Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cades Cove

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an American national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain.  



mountain view




Summer is the perfect time for a vacation to East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Last year I wrote about my childhood visits to the park and all it’s natural beauty. Today we’ll visit a special place in the park, Cades Cove. I must confess this is the most popular time of year when the traffic is the heaviest. Be patient and you’ll discover a wonderful world filled with nature’s best.  Be aware that the name Smoky Mountains is due to the fact some days are misty, foggy and the mountains are shrouded with what looks like smoke. Luckily this summer day is a gorgeous day with blue skies. (Autumn is another great time to visit with the mountains covered with fall colors.)



smoky mountains




Cades Cove is an isolated valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA. The valley was home to numerous settlers before the formation of the national park. Before Europeans settlers, Cherokees Indians traveled through the valley to hunt the abundant deer, elk, bison and bears, but there is no archaeological evidence that they ever settled there. Yes, before settlers arrived wood bison in Tennessee were plentiful. Within a few years of Europeans arrival, they were scarce.


The first European settlers arrived in the Cove in the early 1820’s. They quickly built log homes, barns, corn cribs, smokehouses and cleared land for farming. They also built both a Baptist and Methodist church. The land was rich and fertile and provided the settlers with abundant crops, such as corn. By 1850, the population was  about 685. It was a remote place in the wilderness, and it took 1 day in a bumpy wagon pulled by horses to reach the “town” of Maryville about 59 miles away to sell crops or buy supplies. One day in town and then you rode another day back. The Indian trails up the mountain home were not easy.







For an interesting look at life in the mountains in 1912, the novel Christy was written by Catherine Marshall back in 1967. Although she wrote of a fictional community, the book was based on her mother’s experiences teaching in a impoverished Appalachian community.




Great Smoky Mountains has remnants of Appalachian Mountain living



scenic view



When the states of Tennessee and North Carolina began to purchase land for the creation of the national park, the first large piece of land purchased in 1927 included most of the land in the mountains north of Cades Cove. Some families welcomed the idea of a park and willingly sold their land. Others fought in court but eventually lost. Some families signed life leases allowing them to remain in their homes throughout their lives following the Park restrictions on hunting.  Lease holders received less money for their land. As families moved out, the school and post office closed. Eventually there was an abandoned community in the the most popular national park in the U.S. For more information on the formation of the park, see Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Elkmont Ghost Town in The Great Smoky Mountains.



Old chimney at Elkmont Ghost Town



Today Cades Cove is the single most popular destination for visitors to the park. The abandoned community attracts more than two million visitors a year because of its well preserved homesteads, scenic mountain views, and abundant display of wildlife. The Cades Cove Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.







Primitive Baptist Church








baptist church



Primitve Baptist collage





The valley has had several names.  Before the American Revolution, Cherokee Indians discouraged settlers from moving into the area and used it as a summer hunting ground. Back then, the area was called the cove Tsiyahi, or “the place of the river otter.” However when the European settlers moved in, they changed the name to Kate’s Cove in honor of Kate, the wife of Chilhowee tribe chief Abraham. Later the name was  changed to Cades Cove in remembrance of Cherokee chief, Chief Kade.










Let’s wander the valley for a little while on the Tennessee side.






The John Oliver Cabin was built around 1822. This log home has no electricity, no plumbing, no bathroom, no kitchen, no dining room, no windows in the upstairs bedroom. A fireplace downstairs with steps to a loft are the simple structure.


John Oliver home



John Oliver Place




inside John Oliver



John Olive home collage







Many of the buildings surrounding the John Cable Grist Mill were moved from elsewhere in Cades Cove, including a chicken coop, carriage house, barn, molasses still, and a sorghum press. The National Park Service also built a replica of a traditional blacksmith shop that used to exist in the valley.



Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain National Park
grist mill










Let’s visit Henry Whitehead’s cabin.


Henry Whitehead Place




Henry Whitehead and Matilda Shields, near Chestnut Flats




inside cabin




Henry Whitehead home




Come for the beautiful views, wildlife, history, and a glimpse into a past way of life long gone. There is something about an abandoned community that I find both fascinating and sad.











Cades Cove abandoned community







Pin for later!


Visit historic Cades Cove


beautiful views of Cades Cove



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Elkmont Ghost Town in The Great Smoky Mountains




Great Smoky Mountains National Park




April at Cades Cove



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Summer Fun at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park







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I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

24 thoughts to “Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park”

  1. WOW!! What amazing photos and thanks for sharing them and the stories behind them!! I really enjoyed this post!!

  2. I drove through part of these long ago but I think we must have missed all the extras. I love the cabins and of course I remember some of the views. Very beautiful. It looks like a wonderful trip and drive. The stories rock~

  3. Your photos are gorgeous! I have visited Cade’s Cove and its a beautiful place to see. The scenery is breath taking!

  4. Gorgeous photos of Cade’s Cove. we visited Cade’s Cove and Great Smoky Mtn. National Park twice when our children were young. Your photos remind me of the natural beauty of the location. I would love to go back sometime. I might appreciate it more now. The butterfly you found is so pretty!

  5. I have never been but it is on my bucket list, especially after this excellent post. Interesting information on the families dispossessed by the park. I have read similar things about the people bought out by the Rockefellers in the Teton Valley before the creation of the Grand Teton National Park. Lots of bad feelings that survive to this day. But what a beautiful park.

  6. I have come across many blog posts about the Great Smoky Mountains. Even my friends went there. I hope someday I could go there myself.

  7. Oh Carol, this brings back such memories of when I was working near Knoxville and went to Cades Cove with a work colleague. Funny, I don’t remember it being crowded – maybe that’s because it was over 30 years ago and everything seemed to be less crowded and touristy then! I appreciate the walk down memory lane! Great shots and a thorough review of the area!

  8. I can see why so many visitors flock there; it is such a beautiful and interesting area rich in history.

  9. I’ve never been to Tennessee. In fact, I’ve only been to the southeast (Florida) once and the northeast less the five times. My parents were educators so we traveled a lot when I was a kid, but we tended to travel north from California on summer camping trips. Even with our airplane we didn’t venture far east except for once to eastern Canada and then down to upstate New York to visit Wayne’s mother. – Margy

    1. I grew up in Tennessee and mostly spent my childhood in Alabama and Tennessee. As an adult I traveled all around the southeast, some to the northeast, around the midwest, and west to California several times – I love the California coast!

  10. Lovely green area.
    I’d love to see Great Smoky Mountains, sometime. Thank you for the virtual tour. 🙂

    I hope you are having a good week. 🙂

  11. Revisting this post. It brings back memories of a trip my sister and I took to Cade’s Cove many years ago!

  12. We’ve been there before, lots of wildlife roaming, the grandbabies enjoyed it!

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