A friend of mine is visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October, and asked me about some of my favorite places. He added one caveat ...he needed to see the park sights within limited walking distance from the car.
This caught me a little by surprise, because most people ask about my favorite hiking trails. After thinking about it for some time, I realized that there are many amazing sights that can be seen without the need for hours of hiking along steep trails.
One of the most popular spots in the park is Cades Cove. Cades Cove is a great place to tour by auto. The eleven mile one way loop rode offers sweeping valley vistas, plentiful wildlife and historic structures.
Cades Cove has three historic churches and many graveyards that recall the names of the past inhabitants of the valley. In these quiet places you will find the final resting places of familiar names like Oliver, Cable and Tipton.
Halfway around the loop is a Visitor's Center, where you can get more information about the park and lots of helpful information. There are also restrooms here that are easily accessible.
However, Cades Cove is so popular that traffic can move very slowly, and it can take up to five hours to do the loop during busy time. October is the busiest time, as crowds of visitors strain to see bears amidst the fall foliage.
No visit to the park is complete without a trip around the loop in Cades Cove. From the Townsend entrance, turn right at the "wye" and follow Laurel Creek Road 7 miles until you reach the cove. Arrive early, and plan on spending all day, as there is plenty to see and do!