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Explore Cades Cove, TN the in Great Smoky Mountains
By Robbin Dean

It would almost be a shame to venture into Great Smoky Mountains National Park without taking a few hours to explore one of its most popular sites-Cades Cove, TN. Functioning as a self-sufficient mountain community prior to the establishment of the park in the 1930s, Cades Cove now serves as a living tribute to the hardy pioneer spirit that helped forge the character of the region.

Located approximately 25 miles west of Gatlinburg, TN, Cades Cove (originally called "Kate's Cove" in honor of the wife of Cherokee Chief Abrams) is such a popular destination because it embodies all the best that Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer in terms of both beauty and historical value.

Indeed, a journey around the cove's 11-mile, one-way loop road is like an expedition back in time, to a period when the area's early settlers survived only by their wits and by the resources at hand. Today, Cades Cove serves as home to many of the dwellings and other structures that stood during the community's heyday, from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

As you drive, bike or hike along the loop, you'll see the homesteads of early settlers like Elijah Oliver and John Cable as well as some of the churches that were so important in the lives of cove residents. Of particular interest is the Cable Mill area, where you'll find the Cades Cove visitor center and several remaining vestiges of pioneer life, such as a corn mill, sorghum mill and blacksmith shop.

And along the way, you can't help but marvel at the natural beauty that surely attracted those first residents as well. Rolling green pastures are framed on all sides by foothills and towering peaks. Grazing cattle, frolicking deer and blooming flowers paint a picture of pastoral Smoky Mountains beauty.

When touring the cove, be sure to make time for exploring nature. At the loop's midpoint you'll find the trailhead to Abrams Falls. The 2.5-mile, one-way hike takes you along the banks of Abrams Creek to a beautiful waterfall. Just past the Cable Mill area, look for the Cades Cove Nature Trail, a half-mile route that provides insight into how cove's residents used their abundant natural resources.

While automobile is usually the quickest means of touring Cades Cove, it's not your only option. Many people take on the loop as a hike, while others prefer experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the cove on bicycle. The best times to try these alternative modes of travel are on Wednesday and Saturday mornings since the one-way road is closed to auto travel before 10:00 am.

Other fun Cades Cove activities include picnicking and camping. You can spread out a picnic blanket anywhere along the 11-mile loop, or you can enjoy your mountain feast at the park picnic area near the main entrance to the loop. Meanwhile, Cades Cove campground has 159 sites available for tent and RV campers.

For those who prefer the creature comforts when it comes to overnight lodging, a variety of quality accommodations can be found in the nearby communities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Resort properties such as Country Inn & Suites, Creekstone Inn, Governor's Inn and the Resort at Governor's Crossing offer a host of amenities while providing convenient access for a day trip to Cades Cove.

Robbin Dean is a Reservations Agent for Smoky Mountain Resorts offering Pigeon Forge hotels including comfortable lodging and the most popular attractions in the Smoky Mountains. Visit http://www.smokymountainresorts.travel today for details. 2008, All Rights Reserved

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