Cades Cove scenic drive in the Smoky Mountains is one of the big draws to the National Park. It's an 11-mile route that almost always results in a bear sighting or two. On Wednesdays the route is closed to cars and open only to walkers, runners and bicyclists.
Little Arrow Resort, Townsend, TN
We loved the Little Arrow Resort campground! Very nice and spacious sites. The campground was developed along the Little River and is absolutely gorgeous! The river is great for fishing, floating or just playing. The bathhouses are the nicest I have ever seen. The sites were level and had full hook-ups. They pool was recently renovated and is amazing! There are tons of activities for children, including games nearly every night. There weren't any food trucks on the nights we camped, but apparently there are food trucks at the campground several times a week.
It was easy to get to anything Smoky Mountain related including Cades Cove. If camping isn't your thing, they also have vacation homes, glamping tents, tiny houses, and airstreams to rent.
Cades Cove Scenic Drive
Being able to ride our bikes on this very popular scenic drive car free was one of the main reasons we went to the Smokies. The area was settled in the early 1800s and there are a few historic buildings to visit along the route. The 11-mile route is set among the mountains and lush rolling valleys. The open green areas is where the bears generally seem to hang out. Although we also saw a bear in a tree as we were biking along!
Even though we were there on a no car day there were still a lot of people walking and biking on the route. It wasn't crowded once you got out on the drive, but parking spots were difficult to come by. We arrived at the area at around 11:00 and only had a short wait for a parking spot. From our observations, it seemed like the early risers got there between 7 and 8 and were leaving by 11 or so. The next group came in between 11 and 1. We were leaving the area at about 1:30 and it was starting to fill up again. We also saw signs on the highway late in the day that said there was no parking available at Cades Cove.
We have driven Cades Cove in the past and maybe saw one or two bears. On the no car day we saw six bears, including a mama with two cubs.
Rainbow Falls Hike
Very scenic hike along the LeConte Creek valley to an 80-foot waterfall. The trail was a bit rugged and was 2.7 miles (nearly 1,700 elevation gain) uphill all the way, but well worth the effort.