Cades Cove Scenic Loop, Tennessee

By Ann Johnson

Primitive Baptist Church, Cades Cove, Tennessee

Primitive Baptist Church, Cades Cove Loop, Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Ann Johnson.

A Sunday afternoon drive is not the best representation of the Cades Cove Scenic Loop, located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along U.S. 441 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

This destination is an 11-mile loop on a small one-way road with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. Hiking, bike paths, and horseback trails are abundant. Tranquil streams dart in and out, which are perfect for tubing on this scenic path. The Primitive Baptist Church, along with cabins and barns are surrounded by huge meadows with mountain views.

Commencing this journey, one of the first things you notice is a green canopy that suddenly appears as a tunnel of nature. Your car is engulfed by the countryside and you begin to travel back to a more unpretentious time.

Tubers along the Cades Cove Loop. Photo by Ann Johnson.

Tubers along the Cades Cove Loop. Photo by Ann Johnson.

The streams and mountain views are very popular areas for photographers and artists making lasting memories either in photographs or on canvases. A short hike along the creeks and streams will lead you to beautiful waterfalls. The falls and the tucked-away cabins makes for a perfect place to picnic or to make a once in a lifetime memory. Many people use these places as backdrops for weddings or family photos.

The rippling water dancing over the river rocks and the sweet scent of the abundant wildflowers make this a perfect place to enjoy the real sights and sounds of nature.

One of the meadows holds beautiful horses that are available for rent for the many horseback riding paths. You may see the horses lingering around in the pastures while driving by. Visit the Cades Cove Stables for more information on these rentals.

Here are several of the more recognizable structures on the Loop:

John Oliver Cabin

One of the first cabins you come across is the John Oliver cabin. The cabin stayed in the Oliver family for more than a century and is the oldest standing structure in the park.

The Primitive Baptist Church is one of the latest buildings to be added to the National Register of Historical Society.

Another cabin that comes into view is the Dan Lawson Place. The original brick chimney is still in place today.

Farther along, is the Tipton place. An interesting fact is that the owner, Colonel Hamp Tipton never lived in it. His daughters, Lucy and Lizzie lived in the cabin and they are remembered still as being school teachers in the Cove.

Not only is this a great area for hiking, horseback riding and exploring it is also filled with plenty to see from the car or short walks. This makes it perfect for seniors or families with small children. The drive can last for a couple of hours or become an all-day excursion depending on your stops and activities.

If you are planning to travel to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, visit Cades Cove Scenic Loop for a step back into history. This is a day trip I highly recommend when visiting the Great Smokies.

Don’t forget to check out the Cades Cove Trading Company for bike rentals, food, and firewood for camping. Please review the rules of bringing your own firewood into the campgrounds before you get there and as always be a responsible camper.

Author Ann Johnson

Author Ann Johnson

©Ann Johnson, 2017, updated February 2020.

About the Author: Ann Johnson, a Florida based freelance travel writer that enjoys traveling, photography, writing and cooking. “I am always in search of the next great bakery. A passion learned from my grandmother.” Contact Ann at –

More Information:

Cade Cove

Cade Cove Stables

Also See: 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Tennessee – The Volunteer State

National Parks, Monuments & Historic Sites

National Park Photo Galleries