Dancing Bear Lodge and Appalachian Bistro Logo


10 Things to Do in Cades Cove TN

It’s safe to say that Cades Cove is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places on the planet. It’s only natural that people want to visit and take it all in, but what is there to do in Cades Cove, Tennessee?

Whether you’re visiting for vacation time with the family or to see a loved one get married, Dancing Bear has a list of 10 Things to Do in Cades Cove TN while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

Take the Auto Tour of Cades Cove Loop 

The 11-mile, one-way road offers opportunities to view lush, rolling greens, stunning mountains, wildflower meadows, and wildlife including deer, bears, hogs, and turkeys. You may also see coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and other creatures. Except for a short time on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings, the road is open to motor vehicles from sunrise until sunset daily, weather permitting. A visitor center (open daily), restrooms, and a historic area are located halfway around the loop road. You can also enjoy spectacular scenery on the 18-mile long Foothills Parkway.

Explore Cades Cove Trails Hiking

The most popular trail in Cades Cove is a five-mile round trip trek along Abrams Creek. If you’re looking for something a little less demanding, try the short Cades Cove Nature Trail. For seasoned hikers who want more of a challenge, Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top await. The Laurel Falls Trailhead is conveniently close to Dancing Bear. For those with little ones, a stroller-friendly paved trail to Laurel Falls extends 2.6 miles for a lovely walk. Happy Trails to you!

Take a Bus Tour

Cades Cove Heritage Tours offer fully guided tours for individuals and groups with experienced, friendly guides that take between 3-4 hours. With someone else taking care of the driving, you can concentrate on the scenery and wildlife instead of traffic.

Cades Cove Smokies

Visit a Museum 

While waiting for your bus to take the tour, you should stop in to enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. You can view a treasure of preserved heirlooms and artifacts at the Cades Cove Museum at the Thompson-Brown House, free to visit Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm.

Set Off Biking 

As the trails in Townsend suggest, this area is great for cycling. If you prefer to see Cades Cove Loop on two wheels instead of four, you’re in luck. The loop is closed to cars every Saturday and Wednesday morning until 10 am, from early May to late September.

Sight-Seeing and Picture-taking

The drive along Little River passes hundreds of spots to park and get a good long view or snap some souvenir photos. Aside from a diversity of wildlife, Cades Cove contains many historic buildings that make great subjects, including a working grist mill, rustic barns, log houses, churches, and more. Open wildflower fields are surrounded by 5,000-foot mountain peaks for breathtaking views. Don’t worry if it is a cloudy day – sometimes that is the best weather for great photography!

Picnic Basket

Enjoy a Picnic 

The Cove offers 81 picnicking areas, so grab a bite to go at the Apple Valley Cafe Express, or take a Dancing Bear Gourmet Mountainside Picnic Basket, and enjoy a picturesque lunch or dinner surrounded by nature’s showcase. Metcalf Bottoms is the second-largest designated picnic area in the Smokies.

Go Fishing

Perhaps you’re more interested in CATCHING your lunch. Numerous pull-offs along Little River allow easy access to the water so you can try angling for some trout.


While you’re there, you want to enjoy a refreshing dip as the water streams by. Stay safe by avoiding deep pools and powerful currents. If you’re careful, you should have a great time getting soaked by the cold, clear water.

Explore from Horseback

You can experience Cades Cove the way early settlers did, mounted on a horse. Cades Cove Riding Stables is located near the Cades Cove Loop entrance. Group and private rides are available.

However you decide to spend your time in Cades Cove, be prepared to enjoy a more leisurely pace than you might normally be accustomed to. When you’re in a place this beautiful, you’re going to want to slow down and take it all in.

Visit the National Park Service website to learn more about Cades Cove Loop. To make sure trails are open, download their online map as well. Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont from their website.

Located 15 miles from Cades Cove Loop Road, Dancing Bear Lodge is the ideal place to stay while visiting Cades Cove. Call 800.369.0111 ext. 1 to make your lodging reservation at Dancing Bear Lodge, or call 865.336.2138 to make dinner reservations at the Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro.

You can also book your stay online, as well as arrange for dinner reservations online.