The view pictured above is from a stop off along the road to Cades Cove from Gatlinburg (where we were staying). The layers of mountains dressed in fog are just stunning.
Cades Cove is an 11-mile multi-use (walking, biking, driving) trail within the Smoky Mountains. It has numerous historical buildings and hiking trails on the loop, but our focus was biking so we rented bikes at the campground and enjoyed a ride there.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays the loop is closed to cars until 10am so that walkers and bikers have a chance to enjoy the loop without that distraction.Unfortunately, it didn't work out for us to be on the loop without the cars (which is what I wanted), but it all worked out fine and all the drivers were slow and safe.
The loop is 11 miles with two gravel roads intersecting the loop to shorten the ride to either four miles or eight miles. We chose the eight-mile ride since the back part of the loop was noted for steep hills and the need to walk and it was warmish since we started later than expected. The eight miles were perfect without exhausting our energy. This was our morning activity and we needed energy for the rest of the day too!
We decided to make our vacation coincide with Jesse's 40th birthday and Roone's 10th birthday, and it seemed fitting to bike on Jesse's day since he enjoys that activity so much. No bears were sighted - although we were on the alert. A few birds were seen and heard and a lone deer was observed eating.
I would highly recommend this loop, whether the activity chosen is walking, biking or driving. At dawn or dusk you are more likely to see wildlife. There is also a campground and store available on site, so if you prefer your lodging directly in the park there is that option. Many parts of the park were extremely busy because it is the middle of the summer and this is the most attended national park. Cades Cove was congested. Once we were on the loop, though, it was a solitary, peaceful experience (since car drivers used their manners!).