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cades cove scenic loop

The Ultimate Guide of Things to Do in Cades Cove

Are you wanting to spend more time exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but are unsure where to start? The Cades Cove Loop is one of the best scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains, but the area has so much more to offer! Read on to discover all the best things to do in Cades Cove, including a breathtaking waterfall hike!

Wildlife Viewing

mamma bear and cubs in Cades Cove TNIt’s no secret that you have some of the best opportunities to see wildlife along the scenic loop road. Bring a pair of binoculars, and keep your eyes peeled for bears! You can also find deer, turkeys, squirrels, birds, salamanders, and many more unique creatures that call the Cades Cove Valley home.

Horseback Riding 

From March to November, Cades Cove Riding Stables offers guided horseback trail rides, carriage rides, and hayrides for a unique experience off the beaten path! Whether you’re a beginner or an expert rider, they make sure you are safe and comfortable throughout the ride.

Historic Buildings

cable mill in cades coveAnother one of our favorite things to do in Cades Cove is visit the old historic sites scattered throughout the area. There are several churches, a working grist mill, a one-of-a-kind cantilever-style barn, multiple log homesteads, and cabins, plus other barns and structures the pioneers built with their hands. About halfway through the loop, you’ll come to the Cades Cove Visitor Center, where you can learn even more about Appalachian history and the people who lived there.


If you want the ultimate Cades Cove experience, why not spend a night or two camping under the stars? Cades Cove Campground offers tent camping as well as RV sites. There’s an onsite camp store with all the necessary supplies, and you’ll also have access to restrooms and drinking water; however, there are no showers available. It’s also open all year long!

Abrams Falls

abrams fallsIf there’s one thing we think everyone should do while they’re in Cades Cove, it’s the hike to Abrams Falls! It’s a moderate, 5-mile roundtrip hike that leads you to the 20-foot falls. Although it isn’t the highest waterfall in the park, it’s one of the most impressive, as it is the most voluminous. The large pool at the base makes it a picturesque spot you have to see with your own eyes!


Cades Cove picnic area is perfect for getting out and stretching your legs and grabbing a quick snack. After you’re done exploring for the day, you’ll be ready for a full meal, so head to our downtown Gatlinburg restaurant for hearty Southern cooking! We serve all your favorites, from BBQ and meatloaf to fried catfish and buttermilk chicken, along with a variety of sides, desserts, and lots of cocktail options!


abrams creek in cades coveAbrams Creek is a beautiful spot for fishing in the Smokies! It has a large population of rainbow trout and plenty of other species. Another perk is that you can enjoy fishing year-round! You’ll need a valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license, and then you’re ready for a relaxing day of fishing!

Now you know all about things to do in Cades Cove with your family! Want more Smoky Mountain vacation planning inspiration? Check out our list of the top activities in Gatlinburg the whole family will enjoy!