Know Before You Go: Cades Cove Campground

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a number of great camping opportunities, but few compare to staying at the Cades Cove Campground. Located steps away from Cades Cove’s famous loop road, this campground puts guests right in the middle of the park’s most scenic area. Before you plan your trip, check out our convenient guide to camping in Cades Cove:

About the Cades Cove Campground

The Cades Cove Campground is one of the park’s frontcountry style campsites, meaning that it’s designed for people who bring their vehicles as opposed to backpackers. Both RV camping and tent camping is popular in Cades Cove.

(See Also: Where is Cades Cove?)

While the site has restrooms and drinking water, there are no showers. Supplies are available at the nearby camp store, so you don’t have to worry about running out of food, beverages, or toiletries. The store’s hamburgers and ice cream cones are always a big hit with families! Campers will also find picnic tables and fire pits at the site.

The Cades Cove Campground is one of the few campsites in the park that never closes, so you can visit any time of year. If you want to be assured of a place, you should reserve a camping spot. Fees to camp at Cades Cove are $20 per night. Reservations can be made on the Cades Cove Campground official website.  

What to BringEarly morning photo of fall in Cades Cove.

Camping in Cades Cove is fun and exciting, especially if you are well prepared. Some of the items you should bring include:

  • Tent and Sleeping Bags – If you want to camp outside rather than staying in your vehicle.
  • Appropriate Clothing – Layered clothing and rain gear to prepare you for all types of weather. Water resistant hiking boots are recommended.
  • Safety Items – Flashlights, extra batteries, first aid kit, etc.
  • Sporting Gear – Depending on what you want to do, you can bring your bicycle, fishing gear, or binoculars for viewing birds and other wildlife.

Safety Reminders

If you haven’t stayed at the Cades Cove Campground before, there are certain precautions you should keep in mind. Because the campground, and the entire national park, is a bear habitat, you have to be careful about not leaving food out. Park regulations require you to keep food stored in your vehicle when you aren’t cooking or eating. Make sure you dispose of all trash in the dumpsters that are provided, which are bear-proof. Also, campers are only allowed to start fires in designated fire rings.

White horse in Cades Cove leaning over a fence.Activities Near the Cades Cove Campground

One of the best things about camping in Cades Cove is being close to all of the great things to do in the valley. There are a number of popular hiking trails near the campsite, such as the five mile round trip hike to Abrams Falls, one of the park’s most scenic waterfalls.

Bicycles are available for rent at the camp store, so you can enjoy a relaxing ride around the loop road. Horseback riding, hayrides, and carriage rides are seasonal activities that you can enjoy between March and November. Anyone with a Tennessee fishing license can spend an afternoon casting their lines in the park’s streams.

Another highlight of camping in Cades Cove is getting the chance to explore the valley’s well preserved historic buildings. History buffs will love seeing all of the log cabins, grist mills, churches, and barns from the 19th and early 20th century.

Whether you are walking or driving around Cades Cove, you are likely to see a variety of wildlife, including bears, deer, turkeys, raccoons, otters, foxes and many other species. Bring binoculars and a good camera so you can observe and take pictures of your favorite animals, but always be sure to keep your distance. To prepare for your stay at the Cades Cove Campground, be sure to check out our 6 essential tips for Cades Cove wildlife viewing!