horses in Cades Cove

GSMNP Introduces Vehicle-Free Wednesdays in Cades Cove

bikes in cades cove
April 10, 2024

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced it is implementing vehicle-free Wednesdays in Cades Cove again! Starting May 1, the Cades Cove Loop Road will only be open to pedestrians and cyclists on Wednesdays. This gives visitors the opportunity to explore the area without worrying about car traffic! We’ve got all the details about vehicle-free Wednesdays in Cades Cove below:

Cades Cove Vehicle-Free Days

Cyclists and pedestrians now have the chance to enjoy Cades Cove without having to share the road with cars! Starting May 1, Cades Cove will be closed to vehicles every Wednesday through September 25. The vehicle-free Wednesdays give pedestrians and cyclists a whole day to explore Cades Cove without congested areas interfering with their experiences. The initiative will also allow staff and volunteers to better support visitor programs instead of focusing on traffic management. The park said that mobility-assisted devices will also be welcomed on the vehicle-free days.

Why Vehicle-Free Wednesdays?

cades cove in the smoky mountainsIn previous years, Cades Cove has been closed to vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 a.m. from May until late September. The idea for the full-day vehicle closure came about because of the congested parking areas and disruption of visitor services associated with those vehicle-free periods. Park officials gathered feedback from more than 2,000 people from 37 different states, and 60% were supportive of vehicle-free Wednesdays, 20% were opposed, and 15% wanted closures on Saturday mornings to continue but were still supportive of the full-day closures.

Since the vehicle-free periods in the park began, the park has seen over 1,000 people a day cycling or walking along the Cades Cove Loop Road! This led to congestion because access to parking, picnic and campground areas were blocked to accommodate parking for cyclists and pedestrians. There was always a line of motorists waiting for the road to open on these mornings. The park hopes that giving cyclists and pedestrians a full day in Cades Cove to themselves will solve this problem! Last year was the first year of vehicle-free Wednesdays, and they were a success! There were parking issues, but staff and volunteers will implement changes in parking access this season to ease pressure on campground and picnic area parking and prevent roadside parking on Laurel Creek Road.

Tips for Biking in Cades Cove

Do you plan on taking advantage of the Vehicle-Free Wednesdays to go biking through Cades Cove? We have some tips to help guarantee you have the best time!

1. Rent Your Bike.

You don’t have to worry about bringing your own bike with you on vacation. There are bike rentals available at the Cades Cove Campground Store! You’ll have your choice of bike to use, and some bikes and helmets even have GoPro cameras so you can document your journey. Keep in mind that bikes are rented on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you’ll want to arrive early to make sure you get one!

2. Take Your Time.

woman biking in cades coveSince you have a full day in Cades Cove without any cars, we recommend slowing down and taking your time to explore the area! You don’t have to race along the loop on your bike. There are so many scenic views and historic structures for you to see along the ride. Go inside one of the historic churches, see a working grist mill, and keep an eye out for wildlife!

3. You Don’t Have to Bike all 11 Miles.

Depending on how much time you want to spend in Cades Cove, it’s helpful to know that you don’t have to bike the whole 11-mile road. You can cut off at Sparks Lane for a 4-mile loop, or at Hyatt Lane for an 8-mile loop. However, it’s important to note that both Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane are dirt roads, not paved.

Tips for Walking in Cades Cove

If you’re exploring Cades Cove by foot, you’ll be up close to the natural beauty of the area! You don’t have to walk all 11 miles and can include other popular hikes along your journey as well, like Abrams Falls. Like if you were cycling, you can cut your journey short using Sparks Lane or Hyatt Lane. Here are some helpful tips for walking in Cades Cove:

1. Explore the Historic Structures.

Exploring Cades Cove on foot gives you the perfect opportunity to go inside some of the historic structures in the area! Step inside the 3 famous churches, or see the inside of an old cabin. Walking inside of the structures gives visitors the opportunity to step back in time and see what life was like for people living in Cades Cove.

2. Keep an Eye out for Wildlife.

Black bear cub in Cades CoveWithout all the busy car traffic in Cades Cove, you have a better chance to spot some wildlife! Cades Cove is a popular place to spot black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkey and more. Be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife while you’re exploring, and remember to stay at least 150 feet away from animals at all times. This is to protect both your safety and the safety of the animals.

3. Bring Water.

Don’t forget to bring water with you when you visit Cades Cove! Even if you’re not planning to hike the entire 11-mile loop, it’s still important to carry drinking water with you. If you forget to bring water or need more, you can get some at the Cades Cove Visitor Center!

If you plan on visiting during the Vehicle-Free Wednesdays in Cades Cove, learn more about what you’ll find along the Cades Cove Loop!

Related Blog Posts

Cantilever Barn in the snow
November 8, 2019
Top 5 Activities You’ll Love to Do in Cades Cove in Winter
Horses grazing with the mountains in the background before Cades Cove horseback riding.
August 13, 2015
Know Before You Go: Cades Cove Horseback Riding
Snow-covered hiking trail
November 30, 2023
6 Tips to Help You Prepare for a Winter Hike in Cades Cove
abrams falls
August 14, 2020
All About Abrams Falls Trail in Cades Cove