Smoky #5 – Cades Cove

Line of cars driving in Cades Cove
Line of Cars
Driving Through Cades Cove

Now this may surprise you. Of all the activities we did over our two weeks in the Smoky Mountains, I would put Cades Cove at the bottom. Not that it was bad, it just wasn’t outstanding. At least for me.

One reason is because we had to drive the loop. We brought our ebikes with designs on riding the loop, but we were too early in the year for this activity. So, keep dates in mind if you hope to do this. Also, now that I’ve visited the park, I see how challenging parking can be. So, if you’re not camping at Cades Cove, I’m not really sure how hard it would be to find a place to park and ride the loop. In any case, we ended up driving the loop in our car.

A second reason the Cades Cove loop fell below average for us is that we didn’t see any wildlife. Like reason number one, this is on us, too. We didn’t drive the loop early in the morning or later in the day when wildlife are known to be visible. We drove through in the late morning/early afternoon. Like the wildlife, we also have our routines. And getting up early isn’t one of them.

A third reason is also on us. The loop is filled with historic structures – as well as beautiful scenery. However, I hadn’t done any research about this history of the loop beforehand. So, it was kind of like looking at a great piece of art without knowing anything about it. We did read the informational displays at each stop which did help, but I think the experience would have been richer had we had some background information.

Also, at the beginning of the loop, we read everything. But near the end, we had reached our “historic structure” limit and just couldn’t absorb any more information.

Now, all this isn’t to say we didn’t enjoy it. We did. It was a beautiful day, and each time we got out of the car, we were rewarded with fresh air and sunshine, a pretty view and/or an interesting historic building.

Here are just a few of the highlights from our tour of the Cades Cove loop:

The John Oliver Place

This one and a half story cabin is one of the oldest structures in the park. It was completed about 1820. Members of the John Oliver family lived here for more than one hundred years.

A view of the area around the Oliver cabin
View around the Cabin
John Oliver Cabin
Side View of John Oliver Cabin
The inside of the cabin showing the fireplace and Dan standing in front of a doorway
Inside of the Cabin
Behind Dan are steps going to the second floor.

The Methodist Church

This church was built in 1820. There is a cemetery on the side of the church. Most of the graves were really old, but I did see one from 2019. There were also a number of graves with coins on them. I had not seen this before.

A view of the Methodist Church
Inside of the Methodist church with a cross on the front wall
A simple church, like this one, leads me to prayer. Cousin Karen, I said a prayer for your mom here.
An upright piano with many keys in disrepair
Three graves with a number of coins
Leaving coins on a grave is a message that someone has visited and paid his or her respects.

Missionary Baptist Church

This church was founded in 1839.

Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church
Inside of Missionary Baptist Church
I love the symmetry and balance.
This feels very restful to me.

Near the church was a plaque honoring the work done in the park by the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1933 to 1942. We saw the same plaque in another location in the park. If you visited Smoky Mountains National Park, do you know where it is?

Picture from the pulpit, showing a song book with the song "I Thank My God" with a view of the church to the back door
So many things to be thankful for! Including the work done by the CCC.
A view of the plaque on a boulder with the Smoky Mountains in the distance
In Honor of the Civilian Conservation Corp
…whose hands built roads, trails, bridges, buildings, campgrounds, and picnic areas…for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.
“If you seek their monument, look about you.”

Cable Mill

Cable Mill is operated by the Smoky Mountains Natural History Association from May to October. We were fortunate enough to see the mill working.

Water troft to the mill
Cable Mill
Water wheel of Cable Mill

There was a park ranger in the mill discussing the mill and life in the 1800’s, and there were several informational displays in the mill. According to one of the informational displays, in 1989 a black bear ripped through the siding of the mill in search of corn. I guess that bear was pretty hungry!

Also in the mill was another informational display entitled “Mill Speak.” As a lover of words and language, I always find the origin of phrases to be quite interesting. Among others, this display listed the phrases: “The daily grind”, “Run of the mill”, “Rule of thumb”, “Come to a grinding halt”, and “Put through the mill.”

There are a number of buildings around Cable Mill,
including this Drive-Through Barn

Even though Cable Mill is located about halfway through Cades Cove loop, this is the end of the road for this tour. We did finish the loop, of course, but a good rule of thumb is to stop the daily grind before it feels like one has been put through the mill.

After our driving tour, we visited the Cades Cove picnic area which was another picnic area that was just beautiful. Like other days, we ate our lunch and played some Scrabble. We really enjoyed these charming picnic areas in the park.

Cades Cove Picnic Area

While many of our meals were eaten in our travel trailer or at the park’s picnic areas, we did eat out a few times. And that is what I will dish up in my next post.


  1. Isn’t it funny how sometimes our most anticipated destinations aren’t the highlights of the trip? I liked the mill and the drive through barn in your post. Hopefully someday I’ll get here too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but you are right. Cades Cove was a “must see”, and I’m glad we did … but definitely not the highlight of the trip. There is another highlight of the trip though (to be featured in a later post) which we didn’t even know we were going to do. 🙂 I hope you’ll make it there someday, too. I bet you will. You’ve made it to so many other fascinating places! Have a great Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another great read, Betty! Even though it didn’t live up to your expectations, it sounds like you made the best of it. Lovely photos and excellent information about what you saw at Cade’s cove. Your post was far from run of the mill 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cade’s Cove is probably the most popular section of the park. We sat in a bumper to bumper line of cars as you did, but we were fortunate enough to see a bear. Historic buildings and the stories that come with them are great, but viewing many of them can get old real quick. I loved reminiscing over your wonderful photos though. It has been a long time since we visited GSMNP, and you’re inspiring us to go back someday. Have a good Saturday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kellye. We were fortunate that although there was a line of cars, it was always moving. And the farther out we got, there were less cars. We also were fortunate enough to see two little bear cubs one day when we were driving somewhere in the park. We just saw them in the distance, and we didn’t stop. I am sure mama was somewhere close by. We really did enjoy our visit, but I didn’t want to gloss over this part. I hope you have a good Saturday, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I kept looking for something to strike a memory chord with me, as I read your post. I didn’t come up with any memories. So, I did a bit of research on our past wanderings. It wasn’t Cades Cove that we visited, it was Cataloochee Valley near Maggie Valley NC.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If my memory serves me correctly, the other plaque for the CCC is at the monument where Roosevelt addressed the crowd. There was a large sign about the CCC camp there also. We drove through Cades Cove also, and it was not really what we expected either. In another “if my memory” we had the option to get off the loop at some point, and went out another way. As always, your sense of humor makes it even more fun, and I loved the photograph of Dan in the cabin. I looked at the door to the entrance and know he ducked!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t remember seeing the other plaque by where Roosevelt addressed the crowd. Perhaps there is one there, and I missed it. Maybe there are three? I do remember the info posted there about the CCC camp. There are two roads which dissect the loop and where one can escape – or just make a shorter loop. We didn’t escape as our thinking was this may be the only time we visit Cades Cove, so we are going to see the whole loop. You could go up those stairs in the cabin and look at the second floor. It was a pretty impressive cabin for having been built by so few and so long ago. And yes. Dan did duck! Hope you have a great Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Looks like a wonderful visit, Betty. So this is a different John Oliver than the satirist on HBO? 😉 Love the Civilian Conservation Corps structure — it really is great to see those Works Progress-era buildings and structures being maintained. They are such a vital part of our history. Great pictures! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Marty. I am guessing this is a different John Oliver than the one on HBO. Or perhaps he lived in the cabin until he made it big on HBO. Or he made it big and then bought the land and built a cabin as a second home. Or else, I’m just having fun. Enjoy your Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful post. So many wonderful, historic sights to see, and so much to learn. However, I can see how you can quickly get overloaded. Such a shame that our parks are so over crowded. I’m wondering what is going to happen in the years to come. The RV industry is about to go bust, so maybe, just maybe the throngs of today will begin to taper of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Bill. I feel like I am beginning to see less crowding at campgrounds. And I see posts on Facebook where campers say, “There’s hardly anyone here!” Time will tell as we go through the summer, but I think things are beginning to taper off now for us campers. Glad you enjoyed the post, and enjoy your Saturday!


    • You’re welcome. From everything I hear, it has gotten a lot busier – especially during the busy season. It was our first time to visit the Smoky Mountains. Have a great week ahead!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks, Betty for another informative and humorous tour. None of your featured stops brought back any memories for me so on many of those trips to the park I took with my parents, we must have never taken the Cade Cove loop. But thanks to your post, I am at least now familiar with it.

    Liked by 1 person

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