GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK – Cades Cove is arguably the top destination in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The setting is unlike any other in the park with its incredible views, historical buildings, cemeteries, wildflowers, and pastures.
Wildlife enthusiasts love Cades Cove for the horses, deer, wild turkeys, black bears, birds and other animals roaming about in their natural habitat.
More than two million people tour Cades Cove each year, making the 11-mile, one-way, single lane trek on their bicycles, by car, and on foot. As you can imagine, it gets pretty crowded at times with all those people, cars, and bicycles. Slow moving traffic in and around Cades Cove during peak season can be a problem.
Current park policy closes Cades Cove Loop Road to all motor vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 am. Prior to 10 o’clock, only pedestrians and bicyclists may use the road.
According to park sources, each day during these three hours, up to 1,100 pedestrians and bicyclists utilize the roadway.
However, all that is about to change. At least, temporarily.
In March of this year, park officials solicited information from guests as part of a pilot program to improve visitor experience. Having received feedback from 2,278 individuals from 37 states, they decided to go forward with an experiment limiting motorized access to Cades Cove.
“Whoa, Nellie! What does that mean? Will we not be able to drive our cars in Cades Cove anymore?” No, not hardly. It just means that from 17 June to 30 September 2020, you won’t be able to drive your car in Cades Cove on Wednesdays.
Every Wednesday, Cades Cove Loop Road will be reserved for pedestrians and bicyclists only. This will allow hikers and bicyclists to safely move about and provide a better experience.
A bonus for motor vehicles is that they will now have expanded hours on Saturday mornings. During the trial period, motor vehicles will have access to Cades Cove Loop Road all day on Saturdays.
Traditionally, only pedestrians and bicyclists were permitted on the loop before 10:00 am on Saturdays. During the trial period, motor vehicles may use Cades Cove Loop Road all day on Saturdays through normal hours.
At the end of the trial period, park administrators will evaluate the results of the pilot program to determine what, if any, permanent changes need to be made to traffic management. Until then, keep enjoying Cades Cove and the rest of Great Smoky Mountains National Park!