Smokey Mountains behind Cades Cove Valley with Title

And why we keep going back

A wooden fence on the Scenic Loop of Cades Cove with Smokey Mountains in the back ground
Cades Cove on New Years Day, 2019

Cades Cove is simply a magical place to explore. Several  families have been to the fun and exciting part of the Smokey Mountains, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge,  but Cades Cove is on the other side of the Smokies and is near Townsend which has been called the Peaceful Side of the Smokies.    If you haven’t been, you need to make it a priority to visit some day.  They have something for everyone! The nature lover, the history buff, the hiker, and the “We’d like to see it but only in my car with the AC on” family.  It is simply a beautiful and peaceful place to spend a morning, afternoon, or day.  There is so much to explore that even though we go at least four times a year we haven’t seen it all yet!  So, there is always something new to find. 

Our First Trip to Cades Cove

The very first time we went as a family was in June of 2014 when Big Sister was about to turn 3 and she was our only child.  Life at the time was stressful and overwhelming.  The Hubs had just started his very first job after medically retiring from the Army and it was a major adjustment.  With his Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD, we had to get used to our “new” and it was not something we were going to be able to succeed at unless we did it as a family. 

Additionally, I was really struggling with my thyroid health and my depression.  I at the time was trying to build my own law practice and while it was thriving and successful with the amount of resources I had-I felt like I was juggling too much and needed to put my family first.  So I shut down the business and made my family a priority. BEST DECISION I EVER MADE but at the time it did not feel like it.  I was grieving.  Seriously grieving.  I hated the practice of law but I worked hard to become a lawyer.  I went to law school and graduated in 2.5 years. I took the bar and passed!  I couldn’t just walk away after all that hard work!! 

My husband and I were spiraling downwards (as individuals. Our marriage was strong) and we needed to do something to heal.  Yes, we rely on medication and medical treatment.  We must rely on that if we want to be the people we aspire to be.  BUT-we needed something more.  We needed to heal.

I decided to plan a peaceful vacation

So for The Hubs birthday, I rented a cabin in Townsend, Tennessee to spend the weekend.  Townsend is a great place for an adventurous weekend. Aside from Cades Cove, we tubed down the river and toured the Tuckaleechee Caverns. There are also shops, wonderful restaurants, and the Foothills Parkway. But I knew that I wanted my husband to see Cades Cove.  I also knew that the best time to go to Cades Cove was either dawn or dusk. For that reason, I had us get up before the sun was up so we could travel the ten miles from Townsend to Cades Cove.  And the Hubs was not happy about it at all!!  He didn’t say anything but his groans and grumbles said all of it.  “Why are you making me get up this early when it’s vacation?  You want me to rejuvenate-LET ME SLEEP!”  

But my husband, being the wonderful man that he is went anyway and fell in love with Cades Cove.  IT WAS MAGICAL.  We explored every house and church.  We saw bear and deer and turkey.  You could literally see the transformation in my husband’s tired and worn out eyes to rested and awake.  We explored the creeks in the mountains on the way to Cades Cove and had a picnic.  It is one of my favorite memories ever and a moment that defined us a family.  So we went back at dusk and saw more wildlife. And then we went back the next morning and so on and so on.   Three years later, we moved to Tennessee and we have made it a point to visit Cades Cove at least once every season.  

Left photo of Big Sister and I playing the Smokey Mountain Creeks. Right Photo of Big Sister surprisingly encountering a deer while walking in Cades Cove
Our First Trip to Cades Cove in 2014

You will find something new in Cades Cave every time.

As stated above, Cades Cove has something for everyone.  You can go there to just see the sights.  You can go for a hike or a picnic.  You will always see something new.  Every. Single. Time.  Whether it is part of the animal life or plant life or history that you’ve never visited.  It will not be the same place every time.  That is why we love Cades Cove. There is always something new to discover and it is a place for us to visit when life has become too much for us.  

How We Use Cades Cove to Enrich our Homeschool Education

We homeschool and we love taking adventures to enrich our learning. Cade’s Cove is one of the best places to do that.  But obviously, the educational enrichment isn’t solely for homeschoolers.  Any one can make an adventure at Cade’s Cove part of a learning experience.  And the kiddos aren’t even realizing the lessons that are being taught because it comes to them so organically. But it will stick with them forever!


Ok, this may sound a little creepy BUT my daughter likes to look at the tombstones in the cemeteries and is constantly asking how old the person was when they passed?  Not only is this a lesson in history and increased fatalities before modern medicine BUT I have started having her do the math to see how old each person was.  So there ya go——->MATH.

Also, I recently read Five School Subjects to Practice While Hiking by Peanut Butter Fish Lessons that shows you how to implement map reading skills with math while hiking.  We will be doing this the next time we go on a hike.

Physical Education

This is obvious. Go on a Hike.


There are so many things to do while at Cades Cove that can enrich any science education.  I just bought this incredible Unit Study, Outdoor Observations, by Firefly Nature School that we will be using next time we are in the great outdoors and Cades Cove is no exception. 

Go on a hike to spark your scientific curiosity.

Big Sister and Brother being silly for the camera at Abram's Falls.
Hike at Abram’s Falls

A few weeks ago, we went hiking on the Abram’s Falls trail.  During my hike, my kids were looking for bugs and plant life.  The nature that they found sparked their curiosity.  

“Mom-look at the trails the bark beetles left in this tree!”  

“Mom, look at this cool plant. Is it a fungi?” 

 “Mom, why are the rocks different colors?” 

“Oooh Mom, look at all the evidence of life in this dead tree!  You can see woodpecker holes, and bugs, and plants growing on it!”

“Mom, I think this is an animal home.”

“Mom, look at this natural spring!  Where is the water coming from?”

You can look for all types of evidence of animal life or just how nature interacts with each other.  

Slow down and observe your surroundings.  It made me slightly sad that other parents were telling their kids to keep on hiking when their children wanted to join us during our observations.  Why not enjoy the journey that makes the hike an adventure?

Observe the wildlife

Watching the bears and deer and wild turkeys in their natural habitat is pretty cool too!  Especially when you see the young cubs or a single buck!  

Small bones found during a walk in Cades Cove
Evidence of Wildlife during one of our walks in Cades Cove

You can look for owl pellets, or animal tracks, or even talk about the ecosystem and how the entire environment works together to thrive.

Instill a passion in protecting our forests

Of course, you can also use Cades Cove as an important discussion piece on how to care for our Earth.  We’ve talked in great detail about how important it is for us to do our part to protect this wonderful area and its inhabitants.


Visit the restored homes and churches

I’m going to first state the obvious.  Cades Cove has the restored homes and churches of several of the settlers when the area homed an entire community of people.  This would be the first step in history enrichment during your visit.  You can see hands on how the settlers lived and what they found necessary.  My children still get a kick out of seeing how simple things were but yet how hard the settlers had to work for that simplicity.  

Additionally, the cemeteries can give you an idea of the time frame when the settlers lived there.  And their life expectancy.  It was interesting to learn that they have let many family members return for burial after the land was sold to the government.

Introductory sign of John Oliver's Place with his cabin in the background.
John Oliver Place
The First Settler in Cades Cove

Research the families that lived in Cades Cove

Each home is labeled by who owned it and as you travel through Cades Cove you will begin to recognize the names of some of the families.  So one day, my husband and I decided to do a little research on the families of the area. It is interesting to learn who the more prominent families were and why they were so important to Cades Cove.  When we do a month long study of Tennessee next school year, I am planning on having Big Sister do a small research project herself.  

When researching the history of Cades Cove you can learn that building churches for separate denominations created a rift between the families and some people were very upset when others separated their ways to go to a different church.  You can see this by the fact that the names in the cemeteries are obviously divided.  

Read about how Cades Cove became a nationally protected park.

Lastly, Cades Cove is a perfect example of Theodore Roosevelt’s Conservation Efforts.

The Great Smokey Mountain National Park and Cades Cove is a wonderful opportunity to discuss the history and importance of conservation in our country!  It is also a great way to introduce the consequences of Roosevelt’s acheivement.  Families had to leave their homes.  Some things to discuss with your children are:

Where did they go?

Did they have a choice? 

Did they get any reparation?

Were they allowed to come back to be buried in the cemeteries of their home church?

Did they stay together or were they separated?

Did their way of life change?

Do you agree with what the government did by buying their land and forcing them out?  Why or Why not?

Cades Cove is rich with history other than what I mentioned above, but we have not yet covered that history as a family and I feel like if I delve too deep I will probably lose a lot more readers.


There is something for everyone at Cades Cove.

Visit during each season to see how the area is different during that time of year.

The Scenic Loop

If you don’t want to get out of the car! Don’t!  Grab an inexpensive self guided tour booklet before you hit the scenic loop and then travel the 11 mile one way loop in your car enjoying all the sights.  Be prepared to go slow though.  There are other tourists there that want to see everything and it can create quite a backup.

Get out at each home and/or church along the loop and explore the area!  Big Sister even likes to say a prayer or worship in the churches. The acoustics are pretty good. 

Take the paths that branch off from the scenic loop!  A lot of times, those paths are quieter and you can find more wildlife.  We love the Parsons Branch Road.  We also like to get out and walk the man mad paths to certain trees and other areas.

Go hiking

Go on a hike!  There are several to chose from.  There should be signs informing you of the level of difficulty and length of the hike at the beginning of each trail.  We just recently hiked Abram’s Falls.  That was the hardest hike for me because I am used to easy 1.5 mile hikes.  This one ended up taking us almost five hours (because we stopped along the way a lot and stayed at the waterfall for quite some time) and had a lot of rocky uphill terrain. 

Big Sister and Brother standing in front of the waterfall at Abrams Falls
Abram’s Falls

BE CAREFUL THOUGH!  There have been several deaths along the way because people have chosen to go off the path which resulted in falls and drownings.  While I enjoyed the hike, I was a nervous wreck for my children’s safety the whole time!! 

Other Outdoor Activities

Go camping!

Have a picnic! 

Renew your vows or have a small wedding!  We often see these type of ceremonies.

Biking.  They only have specific times for bikers so be sure to check the website for those times. 

Go horse back riding.  You can either bring your own horses or go to Cades Coves Stables for group riding.


When to go

To see more wild life go at Dusk or Dawn.  This will help to avoid traffic as well.

Go in the off season or during the week if you can to avoid crowds.  Some days are a lot busier than others.  For instance,  it could take hours to just GET IN to Cades Cove during the peak of fall colors (but well worth it if you’ve never been!)

Be courteous

RESPECT THE PARK RANGERS!  They are there to keep everyone safe and to ensure a good time for all the visitors. 

"Be Our Idol. Don't Idle" sign at Cades Cove
Trip taken from

Don’t Idle and don’t speed.  Be considerate of the other tourists that wish to enjoy Cades Cove.  If you want to pull over to observe something you certainly can.  There are plenty of places to do so.  But don’t stop your car in the middle of the road while others are waiting to get by. 

Wildlife viewing

Buck grazing in Cades Cove
Buck in Cades Cove

Look up at the trees and through tall grass for bear sightings.

DO NOT APPROACH A BEAR.  Not only could you be putting your life in danger but you are more than likely killing the bear.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen news stories about a tourist trying to get close to a bear and the end result for some reason was the bear having to be put down.  It is really tragic since we are visiting their home and we put them in danger.


You can read what the National Park Service has to say about Wildlife Viewing here.

TAKE NOTHING BUT MEMORIES. LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOT PRINTS.  Again,  you are disrupting an ecosystem and putting animal life at danger. Big Sister once asked why it mattered if she took only one wildflower and our reply was “what if everyone that visited thought that.”

Enjoy the peace and tranquility and wonder that Cade’s Cove has to offer!!  It is truly a wonderful place and can enrich our lives in so many ways.

What are your favorite memories from Cades Cove?

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One Reply to “That Time We Fell In Love with Cades Cove”

  1. It’s wonderful that you’ve found somewhere that your family connected to! It certainly sounds like an interesting place to explore. Tennessee has been popping up a lot for us lately, perhaps we need to consider a visit to Cades Cove.

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