Have you ever been to Cades Cove? It's one of my favorite places in the entire region, and I think that if you haven't been, you need to get on out there. It's been closed for a few months for a re-paving project, but so much progress has been made that it's set to re-open on April 24, about a month ahead of schedule.
If you haven't been, don't know, or live under a rock, Cades Cove is the most visited location in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Over 2 million visitors hit the spot each year. It's a beautiful preserve near the Townsend end of the park, and the drive to get there is, in itself, pretty beautiful. I like to leave nice and early, 6am-ish, on weekend morning. I get my hot Americano and then head out Alcoa Highway, through Maryville, Walland and Townsend and into the Park. Once you get through Townsend, you can just follow the signs to Cades Cove. There's an 11 mile loop surrounding the cove, and it's open to automobiles, cyclists, walkers and runners and horses. The re-paving project was actually to widen the road (I think), which should make it a little easier for the non-driving visitors to get around. I'm really excited for that. Personally, I don't know why you'd choose to drive the loop. It seems kind of counter-intuitive to me. Let's drive out to this nature preserve and then pollute it with our automobile while we sit in traffic on the 11 mile loop for a few hours. This has never made sense to me, but I don't call the shots.
The way to do the loop is by foot - whether you're using them to peddle a bike or they're actually hitting the pavement. It'll take you a few hours to complete, but it's definitely worth the energy. The valley is expansive, and the scenery is breathtaking. To use an overused word but apply its actual meaning, it can be a sublime experience. Running Cades Cove loop with friends is one of my all-time favorite activities. I can't wait to do it again when the loop re-opens.
May through September on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the loop is supposed to be closed to auto traffic until 10am so that runners and riders can have free reign of the road. This may change due to the re-paving project, and the last time I ran Cade's Cove was a Saturday in September and there were definitely cars on the loop before 10am, so I am not sure what happened there. The good news is that there are plenty of resources to keep us all informed. You can always check with the GSMNP Or another resource that you may not know about is Pigeonforge.com. This is an awesome wealth of information about our neighbor PF and its surrounding areas. It's a really well maintained website, so I definitely recommend that you check it out from time to time. In fact, that's where I first found out that the loop was opening early.
The exciting news is that there's going to be a race to celebrate the re-opening - the Cades Cove Loop Lope. It's scheduled to take place on opening weekend, April 24th. I don't have many details yet. The link above says pretty much all that I know at this point, but I've heard that KTC will eventually post more information as well. What I have heard is that they are asking people to carpool (not a lot of parking up there) and that the registration fee may be a little hefty but that proceeds go to the park, which is, after all, a good cause.
So if you're looking for fun weekend activities in the area, my suggestion is that you add Cades Cove to your list. Holla.