Exploring Cades Cove with Kids at Great Smoky Mountain National Park
By Meg Brunson
We love visiting National Parks. They are always well maintained, and have great educational opportunities! Great Smoky Mountain National Park is FREE to visit for everyone – so we didn’t even need our America The Beautiful Annual Pass (purchased for $80 earlier this year).
As we drove through North Carolina and into Tennessee, we saw tons of signs for the park – stretching miles – which makes sense, the Great Smoky Mountains cover over 520,000 acres throughout Tennessee and North Carolina. So, while I will tell you about our experience exploring the 11-mile loop at Cades Cove, it’s only a tiny portion of what’s available to see at the 800+ square mile park!
Cades Cove contains an 11-mile one-way loop road. You can walk, bike, or drive the road – just check the website for times when it may be restricted to foot/bike traffic (it’s infrequent) if you plan on driving. Traffic moves slowly through the loop, so prepare to spend 2-4 hours at the park (lower end if you’re not planning to explore at all – but I recommend exploring). There are many parking areas if you want to enjoy the scenery/wildlife. We stopped a couple times to take pictures and stretch our legs, plus let the kids run around a bit.
A little past the half-way mark, there is a visitor center. This is where we bought some souvenirs and on our visit there happened to be a sorghum syrup making demonstration. There is a watermill further back past the visitor center that we did not see, but I was disappointed to learn that we missed!
The second half of the drive through the loop was much more congested and therefore went much slower. I am not sure if it was just timing on the day of our visit, or if that happens regularly with traffic departing the visitor center mixes with traffic who decides not to stop – but I would prepare for that leg to take longer.
It was a pretty long time for my kids to be content in the car looking out the windows, so we brought entertainment for them – but my husband and I really enjoyed the picturesque drive through the Great Smoky Mountains!
- It gets colder in the mountains – we totally overlooked this and were a bit under dressed for the weather!
- Water – anytime of the year you should bring water with you so that everyone stays hydrated while exploring the outdoors.
- Wear your walking shoes – even though Cades Cove is a drive through experience, there are many places to park and explore/observe the mountains, historic buildings, and the visitor center!
- Keep the Kids happy - pack snacks and activities they can do in the car, when they inevitably get tired of looking at the beautiful surroundings!
We loved visiting Cades Cove – learn more and start planning your visit at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm, or discover other ways to experience Great Smoky Mountain State Park at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm
Read about some of the other adventures we're having on our Year-Long Road Trip!
© 2019 Meg Brunson
All opinions expressed are my own. See more on Instagram!
Meg is a mommy blogger, Facebook marketer, and much more. She is a mom to four daughters who live full-time in an RV exploring the US! As a former Facebook employee, Meg remains a Facebook addict and handles KidsOutAndAbout.com's Social Media Marketing in addition to providing freelance services for other small businesses on how to best leverage Facebook as a part of their marketing strategy. Meg also hosts the FamilyPreneur Podcast, a podcast for parent entrepreneurs raising entrepreneurial children. Learn more about Meg at MegBrunson.com!