choose to bike the full 11 miles or you can take the Sparks Lane cut off and bike only 4 miles.

Whether you choose to bike or drive the loop road, reward yourself with a snack when you’re finished. Many say that the Cades Cove Campground Store has the best ice cream in the Smoky Mountains. It’s a delicious treat as you’re traveling through Cades Cove. Be sure that the Cades Cove Campground Store is a part of your next Townsend getaway.

Appalachian Bear Rescue

When it comes to Townsend, TN and the town’s relationship with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, some of its best work can be seen through the efforts of a small group that started the Appalachian Bear Rescue in 1996.

Over the years the black bear has come to symbolize all the wildlife that makes up the National Park and through the Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR), volunteers have worked tirelessly to keep it that way. In all, ABR is a one-of-a-kind, black bear rehabilitation facility located in Townsend. Appalachian Bear Rescue is also a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that strives to return all orphaned and injured black bears to the wild, as well as those bears that are in need of urgent medical care.

According to a recent WVLT report out of Knoxville, some orphaned bear cubs are searching for food this time of year instead of trying to find a den for winter. This is where Appalachian Bear Rescue steps in to help.

“They’ve been in a desperate search for food all year,” Lisa Stewart, Appalachian Bear Rescue Curator, told WVLT. “Right now we are encountering a terrible food crisis for our bears and we’re seeing many orphan cubs needing to come to facility.”

Through the end of November, the Appalachian Bear Rescue had taken in a record number of bear cubs – 31 – topping the previous high of 23 in 2009. Some are even starving to death when they arrive.

“We are seeing bears come in that are supposed to be 70 pounds but seeing them at 15 pounds,” said Jack Burgin, president of Appalachian Bear Rescue.

With rehabilitation so expensive, donations from the public help the ABR nurse the black bears back to health and releases them into the wild – a practice that in reality has been ongoing in these parts since the late 80s.

A severe hard mast (nut and seed) shortage in 1989 had driven black bears into lower elevations of the Smoky Mountains to look for food. The starving bears combined with humans reluctant to go near the bears left an unusually large number of orphaned cubs. When a concerned group of volunteers noticed this trend, they decided to form the Appalachian Black Bear & Release Center Inc. in the summer of 1990 to help the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park care for the orphaned cubs.

It started out as the Appalachian Bear Center, and efforts centered around raising money, acquiring land and building a fenced area to care for the bears. The center’s first bear, “Zero”, arrived on July 8, 1996, and was released on September 20, 1996. The ABC’s first full-time curator, Daryl Ratajczak, started on June 9, 1997, and promptly began caring for three yearling bears.

By 1999, word of ABC’s success led other states to ask for its help. Since then, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina have all asked ABC/ABR to help care for their severely malnourished cubs. Lisa Stewart, who now serves as curator, was hired in April 2003, and began work a few days early to help care for a bear named “Lucky.” Since then, ABC/ABR has continuously cared for at least one bear or cub, although there are usually many more. To date, the Applalachian Bear Rescue has assisted more than 95 bears by returning them to the wild.

For more information on the Appalachian Bear Rescue, or to make a donation, visit the ABR’s website.

Cades Cove

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has preserved Cades Cove to look much the way it appeared in the 1800’s. Most settlers originated from Virginia, North Carolina and upper east Tennessee. Today, Cades Cove is the largest open air museum in the entire park with up-to-the-period pioneer homesteads, barns, businesses, and farmland.

cades cove loop  road map

Cades Cove – formerly “Kate’s Cove”, an Indian chief’s wife, has always been known for its abundant wildlife and good hunting, thus why it was so appealing to the local Cherokee Indians. Eventually, Cades Cove’s wildlife drew European frontiersmen as well. The Englishmen and their decendants cleared the fertile valley floor and built farms in the area. For many generations, pioneer families called Cades Cove their home, until the cove became a part of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Still as full of wildlife as before, Cades Cove draws in millions of Smokies visitors every year.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has preserved Cades Cove to look much the way it appeared in the 1800’s. Most settlers originated from Virginia, North Carolina and upper east Tennessee. Today, Cades Cove is the largest open air museum in the entire park with up-to-the-period pioneer homesteads, barns, businesses, and farmland.

Most home sites are outside the Cades Cove loop road. These remaining original structures, as well as abundant wildlife, are easy to spot as you travel the loop. Inside the loop are acre upon acre of grass and wildflower fields once cleared by pioneers for growing crops such as wheat, corn, and raising cattle.

Still, many homes in the cove were not preserved. Those abandoned home sites are still visible to the trained eye. The obscure lonely chimney’s, rock fences or landscaping which does not seem natural to the surroundings are all remnants of the cove’s past. In addition to the European descent Americans who settled Cades Cove over a century before it was absorbed into The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, there were also Native Americans Cherokee Indians. Their mark on Cades Cove can be seen in the form of the park’s trails, many of which were developed into roads and/or hiking trails.

The loop enters Cades Cove near Sparks Lane–
Sparks Lane is one of two roads that cut directly across Cades Cove loop road, the other being Hyatt Lane. A left on Sparks Lane followed by a short drive will take you to the Cades Cove Loop exit. This lets anyone who might need to go to the store, return a bike rental, or make a restroom stop do so in case they missed it upon entering the Cades Cove.

john oliver cabinThe Oliver’s Cabin was the first in the Smokies–
In its beginnings, Cades Cove was settled on the north eastern side where the loop starts, for this is the higher and dryer part of the cove, away from the swampy land of the park. John and Lurany Oliver were the first to settle this area.

Typical of other European immigrants and their kin, the Olivers came regardless of the fact that there was no Indian treaty allowing them access to the Smoky Mountain land. It was  this practice of settlement without treaty that was the source of much friction between new settlers and the Native Americans already living in the Smoky Mountain region. However, for John and Lurany, the Cherokee Indians actually helped them survive their first winter. A year later, the Calhoun Treaty gave whites the right to settle the cove just one year after they arrived. The Olivers purchased their land in 1826 and when Cades Cove became part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park there were still Oliver descendants living in the cove.

The Oliver’s original cabin stood fifty yards or so behind the Cades Cove cabin now identified as their first cabin. For instance, the cabin, still standing and preserved by The Great Smoky Mountain National Park service and identified as the Oliver’s cabin is actually the honeymoon house which the their family built for their son to use when he married.

Luxury Log Home Resort in the Smoky Mountains

Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church–
Being that it took a little faith to settle the American frontier, no where was religion as a big part of life for the settlers as it was in the Smoky Mountains, and especially Cades Cove. Before the Baptist Church was founded,  Cades Cove residents were tasked with traveling through the Smoky Mountains to attend Sunday meeting in Millers and Wears Coves. Tuckaleechee Cove also provided campground revivals, now present day Townsend.

The Cades Cove Baptist church was established in 1827. During those days, one portion of the scripture allowed for missionary work while others in the congregation countered otherwise. The issue was not solely affecting Baptists in the Smokies but was widespread throughout the nation. In essence why a decision was made to rename their church in order to distinguish it from Baptists with other beliefs. Officially, it was renamed the Primitive Baptist Church in 1841. For 60 years the congregation met in a log structure until the white frame church was constructed in 1887.

Cades Cove Methodist Church–
Cades Cove’s Methodist congregation also began modestly meeting in a log structure with a fire pit and dirt floor. It took 62 years to get a newer, more modern building. In 1902 carpenter/pastor, John D. McCampbell built the pretty white frame structure which became the Cades Cove Methodist church. Its two front door design was common in the 1800’s in the Smokies and elsewhere. Generally, a two front door design allowed men to enter and sit on one side of the chapel and women and children on the other. Cades Cove’s Methodist congregation was a bit more relaxed and thus sat where they pleased. Records show the design was copied from that of another church building which happened to have the two door design. The balanced design of the little Methodist Church reflects a feeling of peace and harmony in its Smoky Mountain setting.

Still, the church’s aesthetics did not shield this its congregation from controversy. The Cades Cove Methodist church was troubled by division during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Some members split off and formed the Hopewell Methodist church. The Hopewell building no longer stands.

Hyatt Lane in Cades Cove–
Hyatt Lane is one of the many Indian trails located throughout the Smokies. Many settlers traversed it when traveling to Tuckaleechee or Maryville. Today, Hyatt Lane is a dusty two lane shortcut through Cades Cove. The tour continues straight ahead on the Cades Cove loop so keep in mind you’ll miss a lot if you cut across the cove on Hyatt Lane.

Cades Cove was once a remote place in the Great Smoky Mountains, and only accessible by Indian trails. Some of those trails have since been improved to roads. Of those trails, one was called Cades Cove road, which was later changed to Rich Mountain Road. By either name, the road was one of the main routes through the Smokies between Tuckaleechee and Cades Cove.

Today’s Smoky Mountain visitors face the temptation to travel up Rich Mountain Road due to the number of spectacular views of Cades Cove. But don’t take it before finishing the auto tour – most of which lay beyond the road’s turn off. Rich Mountain Road is a one way dirt road which exits the Great Smoky Mountain National Park after 12 mountainous miles.

Travel from Cades Cove to such local towns as Maryville in those days could be troubling, especially by horse. You were almost guaranteed a 3-day trip all around. One travel day into town. One to buy or sell goods, or perhaps visit and one to travel back.

Generally a self sustaining community,Cades Cove settlers  bought things in Maryville including medicine and remedies such as Camphorated oil, Castor oil, Epsom salts, and catnip tea. Eventually the Giles Gregory store sprang up in Cades Cove where medicine, seeds, sugar, kerosene, yard goods and hardware supplies could be purchased instead of making the long trip into town. Goods could be bought or traded for such as eggs. Still, Maryville had a more appealing selection of goods and so the trips from Cades Cove continued. While in Maryville, if the family was selling rather than buying, chances are they were selling chestnuts which once grew in abundance in Cades Cove. Unfortunately disease eventually killed Cades Cove’s majestic chestnut groves.

Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church–
As with all churches in the Smokies region, Baptists were divided into two camps – members who supported missionary work, temperance societies and Sunday schools and those that didn’t. Despite prevalent thought on the lack of Biblical support for such things, a number of Cades Cove Baptists were eventually dismissed from the original Baptist church for their beliefs including Johnson Adams who served as pastor.

On May 15, 1841, Adams and other disenfranchised Smokies pioneers banded together and established the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church. At the beginning, they had no meeting house and had to meet in member homes. On occasion, they were able to meet at the Primitive Baptist or Methodist church buildings. At the time, there was still much confusion over the Civil War in the Smokies. Missionary Baptists didn’t meet for long periods of time during the Civil War and reconstruction. Missionary Baptists had a particularly successful revival following the war and were able to erect their own church building in Cades Cove. Their church was constructed on Hyatt Hill in 1894, and membership soared to 40 members. Eventually the congregation grew to over one hundred. In 1915, a new building was constructed in the present location.

Elijah Oliver Place–
The Elijah Oliver cabin, corn crib, smokehouse, springhouse and barn provided aelijah oliver place cozy environment for this branch of the Oliver family. Elijah was the son of John and Luraney and was born in their original Cades Cove cabin in 1824. Elijah grew into a young man and married before eventually bringing his bride to the site where they built the Smokies cabin that bears his name.

To say that the Oliver family were keenly aware of their dependence upon God, family and neighbors would be an understatement. Elijah lived in a time when strangers were taken in and given a bed and food without second thought. The hospitality of Cades Cove and its residents was so well known that fishermen came to the cove knowing that the settlers would give them lodging at no charge. Many Cades Cove residents actually made a special room built to house the strangers for this exact reason. Elijah Oliver as well had a “strangers room” – this one built on his front porch.

Cable Mill Historic Area & Visitor Center–
Surrounded by a snake rail fence, the Cable Mill is one of the most popular stops on the Cades Cove tour. There is a national park visitors center at Cable Mill that is open from mid-April through October where visitors can buy post cards, maps, and books about Cades Cove and the national park as a whole. On occasion, corn meal and molasses are available. Cable Mill’s also has restrooms, information, emergency assistance, and park rangers. There are many outdoor displays at Cable Mill to peruse as well. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park service constructed all the buildings on this site except the Grist Mill.

Sorghum Mill–
For sweetener in those times settlers used a number of resources including honey, maple syrup, and maple sugar. A very dark sweet syrup was also used called molasses. For Smoky Mountain pioneers molasses was a savored treat – especially when served on corn bread with a little butter.

Molasses was made in the Cades Cove at the sorghum mill. In its beginning stages, molasses is grown as sorghum cane which is first stripped of leaves, then fed between the rollers of the mill. The mill’s long poles were attached to a harness worn by a farm animal, usually an ox, mule, or horse. Because the harness was attached around the pole, the animal was forced walk in a circle. This constant circular motion turned the rollers which pulled the stalks further into the mill where the sorghum juice was squeezed out. As the rollers squeezed the juice from the cane, it was collected then boiled down in an outdoor furnace until it turned thick and dark. Molasses was used in a variety of ways as a sweetener and can still be purchased around the middle of September into October at the Cades Cove visitors center.

Gregg-Cable House had two locations in Cades Cove–
Becky Cable passed away in her Cades Cove home in 1940 at age 94. Her home wasbecky cable house located on Forge Creek Road but following her death the Great Smoky Mountain National Park service decided to relocate the house to the Cable Mill area. Becky Cable herself, lived a long, productive life in the cove. She raised her brother’s children following an episode where he and his wife became ill. Becky also ran a boarding house in addition to her brother’s farm. She was a gardener, raised cattle and grew food for herself , her family and her brothers.

Cable Mill Barn–
cable barn cades cove
Most of the barns in Cades Cove were of the cantilever design, but not all of them. These barns were of a similar design of which we have today with a row of stalls on each side of an isle. In the cantilever design, the stalls were constructed  in the middle of the structure with a large loft overhang on each side. There were many advantages to each, one being the shelter provided by the cantilever barn. This shelter provided animals not kept in stalls some shelter as they could wander from the pasture to stand under the large eaves. More common barn designs were also used to protect domestic animals and livestock from the predators of the Smokies.

Corn Crib–
Corn was as big a crop in Cades Cove as anywhere in the country at the time. Therefore, corn and the building known as a corn crib whichcorn  crib protected it were put at a premium by early pioneers. Corn was ground into corn meal and used for making corn bread and grits, mush or left whole to make hominy as well as grain for livestock. You’ll notice that the Cades Cove corn cribs were designed with slats which would hold the corn in while allowing maximum air circulation. The harvested corn ears were tossed in the above hatch in the crib usually with the shucks still on the ears where they air dried into hard kernels still on the cob. There is a small door at the bottom of the crib. Corn was shucked and rubbed together briskly to knock the hardened corn from the cob. Once off the cob, the corn kernels could be made into hominy, hominy grits, mush, cornmeal, or chicken and livestock food.

Smokehouses were common in Cades Cove as throughout the Smokies to cure pork – a common meat of the day. Before the hogs were slaughtered, they were prepped for an extended time. The hog’s diet really affected the flavor of the processed meat. Hogs were fattened on the abundant chestnuts found in huge Chestnut groves once common in Cades Cove. It was common for farmers to let hogs run loose among the chestnut groves because they would not dare leave the feast of chestnuts found on the ground. Following a few weeks on the  chestnut buffet, the hogs were brought back to the barn where they were “topped off” with corn for a few weeks.

The farmers would have what was called a “hog killin” in the Fall every year when the weather got cold enough to process the hogs before they spoiled. It was not uncommon for a family to kill up to 10 hogs at a time. Families were rather large back then. “Hog killins,” to some barbaric, were thought to be necessary for survival. Afterward, the pork was spiced and smoked over a slow fire then made into hams, bacon, jowl, hogshead cheese, sausage, and was kept in the smokehouse until needed.

John P. Cable Mill–
Power and knowing how to harness it was also at a premium in Cades Cove in the early days. The water wheel such as the ones that drove the early grist mills was one of the cove’s earliest form of generated power. Cable Mill is one of those with a water wheel. The Cable Mill is kept running in Cades Cove by The Smoky Mountains Natural History Association in order to teach visitors a little about life in the 1800’s. The mill runs April-October.

Some settlers even built water driven mills to grind grain. It was an enterprising gamble as it was thought that Cades Cove families would prefer paying them to grind the grain rather than wrestle with the small, inefficient tub mills only capable of processing a bushel of corn per day. As a result, these early entrepreneurs provided a much needed and sought out service.

Grinding grain did not always mean money exchanged hands for payment in Cades Cove. Money, when available, was paid but other times the miller was paid with a resulting portion of the flour or meal. Cable was also the only Cades Cove resident to use the overshot water wheel. Cable doubled as a farmer too, like most other cove businessmen. A large bell posted on his property was rung when other business called.

The saw mills were important to the cove’s history because they changed the way people built houses. Before the saw mills, all homes were constructed using logs. After the saw mills, the homes were built almost exclusively of lumber and frame construction.

Cantilever Barn
The preserved Cantilever barn, a design in which the upper story was larger than its base, can be seen on the property. The farm animals that rested under the eaves included pigs, hogs, goats, chickens, and in wintertime, cattle. Cattle were kept on the grassy balds of the Great Smoky Mountains during the summer. Gregory’s Bald is one of those balds still in existence today, named for one of the men who made their living looking after the cattle during the summer months. Farm equipment was also kept under the large eaves of the cantilevered barn in order to be kept dry.

Blacksmith Shop
Blacksmiths were a necessity in the Smokies at the time. So, when James V. Cable,smoke house son of John P. Cable inherited the mill and farm from his father, he decided to also become a blacksmith – a much needed trade. Inspiration perhaps came from the many people bringing grain and logs to be milled by means of wagons drawn by mules and horses. Once the products were milled, it was more convenient for his customers to also have their animals shod rather than traveling somewhere else. A primitive service station. About every eight weeks mules and horses needed their metal shoes pulled and reset, so this produced a constant need for blacksmiths.

To reset the horse shoes, the blacksmith had to nip the nail ends off and then pull the shoes off. Then he would trim the hoofs down as they grow like fingernails. Last, the blacksmith had to either reset the old shoe or make new shoes.

But we’re not just talking about making horse shoes, the Smoky Mountain blacksmiths made all sorts of metal products for the home, farm and light industry. Those products included  adzes, axes, bolts, hammers, chains, hinges, plows, nails, hoes, bits, hooks, broadaxes, kitchen knives and drawknives.

whitehead cabinHenry Whitehead Place
Life was still tough in Cades Cove. Divorces and separations occured. Matilda Shields Gregory and her young son were deserted by her husband. But in this community, if you had family nearby, you had help. Gregory’s brothers quickly built a small mountain cabin to give her shelter. This was no small task when you consider that a fireplace and chimney went into it too. The cabin reflects the speed with which they had to obtain shelter for their sister. Literally one of the roughest constructed in Cades Cove. Its stone chimney was made of rubble and the logs were rough-hewn with a felling axe.

Matilda eventually  re-married the widower Henry Whitehead who in 1898, out of sympathy and love built her one of the nicest log homes in Cades Cove. Matilda and Henry Whitehead’s new Cades Cove home had a brick chimney, which was unheard of in Cades Cove during those years. In the Smoky Mountains, if you wanted bricks you had to make them yourself. This consisted of finding clay soil, digging and then filling a hole with water. The surrounding clay soil was then scrapped and stirred with a hoe until thick and smooth, then put into molds where the bricks were dried. The last step was firing the bricks to make them durable. Later Henry stacked his bricks with mortar into one of the first chimneys in Cades Cove.

The Henry and Matilda Whitehead place is the only square-sawed log home remaining in Cades Cove as well as the only one left in the entire Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is considered a transition house from the early Cades Cove cabins to the modern frame homes that later were popular in Cades Cove.

Cades Cove Nature Trail
The Spring is the best time to take this trail as the dogwoods will be in bloom. The Fall yields the beautiful red colors of the sourwoods and maples trees. The Nature Trail, once the location of a chestnut tree grove, now has many stately pines and oak trees. Chestnut sprouts still pop up in this area of the Smoky Mountains.

Dan Lawson Place
Lawson married Peter Cable’s daughter and built this cabin for her on property he bought from his father-in-law. This cabin has a brick chimney which was unusual for the Smokies in the 1850’s. A pre-Civil War dwelling, the original cabin was made of hewn logs but was altered at times by the addition of sawed lumber.

Tipton Place in Cades Cove
Miss Lucy and Miss Lizzie were schoolmarms in Cades Cove during the late 1800’s. Daughters of Colonel Hamp Tipton, a revolutionary war veteran, he built this two story home shortly after the Civil War that eventually included a woodshed, corn crib, a smokehouse, a blacksmith shop, cantilever barn, and an apiary for bees. Tipton sold land as well and hence was surrounded by many of his family and friends. A few of those include Joshua Job, Jacob and Isaac Tipton, and Thomas Jones.

Thehouse was rented to James McCaulley in 1878. McCaulley, a blacksmith, was a welcome newcommer to Cades Cove in part because of his profession. In time, McCaulley built his own home along with top quality blacksmith and carpentry shops. McCaulley was a trusted blacksmith, carpenter and coffin maker, and worked in Cades Cove around 25 years.

A Cantilever barn stands across the road from the Tipton house. These barns were once a common sight in the Smokies. This particular cantilever barn is a replica of the barn which stood there in the 1800’s. Notice its huge eaves and two pen design. This design provided complete shelter for stalled animals, and an isle between the pens large enough to accommodate a wagon.

Carter Shields Cabin
carter shields cabin
George Washington “Carter” Shields lived in this Cades Cove cabin named after him from 1910 through 1921. Shields was crippled in the Battle of Shiloh and retired to this beautiful cabin. It’s particularly popular because of the dogwood trees that bloom here in the early spring making it one of the loveliest in Cades Cove.

Sparks Lane–
When you come to Sparks Lane again, you have come to the end of the Cades Cove Auto tour. Sparks Lane is the other end of the first road you saw at the beginning of the Cades Cove loop which cut across the cove. You can turn left on Sparks Lane and repeat the tour or continue on the Cades Cove Loop to go to the picnic tables, the campground or to exit Cades Cove.