Jan 26, 11
Eight to ten million people per year visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it the most visited national park in the United States. Having grown up in the mountains near the Smokies, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the park many times. The beauty of this mountain range has never ceased to amaze me. With each trip, I’ve always seen something new.
Cades Cove, located within the park has always been one of my favorite places to visit. There are several ways to get to Cades Cove. but I prefer the route from Gatlinburg, TN. It’s a 27 mile trip that follows the scenic Little River to the cove. The cove, itself, is a broad and fertile valley surrounded by mountains. Settlers began to move into the cove around 1821, and lived in this secluded valley until the National Park Service took over in 1936.
Cades Cove provides a wide variety of historic treasures such as log homes, barns, churches, and a working grist mill. To fully enjoy the cove, the park service built a one-way 11 mile loop road that circles the valley. You can pull your car off the loop at any point and walk around the historic sites. If you choose, you may also hike any of the several walking trails. Wildlife is abundant in the cove. On almost all of my visits there, I’ve seen bears, deer, wild turkey, and at night, coyotes.
A visitor’s center is located at the half-way mark on the loop road, and a campground with 159 campsites is available and open all year. The campsites accommodate tents and recreational vehicles up to 35 feet in length.
If you’ve never been to the Smokies, be sure to put it on your list of destinations. Respect the few safety rules of the park, and enjoy all these majestic “smoky” mountains have to offer.