I arrived in Tennessee in mid June and I’ve seen some amazing sights already. I decided to start with this incredible 11 mile scenic loop. There’s a lot packed into this 11 miles, folks, so allow a lot of time to fully explore and appreciate the scenery, wildlife and history of this beautiful area.
I highly recommend you get one of the Cades Cove Tour booklets available at any of the park’s visitor centers for just $1.00. Well worth it for the content with additional details, the beautiful pictures, and besides, it helps support the park. Remember, this is the only national park that doesn’t charge admission.
I started out around 2:00 pm on a Sunday. I wanted to allow a lot of time, but see at least part of it at dusk when I was told that more wildlife are seen then. Well, also in the early mornings, but not being a morning person, I opted for dusk.
Stop #1 is the Orientation Shelter with a good amount of parking. Stop #2 is the intersection with Sparks Lane. You can get to the campground from here or to an exit.
The road is in good shape, but certainly not suitable for an RV, so take your car or bicycle, or you can walk it. The loop is closed to motor vehicles on Wednesdays and Saturdays until 10:00 a.m. to allow for just bicycles and pedestrians.
There are lots of places to pull over, and I took advantage of almost every one. I particularly enjoyed watching the horses graze in the field next to this trickling stream.
John Oliver Cabin: (Stop #3):
There is an easy and beautiful 1/4 mile path to the cabin. See the two deer on either side of the path?
This was my favorite shot:
I really appreciated this young buck stopping to pose so nicely!
My first – and favorite – view of the cabin showing both porches and the fireplace.
From the Information Signs:
Among the first Euro-Americans to settle in Cades Cove, John and Lucretia Oliver arrived here in 1818. Probably by the early 1820s they had completed the 1-1/2 story cabin you see here. Though its exact construction date is not known, it is one of the oldest structures in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hewing logs for walls, painstakingly preparing notches, and splitting shingles was tedious, sometimes backbreaking work. Each of the 3,000 wood shingle shakes were made by hand. Building a log home was not the idyllic, pastoral labor we might naively imagine.
But it was certainly looking idyllic and pastoral today. The sounds of the birds and the trickling stream added to the peaceful atmosphere.
I enjoyed watching this family show their little girl around inside and outside the cabin. Sure were different times, huh baby?
Back on the road, deer were plentiful all along the way, and deer are my all-time favorite animal, but seeing a bear was still my Holy Grail goal.
Stop #4 – Primitive Baptist Church:
This church was organized in 1827 as a log building until this one replaced it in 1887. The church closed during the Civil War. Some of the early settlers are buried here. The oldest gravestone I saw was from the Revolutionary War – William Hamby (1744-1840). Another one from 1864 with the stone reading: “Russell Gregory – 1795-1864 – murdered by North Carolina Rebels.”
Stop #5 – Methodist Church:
A blacksmith and carpenter built the original church in 115 days for $115 in the 1820’s. This building replaced it in 1902. This graveyard has a lot of simple stones for unnamed babies – simply marked Infant Son (or Daughter) – some born and died the same day. So sad that these kind of deaths were commonplace in these days.
Stop #6 is Hyatt Lane, once part of a Cherokee trail. You can exit the cove from here or go back and start all over.
Stop #7 – Missionary Baptist Church:
The original church was formed in 1839 comprised of expelled members from the Primitive Baptist Church because they favored missionary work. The church closed during the Civil War and when it resumed activity, it was without members who had been Confederate sympathizers. This current building dates from 1915.
I didn’t go into any other buildings after this. Once on the road, there was a “bear jamb” – cars barely moving and a bunch on the side of the road.
People were saying there was a mama bear and 2 cubs in the tall grass. I pulled over as fast as I could, but even using binoculars, never caught more than a glimpse of black through the grass.
My fellow lookers watched this man, some yelling at him to get back. One guy jokingly said, “Let the fool be – maybe he’ll act as bait and we’ll get to see the bear.”
Even I wasn’t desperate enough to see a bear for that to happen!
But I did see this lazy coyote taking his time to cross the road right where I got out of my car!
After spending over 1/2 hour here, by the time I got back on the loop, darkness was falling fast. So I will most definitely be returning to see the rest and will post Part 2 then. I also want to do at least some of the seven hiking trails easily reached from the Loop Road.
But let me tell ya, just from what I’ve seen, all my friends were right when they told me that Cades Cove is an absolute must-see while in this area!