Cades Cove is an isolated little valley located in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Erosion created this unique and historic place that is surrounded by the beautiful mountains of East Tennessee. John Oliver and his wife were the first white settlers here in the early 1800’s – you can still visit their original cabin as it stands today. Early residents were mostly self-sufficient farming the land.
Today, you can enjoy the valley by driving the loop, stopping in historic buildings, taking a bike ride, or hiking the many trails.
About two years ago, the Park rerouted and repaved the road around Cades Cove, so that it is now a nicely paved road with more parking for animal sitings. Little known fact – while they are not allowed on most trails in the Smokies, dogs are allowed on the paved road in Cades Cove. Basically anywhere cars are allowed, so are dogs.
The loop closes at dusk to cars, but you are free to walk and bike it to your heart’s content. It is just usually waaaaaay too dark because no unnatural lighting exists through the cove. When there is a full moon though, it’s a completely different story. It’s still a bit too dark for comfort through the heavily wooded areas, but that is what your flashlight is for. 🙂
There happened to be a full moon a few weeks back, but not just any full moon – it was a big, beautiful harvest moon. Huge and low hanging – perfect for a walk in the woods. Because it is summertime, bikers were out in full force on the night we went too, but we’ve been before when we were the lonely soles out there. A little creepy, but mostly peaceful.
The sun was just starting to set when we arrived at the entrance and the horses were out grazing – so picturesque.
Most of these pictures were taken purely by moonlight, except for the first few when the sun was still up.Fireflies were out in full force since it was so close to the timing of the synchronized fireflies, which occur in nearby Elkmont in early June. This species of fireflies are only found here in East Tennessee and parts of Southeast Asia. Pro tip – if you want to visit Elkmont to see them, I suggest booking a campsite months in advance as they fill up quickly this time of year.
We took Dash so that he could enjoy the outdoors with us – he loves a good W-A-L-K. We had not expected to do over half of the loop, which is what Rem’s mom suggested when we met up. Needless to say our trip was cut short by an exhausted corgi. Instead of cutting across the loop by turning down Hyatt Lane to come back on the back side of the loop, we turned around to come back the way we came. In the end, it worked out for the best because those beautiful puffy clouds opened up about halfway back to the car. It started to thunder, lightning and rain, but fortunately it did not last long.
The full loop is 11 miles, but there are two cross-throughs – Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane – if you wanted to shorten the trip.The distance to Hyatt Lane is 3.25 miles; if we had cut across Hyatt Lane as originally intended, then we would have done around 8.5 miles. Instead we did 6.5 miles. The Dash-man was worn out by the last mile! The hubs carried our wet, stinky corgi in the rain for half a mile because he was absolutely t-o-a-s-t. He gets ample exercise, but never more than a few miles at time. We were impressed with how far he did make it. He had a blast!
So the next time you are near the Smokies and there is a full moon, try a moonlit walk in the cove. It’s a nice way to spend an evening and it’s free!
What are your favorite things to do outdoors in the summertime?