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Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains | © niemand und nichts / Flickr
Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains | © niemand und nichts / Flickr

How to Spend a Weekend at Cades Cove, Tennessee

Picture of Leena Kollar
Updated: 27 February 2018

Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains is Cades Cove. It’s an ideal place to spend a weekend if you enjoy the great outdoors. With wildlife such as white-tailed deer, black bears, and groundhogs, as well as hiking trails and waterfalls, there’s much to explore at Cades Cove. Here is how you should spend your weekend in the Tennessee Valley.

Day One

Check into Sugar Maple Cabins

For a comfortable stay at Cades Cove, Sugar Maple Cabins features several high-end amenities like fully equipped kitchens, hot tubs, game rooms, and theater rooms. Cabin options range from one to 13 bedrooms and include pet-friendly properties. Not far from the cabins are outdoor activities such as ziplining, as well as museums and shops. Take this first day to settle into Cades Cove and make yourself at home.

First Morning

Make breakfast at the cabin

If you’re going to book upscale lodging, you might as well take advantage of what there is to offer. A fully equipped kitchen means you can prepare a breakfast fit for a king. Enjoy breakfast on the outdoor deck, or lounge inside at the kitchen table.

First Afternoon

Go hiking to the waterfalls

Both Laurel Falls and Abrams Falls are popular at Cades Cove. Each has a hiking trail that takes between two and four hours to complete roundtrip. As you head down the trails, you’ll walk through forests of trees and catch views of the mountain laurels. Laurel Falls is the taller of the two at 80 feet (24.3 meters) high, and Abrams Falls is 20 feet (six meters).

Explore Tuckaleechee Caverns

Known as the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies,” Tuckaleechee Caverns are between 20 and 30 million years old and are inside the Earth’s oldest mountain chains. The caverns are made of cave-onyx formations that include the “Big Room.” This area is large enough to fit a football stadium inside. There’s also Silver Falls, which falls 210 feet (64 meters) from top to bottom and is the tallest subterranean waterfall in the Eastern U.S.

First Evening

Have dinner at Trailhead Steakhouse

On the menu at Trailhead Steakhouse, you’ll find burgers, fish, and hand-cut steaks. Begin your meal with an appetizer, such as fried green tomatoes, and wash it down with a glass of soda or beer.

Second Morning

Have breakfast at Apple Valley Cafe

Part store, part restaurant, grab a bite to eat at Apple Valley Cafe. The eatery is one of three spots that are part of a Townsend shopping center. Enjoy pancakes or a croissant sandwich while perusing merchandise at the General Store, including homemade fudge, T-shirts, jams, and stuffed animals.

Climb up Clingmans Dome

The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Clingmans Dome. The observation tower stands at 6,643 feet (2,025 meters) in elevation and offers a 360-degree view of the Smokies. You might even be able to see seven different states and over 100 miles (161 kilometers) in any direction.

Second Afternoon

Drive around Cades Cove Loop

Along the 11 miles (18 km) of Cades Cove Loop are breathtaking views of mountains, meadows, and rolling hills. Wildlife such as deer, bears, and turkeys are often found roaming along the route. It takes between two and four hours to drive the winding one-way road, which has several tourist attractions to check out along the way. Restored buildings, log homes, and a working mill are just a few of the places to stop and snap photos. It’s important to note that from early May through late September, vehicles can only enter Cades Cove Loop on Wednesdays and Saturdays after 10 a.m.

Visit the Rockefeller Monument

Located in Newfound Gap, the Rockefeller Monument is a two-tiered stone structure built to honor John D. Rockefeller and his wife, Laura Spelman. The Rockefellers’ $5 million donation helped purchase the land for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a plaque at the monument commemorates that donation. It was at this spot that President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940.