Cades Cove was once a remote place in the Great Smoky Mountains. Nature abounds here and the loop affords spectacular views of the mountains and fields. Many deer call the Cove home, and many people have seen bear here as well. One of the few ways through the Smokies and into the cove was along Indian trails. Some of those trails were improved into roads. One of those trails was called, appropriately enough, Cades Cove road. The name was later changed to Rich Mountain Road. By either name the road was one of the main routes through the Smokies between Tuckaleechee and Cades Cove.
Rich Mountain Road is about a third of the way around the Cove. It is a one way dirt road that is about 12 miles long that ends up back in Townsend. There are a couple of nice views of the Cove along the drive and can be a good shortcut to get back to civilization. There is another road to explore out of Cades Cove called Parsons Branch Road. This is a one way primitive road that cuts through pristine forest with opportunities to see wildlife and wildflowers as well. There are areas where the creek cuts across the road and some nice waterfalls. It comes out on 129 in the middle of The Dragon.
Though Cades Cove was generally a self sustaining community, pioneers bought things from Maryville such as medicine and remedies such as Camphorated oil, catnip tea, Castor oil, Epsom salts. As time went by, general stores sprang up in Cades Cove where medicine, seeds, sugar, kerosene, yard goods and hardware supplies. Products could be purchased with money or by trading products such as eggs. Still, the larger town of Maryville had a more appealing selection and so the trips from the Cades Cove continued. Many times families would sell chestnuts which grew everywhere in Cades Cove in the 1800’s. Disease eventually killed the trees.
“Kate’s Cove” was the name of Cades Cove originally, after an Indian chief’s wife. The Cove drew the Cherokee Indians back to the area again and again because of its abundant wildlife and good hunting. Later, Cades Cove’s wildlife drew European descent frontiersmen to make it their home. They and their offspring cleared the fertile valley floor and built farms to sustain them. The pioneer’s families lived in Cades Cove for many generations before the cove became part of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Today, Cades Cove is still as full of wildlife as before but draws not hunters, but millions of Smokies visitors.
The Cove has been preserved by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to look much the way it looked in the 1800’s. Once home to a small mountain community whose settlers came from mainly from Virginia, North Carolina and upper East Tennessee, Cades Cove is today the largest open air museum in the entire GreatSmoky Mountain National Park.
There are many primitive buildings to enjoy as you go around Cades Cove, including two churches, some beautiful homestead cabins, corn cribs, various mills, a smokehouse and barns. It has all been preserved the way it would have been back in the 1800’s. Today, the Cove boasts a large campground, stables for riding horses, an amphitheater, a large gift shop and bike rentals. The Cades Cove loop is 11 miles long and runs along a beautiful valley in a loop with mountains surrounding it. It is a favorite for many families and people enjoy the hiking and biking and nature viewing opportunities. It is a great way to take a peek at what life would have been like 200 years ago