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Camping in the Smokies- Cades Cove

Updated on January 16, 2014

Camping in the Great Smoky Mountains, and specifically the Cades Cove area, is a wonderful experience. The campground is large and the sites accomodate tents or RVs of all sizes. There are a myriad of things to do in the area, including: hiking, auto touring, horseback riding, picnicking, participating in ranger programs, going on hayrides and so much more.

Wild Turkeys
Wild Turkeys | Source
Cades Cove Visitor Center
Cades Cove Visitor Center | Source

Things to Know

To maximize your camping in the Smokies experience in Cades Cove:

Make reservations for this popular campground - especially for holidays, all summer and October. The 159 sites fill up very quickly. Online reservations are available at

Water and electricity are not available at campsites. This also means that there are no showers. Water fountains and potable water spigots are located at the comfort stations.

Bears live here - yes, really. Cades Cove is home to more than 1,500 bears. Enjoy and respect them from a distance. If a bear (or any wildlife) changes its behavior when you're watching it, you're too close. "Bear jams," traffic back-ups because a bear has been spotted, are common. People abandon their vehicles (usually in the middle of the road where it blocks incoming traffic) to get closer to the bear. Be courteous, use the vehicle pull-offs.

Food items must not be left unattended outside. Park rangers check to see if all of your food and utensils are packed away and stored in a vehicle when you are not present. This is one way that bears are kept out of the campground. If food is within easy reach, the bears come. If it's harder to get to, they'll go elsewhere for an easier meal. Also remember that a "fed bear is a dead bear." Encouraging bears to eat people food is dangerous for nearby humans and often leads to euthanization of the bear.

Seasonally, there is a small campground store, bike rentals and ranger programs. Take advantage of the fantastic Junior Ranger program for children. Purchase an activity booklet from the Ranger Station ($3.00) and follow the directions for your child's age. When activities are complete, your child can become a Junior Park Ranger. The camp store is limited in what is offered but they have great soft-serve ice cream. The bike rental and firewood station have been expanded thanks to government stimulus funds. Ranger programs about bears, mountain music, blacksmithing, animal tracks, wildflowers and lots more are offered in the amphitheatre and in the Cades Cove Loop. A schedule is posted on the bulletin board in front of the camp store.

The weather is unpredictable. Bring clothes for all kinds of weather, no matter what the season. This is especially true in the spring and fall. Always bring a jacket, rain gear and an extra pair of shoes.

The closest gas station and grocery store are 9 miles away in Townsend. Plan ahead to fill the car with gas and purchase supplies before camping.

Cell phone reception is usually not available. There is a pay phone outside the camp store.

Leave no trace! Put all your trash in the bear-safe dumpsters. Do not burn refuse in a campfire.

Wildlife and wildflowers are abundant. Deer and other wildlife frequently venture into the campground. Wildflowers of all kinds flourish. Just don't pick them! Take only pictures.

The Cades Cove Loop is an 11-mile one-way road (repaved in April 2010) with historic buildings and churches, wildlife and terrific mountain and valley views. Most people travel the loop in their vehicles, but there are some hardy souls who bike or walk. During the busy season, Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 am are reserved ONLY for bikers and hikers - no vehicles allowed. At the half-way spot on the road, there are restrooms, a camp store and the Cable Mill area (more historic buildings). Trailheads are also located at various points throughout the loop. Abrams Falls, a 5 mile roundtrip hike, is a popular trail.

Although the campground is open year-round, the 7-mile road to it is often closed in winter (and sometimes at other times) for inclement weather. Check online first.

Where is Cades Cove?

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains Association, Tennessee 37882, USA

get directions


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