Cades Cove is probably the most photographed area within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Located in East Tennessee, the cove is surrounded by mountains and is a haven for Deer, Turkey, Bears, numerous birds, and hundreds of wildflowers.
"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." ~John Muir, 1913
Open from sunrise to sunset, visitors are allowed to travel an 11 mile one way loop road (a couple of shortcuts are available also). For those of you that prefer to get off the road, there are numerous trails and old buildings you can visit. Even though the loop is only 11 miles, it can take several hours, depending on the number of visitors. From May through September the loop road is open only to hikers and bikers from till 10 am on Wed and Sat mornings.
If you plan on birding in Cades Cove, make sure you check out the sewer lagoons. While the are is fenced, there is still an opportunity to see waterfowl common to the area. Another hot spot is hiking the stream section between Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane.
Back-country camping is permitted in designated locations, but a permit is required. Permits are free and can be obtained at the visitor center. Cades Cove has a very nice campground that visitors can use for about $20/day. The campground is very busy during the season so reservations are recommended. You may obtain reservations by clicking here.
And as always, remember that weather conditions change quickly in the mountains. If you venture out, make sure you are prepared.