horses in Cades Cove

5 Incredible Cades Cove Hiking Trails You Will Love

A photo of Abrams Falls, one of the top Cades Cove hiking trails.
November 30, 2015

Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in America, and Cades Cove is a big reason why! The beautiful Cades Cove hiking trails are just one of the things that make this area so popular, and you are sure to have the time of your life when you choose to take a hike in this area. Here are five rewarding hikes that begin around Cades Cove:

1. Abrams Falls

You’ll find the entrance to this popular, 5.2-mile trail just after crossing Abrams Creek, which is located about 4.8 miles into your drive on the Cades Cove Loop Road. A right turn on the first gravel road after the creek will take you to signs that point the way. This trail attracts up to 1,000 hikers a day, and you can expect a scenic hike that takes you along the creek and through forests of pine-oaks, rhododendrons, and hemlocks before coming to the stunning 20-foot waterfall. While this hike is considered moderate in difficulty, it’s important to note that this is one of the Cades Cove hiking trails that has some serious potential hazards due to the possibility of falling into the water. However, as long as you’re careful, hiking to Abrams Falls is a fantastic experience.

(See Also: 3 Things You Need to Know Before You Go Cades Cove Biking)

2. Rich Mountain Loop

Hikers looking for a strenuous workout will enjoy this 8.5 mile hike that is filled with wonderful things to see. You can park in the large lot that is located just at the entrance of the one-way portion of the Cades Cove Loop Road, and a short walk will take you to the trail’s entrance. In season, you can expect to walk through huge fields of incredibly beautiful wildflowers. You’ll also pass by historical landmarks such as the John Oliver cabin from the 1820s, see the 25-foot Crooked Arm Falls, and have the opportunity to climb up to the Cerulean Knob, which offers great views from the highest point on Rich Mountain.

3. Gregory Bald

Incredible view from Gregory Bald.

This 8.8-mile hike offers amazing panoramic views, and you can expect to enjoy clear views of Cades Cove, Rich Mountain, Fontana Lake, Thunderhead Mountain, and Clingmans Dome. Azalea lovers travel from all over the world just to see the vast amounts of beautifully blooming azaleas from mid to late June, and your hike will take you into a beautiful 10-acre grassy meadow that was once used to graze cattle and is now filled with a stunning variety of wildflowers and wildlife. You’ll find the entrance to this trail a short 3.3 miles from Parsons Branch Road.

4. Rocky Top/Thunderhead Mountain

You’ll have to make your way to this trail by starting out on the Anthony Creek Trail, which is located at the picnic area of the Cades Cove Campground. You’ll find some of the most spectacular views in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and you’ll likely be able to see Fontana Lake, Cades Cove, Townsend, Maryville, and even Knoxville from the summit of Rocky Top. Thunderhead Mountain is made up of three summits, so you can expect to do some climbing on this 13.9-mile trail. You should expect to walk through a rhododendron tunnel, see spectacular displays of mountain laurel, and find yourself at the 5,527-foot summit of the mountain. It’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular Cades Cove hiking trails!

5. Spence Field

Happy couple reading a map on a hike together.This 10.3-mile trail offers some of the area’s best views of the Great Smoky Mountains. This is definitely a trail you won’t want to miss during the month of June, because the hillsides and meadows will be completely covered in soft pink and white flowers. You can also expect to see herds of deer and other wildlife all year around. This trail is also accessible with a start on the Anthony Creek Trail that can be found at the picnic area of the Cades Cove Campground.

Cades Cove Hiking Trails

We’ve told you about some of our favorite Cades Cove hiking trails, but check out this list of more hiking trails in Cades Cove:

  • Cades Cove Nature Trail
  • Abrams Falls
  • Wet Bottom Trail
  • Ace Gap Trail
  • Rich Mountain Trail
  • Indian Grave Gap Trail
  • Rich Mountain Loop Trail
  • Crooked Arm Ridge Trail
  • Scott Mountain Trail
  • Chestnut Top Trail
  • Schoolhouse Gap Trail
  • Turkeypen Ridge Trail
  • Anthony Creek Trail
  • Crib Gap Trail
  • Russell Field Trail
  • Lead Cove Trail
  • Finley Cane Trail
  • Bote Mountain Trail

The Cades Cove Waterfall You Have to See

One of the most beautiful sights to see when you go hiking in Cades Cove is Abrams Falls. As we mentioned before, the Abrams Falls Trail leads you to a gorgeous 20-foot waterfall. This Cades Cove waterfall is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the national park. Although it’s not very tall, the large volume of water rushing over the falls makes up for its lack of height. At the base of the falls, you’ll find a long, deep pool. Abrams Falls is named after a Cherokee chief whose village once stood several miles downstream. The moderate hike to get to the falls is well worth every step.

About Cades Cove Hiking

It’s no secret that Cades Cove is one of the best places for hiking in the Smoky Mountains. Numerous trails begin in the Cades Cove area, and each provides gorgeous sights for visitors to explore. Before you go hiking in Cades Cove, check out these tips:

Wear proper footwear.

Comfort is one of the most important things to keep in mind when you go hiking in Cades Cove. One way to stay both safe and comfortable is to wear proper footwear. Whether you choose a pair of shoes or a pair of boots, make sure the soles are sturdy and thick, along with the treads, This will give you any traction and prevent slipping.

Dress in layers.

You always want to dress in layers when you go hiking in Cades Cove — and anywhere in the Smoky Mountains. Layers will help you regulate your body temperature. Weather temperature will change based on elevation, so it’s always good to keep at least a small sweater or light jacket with you. You’ll also want to wear a thick pair of socks that will help keep your feet comfortable.

Bring a map.

No matter if you know where you’re going or not, it’s always helpful to carry a map with you when you go hiking. You can pick a map up from the Cades Cove Visitor Center and use it to help you decide which trail you want to hike.

Stay on the trail.

Even if you think you know where you’re going when you hike in Cades Cove, don’t veer off the trail. Staying on the path protects both you and the natural habitat for animals. You also risk getting lost and adding extra time to your hike.

Always carry water with you.

Wherever you go hiking, always be sure to carry water with you. National park officials recommend carrying at least 3 to 4 liters in order to stay hydrated. If you forget to pack water, don’t worry! You can pick it up at the visitor center.

Don’t approach wildlife.

This hiking tip is important, especially when you’re hiking in Cades Cove! Cades Cove is hope to black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkey and more. If you happen to see an animal while you’re hiking, do not approach it. Moving closer to it can put both you and the animal in danger. If any wildlife starts to come toward you, move away slowly and sideways. This is considered a non-threatening movement and allows you to keep an eye on the animal. Keep in mind the national park requires you to stay at least 50 yards away from wildlife at all times.

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