Cades Cove
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Frequently Asked Questions
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How far is it to Gatlinburg? About 27 miles. Allow up to one hour for the drive.
Where are the restrooms? Restrooms are located in the picnic area, in the campground amphitheater, and next to the Cades Cove Visitor's center halfway around the loop road.
Where are the cold
drink machines?
Vending machines are located next to the bike rental store at the Cades Cove campground. Also, the Cades Cove store (located in the campground area) has a small selection of groceries, snacks, and sundries. There are no services along the Cades Cove loop road other than the restrooms and water fountain at the Visitor's Center.
Where can I get gas? The nearest gas station is about 8 miles away in Townsend, Tennessee.
How long does it take to drive around the loop road? It depends on the traffic, which can get extremely heavy, especially in the summer months and in October. With light traffic, you can probably drive the one-way 11-mile loop in about 1 hour. However, it may take two hours or more in heavier traffic.
If you plan to get out and visit the various pioneer structures and/or the historic area near near the Cable Mill, I'd suggest planning at least half a day to make the most of your visit. While driving around the loop road, please be considerate of other drivers and watch out for bicyclists and pedestrians. Do not stop in the middle of the road to watch wildlife- use the pull-offs that are provided along the road for this purpose.
Where am I likely to see a bear? Like most animals in the wild, bears spend most of their time as far away from people as possible. The best time to see bears in the cove is right at sunrise when they are most active. The best place to see bears is wherever the ripest nuts and berries are at that time. For example, in August, you will find bears in cherry trees around the cove because the cherries are ripe at that time. In October, bears are usually near or in oak trees because that is when the acorns are ripe.
If you do see a bear, keep at least 100 feet away and never feed bears. Bears habituated to human food cannot survive in the wild and must be removed by rangers. Feeding bears is against the law and punishable with a heavy fine.
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Will bears or any animals hurt people?

There has never been a fatality from a bear attack in Smoky Mountain history. However, bears that have been fed may show aggression towards people. By keeping food stored in vehicles while camping and by not feeding bears, you can minimize the chances of a violent encounter with a bear.
Like bears, the red wolves in the park are no threat to people. In fact, there has never been a confirmed attack on a person by a healthy wolf in American history. If you see a wolf, get a picture, because it's not going to hang around for long. And, of course, don't feed the wolves or any other animal in the park, for that matter. This also means you should not leave food out for a wild animal to eat. Again, either keep your food with you or lock it up securely (preferably in the trunk) in your car. And please dispose of all garbage properly- put it in a garbage can, not in the woods! This includes apple cores, banana peels, Kleenex- everything.
Two poisonous snakes inhabit the cove: the copperhead, which is common, and the timbler rattler, which is rare. While the rattler is more poisonous, bites to people are almost unheard of, because of the warning it gives when you are too close. Copperhead bites are also rare, but they do occur occasionally. You can minimize the chances of encountering these poisonous snakes by hiking only in the daytime, staying on the trail, and not leaving children unattended. If someone is bitten, the best advice is simple: GET TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM IMMEDIATELY. The nearest hospital to Cades Cove is Blount Memorial in Maryville, Tennessee- about 30 miles away. Always remember- there has never been a death from a snake bite since the park was established over 60 years ago.
The only real hazard encountered in the woods is for those people who are allergic to bees. If you are allergic, please carry your medication with you and do not travel alone As with any emergency, contact a ranger or call 911 if a ranger is not available.

If Cades Cove is too crowded, what is a good alternative place to visit?

Good question! Yes, Cades Cove can get extremely crowded at certain times of the year, so if it's quiet and solitude you're seeking, you may be better off elsewhere.
For a somewhat less crowded experience, try the North Carolina side of the park. You could camp at the Smokemont campground, which is located off of the Newfound Gap road. The next day, you might hike one of the trails from the Campground or you might head to the Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum, which is a couple of miles further down Newfound Gap road. Ranger-led walks, talks, and demonstrations are offered at both the campground and at the Oconaluftee Visitor center; check the park newspaper for details.
If Smokemont and Oconaluftee are still too crowded for you, head over to the Cataloochee valley. This valley is similar to Cades Cove in that it offers opportunities for wildlife viewing and historic buildings, but without the crowds. It is a little more difficult to access, however. To get there from Interstate 40, take North Carolina exit 20, go about 0.2 mile, then turn right. Follow the signs to Cataloochee valley; total distance is 11 miles from the interstate. A portion of this road is gravel and may therefore not be appropriate for large motor homes, but passenger vehicles will be fine.
Once in Cataloochee, you will find a small (27 site) campground- sites here are first-come, first-serve, so arrive early if you want to camp here (no reservations are accepted). You have several opportunities for hiking and for viewing historic structures in this area. However, there are no ranger-led programs offered here, but that is the price you pay for solitude. Even in the peak seasons of summer and late October, you probably won't encounter large crowds here.
  Call Steve Speer at: 865-233-0508
or Email: steve@blountweb.com