Split between Tennessee and North Carolina, this gem has something for everyone in your group. Do go chasing waterfalls here! Bike Cades Cove for views of wildlife and a little bit of Appalachian history. Take in the foliage with a scenic drive during the months of October and November. Go for a walk in the woods with over eight hundred miles of maintained trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Read on for some of our favorite locations and activities within the park.
Clingmans Dome Area:
Visitors flock to the observation tower for an incredible 360 degree view of the mountains and forest and a mesmerizing sunset. The path to the tower is paved, but you will be dealing with a steep incline. There are benches every tenth of a mile for anyone that might need to catch their breath or rest their burning calf muscles. We recommend that you always take a warm layer. Temperatures at the top range from a little chilly in the summer to FRIGID in the fall and winter months.
We prefer the “scenic route” back to the parking lot with a short stroll on the AT, a brief visit to the Clingmans Dome Bypass Trail, and a few miles down to Andrews Bald and back. You might as well make the most of your time here when you’ve had to fight for a parking spot, right? This little hike allows you to say that you’ve hiked on the Appalachian Trail, provides some solitude that you won’t find on the paved trail, and, on a clear day, allows an extra round of stunning views without the observation tower crowds.
Who doesn’t love the grotto life? The hike can be a little strenuous, but the experience of standing inside a waterfall is well worth it. You’ll have to get an early start if you want to a place to park at the trailhead.
We’re going to have to recommend this hike for the fall months. The foliage is outstanding, so you might want to add some time for lots of photography. We especially like the fun bridges that come with this hike! We got a late start when we did this hike, so Alum Cave was our turning point. The other option is to continue up the trail to the top of Mount LeConte. Get here early if you want a spot in the parking lot!
The Cades Cove loop is closed to vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from May through September. The road can get backed up and crazy when you add in the cars, so make use of the mornings when they are not allowed. You can see wildlife along the way and explore cabins and churches that were a part of life for families before this land became part of a national park. You can bring your own bike or rent one through Cades Cove Campground Store and Bike Rental. Don’t forget to enjoy some ice cream when you finish!
There are ten developed campgrounds throughout the park. Reservations are available via recreation.gov for most of the year. Smokemont and Cades Cove are open all year, transitioning to first come, first served during the off season. The restrooms have running water, but there are no showers available.
GO FIND YOUR GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK!
As we said earlier, this park has something for everyone. Go find your Great Smoky Mountains National Park!