Cades Cove Hours: Everything You Need to Know

Cades Cove is the most popular destination in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This beautiful Appalachian valley boasts 360 degree views of the Smoky Mountains and is home to dozens of preserved historic structures from the Cove’s history.

Cades Cove is open year-round. The Cades Cove Loop Road hours are daily from sunrise till sunset.

I got to visit Great Smoky Mountains several times while living in the South. Between the endless waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife, and history, there is so much to explore in Cades Cove.

This guide covers everything you need to know about Cades Cove hours of operation, vehicle free Wednesdays, visitor center hours, and other important information for planning your trip to Cades Cove.

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Cades Cove Hours: When is Cades Cove Open?

Is Cades Cove open year round? Unlike other areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove is open year-round. The Cades Cove Loop hours are daily from sunrise till sunset.

During winter, the Cades Cove Loop Road may temporarily close during severe weather.

While Cades Cove may be open year-round, there are a couple of important things to know about Cades Cove hours of operation if you plan on driving the Cades Cove Loop Road, visiting the historic structures, Visitor Center, bike rentals and more.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 24-hours, 365 days a year.

Visit John Oliver Cabin year-round in Cades Cove

Vehicle – Free Wednesdays on Cades Cove Loop Road

There is no vehicle access to Cades Cove Loop Road on Wednesdays, May – September.

The Park closes Cades Cove Loop Road to vehicle access every Wednesday during these months to allow pedestrians and bicycles to experience a car-free Cades Cove Loop!

If you want to experience the beauty of Cades Cove without the traffic, consider visiting on a summer Wednesday

Bike Rentals are available March – November at the Cades Cove Campground at the entrance to the Cades Cove Loop Road.

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Cades Cove Visitor Center Hours

The Cades Cove Visitor Center is open every day, except for Christmas, December 25.

The Cades Cove Visitor Center hours vary from month-to-month. The cart below shows the operating hours of the Cades Cove Visitor Center throughout the year.

MonthCades Cove Visitor Center Hours
January9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
February9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
March9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
April9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
June9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
July 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
August9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
September9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
October9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
November9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
December9:00 AM – 4:30 PM Closed December 25

The Cades Cove Visitor Center is located approximately half way along the Cades Cove Loop Road.

The National Park Service changes these hours periodically due to weather, staffing, construction and other factors.

Cades Cove Cable Mill Hours

The Cable Mill is a historic water-powered gristmill that continues to operate to this day! The Mill is located next to the Cades Cove Visitor Center.

The Cades Cove Grist Mill operates daily, mid-March through October 31. The Mill is open Friday – Sunday in November.

The Cades Cove Mill hours are: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Cable Gristmill at the Cades Cove Visitor Center

Cades Cove Campground Hours

The Cades Cove Campground and Smokemont Campgrounds are open year-round. All other campgrounds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park operate seasonally.

The Cades Cove Trading Company Campground Store & Deli is usually open March – October. In 2023, the Cades Cove campground Store hours are 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Check here for updated hours and seasonal opening dates.

Cades Cove Picnic Area Hours

The Cades Cove picnic area is open year-round.

The Cades Cove picnic area opens daily at sunrise and closes at sunset. From late-April to early-September, the picnic area closes at 8 p.m.

Cades Cove Bike Rental Hours

Bike Rentals are available seasonally in Cades Cove through the Cades Cove Trading Company, located at the Cades Cove Campground. Bike Rentals are available March to November.

Bike rental hours are 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., daily. Wednesday rentals begin at 7:00 a.m. during vehicle-free days.

Cades Cove Stables Hours

The Cades Cove Riding Stables are located next to the Cades Cove Campground. The Riding Stables offer guided horseback rides through Cades Cove, carriage rides, and guided hayrides.

Guided horseback rides and carriage rides are offered March – November from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Guided hayrides are offered at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. from March – November. From June 1 to August 15, hayride hours are: 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 6 p.m.

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More Important Things to Know About Visiting Cades Cove

Parking Permits and Entrance Fees to Cades Cove

There are no entrance fees or reservations required to enter Cades Cove or Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Beginning March 1, 2023 Great Smoky Mountains National Park will require all visitors to purchase and display a “Parking Tag” while parking inside the National Park. This includes parking along the Cades Cove Loop Road.

All visitors who park for more than 15 minutes in Cades Cove, including at trailheads, historic cabins, Cades Cove Visitor Center, ect. must purchase and display a paid Parking Tag. One Parking Tag is required per vehicle.

Parking Tag fees are $5 per day, $15 per week, and $40 annually.

Parking Tag sales are not limited or capped, meaning you do not need advanced reservations to enter the Park. Parking tags do NOT guarantee a parking spot, so be sure to arrive early to trailheads and popular spots!

Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains Parking Fee program, where to buy Parking Tags and Parking Tag exceptions here.

Wide Shot of Cades Cove meadow surrounded by Great Smoky Mountains
360 views of the Smokies in Cades Cove

More Tips for Visiting Cades Cove

There are no gas stations inside Cades Cove or the National Park. Fill your gas tank before you head out to Cades Cove.Gas stations are plentiful near every entrance to the Park.

There is no cell service in Cades Cove. There is NO cell service inside Cades Cove. If you have questions or require assistance, visit the Rangers at the Cades Cove Visitor Center.

Use pullouts and parking lots while viewing scenery and wildlife. Avoid causing a traffic jam by using the many pullouts and parking lots.

Be patient. As someone who has lived in both LA and NYC, I speak with some authority when I say that the traffic in Cades Cove is just terrible. Be patient and resist the urge to yell when another vehicle stops in the middle of the road to look at yet another deer.

Henry Whitehead Place in Cades Cove

Best Time of Day to Visit Cades Cove

What is the best time of day to visit Cades Cove?

Early morning is the best time to visit Cades Cove. Why?

In early morning, the mist and clouds often blanket the valley floor, making for a moody and beautiful scene. Plus wildlife like deer, elk and black bears are most active during this time.

Morning is also the best time to visit Cades Cove if you want to skip the horrendous crowds that come later in the day! Remember, Cades Cove is open starting at sunrise – so grab that early cup of coffee and get there before everyone else!

The Best Time of Year to Visit Cades Cove

What is the best time of year to visit Cades Cove?

If you have the option, consider planning your Great Smoky Mountains itinerary in Spring or Fall, when there are fewer crowds than summer. Winter in the Smokies is quiet for those willing to brave the snow and unpredictable weather.

Summer: (June-August)

Summer in the Smokies brings heat, humidity, and lots of crowds. Trailhead parking lots often fill by early morning, and Cades Cove can be bumper to bumper in the afternoon.

Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to vehicles, every Wednesday from May 5 to September 1. During this time, the loop road is open to bicyclists and hikers. If you don’t mind the extra effort, consider visiting on these vehicle-free days for a unique experience!

Learn more about vehicle-free days in Cades Cove, here.

If you’re planning to visit Cades Cove and Great Smoky Mountains National Park during this peak season, here are a few tips for avoiding the crowds:

  • Arrive in Cades Cove as early as possible.  Not only is the Cove at its most beautiful during sunrise, you’ll have a chance to beat some of the huge crowds that bring bumper-to-bumper traffic in the afternoons.
  • Avoid weekends and holidays. Avoid the Cove during Memorial Day, Labor Day, Juneteenth, and Fourth of July weekends.

Fall: (September – November)

Cooler temperatures, elk, bear, and fall colors make fall a magical time in Great Smoky Mountains. Visit Cades Cove early in the morning for the best chance to see wildlife.

Fall foliage peaks in October. I had the chance to visit during near-peak fall in October 2021, and boy was it spectacular! If you can time it right, watching the fall colors explode across the valley is one of the best things to do in Cades Cove in Fall. Expect serious crowds, especially on the weekends and October. But if you’re willing to sit in traffic, the endless rolling mountains of spectacular colors are worth the hassle.

Fall in Great Smoky Mountains is a spectacular – but crowded – time to visit

Winter (December – February)

With far fewer crowds and relatively mild temperatures, winter is a great time to visit Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains.

The primary roads through the park – Newfound Gap Road, Cades Cove Loop, and Little River Road – are open year-round. However, several secondary roads through the park are closed during winter, including Clingman’s Dome and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. 

Though higher elevations of the Park are inaccessible during winter, there are still plenty of things to do in Cades Cove during Winter. Enjoy the winter scenery, hike the year-round trails like Abrams Falls, and explore the historic structures nearly all to yourself!

Cades Cove Loop trail may close after significant snowstorms until roads are safe for travel. Check current conditions for park roads here.

Spring: (March – May)

Spring in Great Smoky mountains is the ideal time to visit for those looking to avoid the crowds and headaches of summer and peak fall. Mild temperatures and the first wildflowers start in mid-March.

Daytime temperatures average between the 30s to 50s, but be prepared for rain! The lower elevations of the park, like Cades Cove average between 4 to 5 inches of rain a month in Spring.

Fun Things to Do in Cades Cove

With miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, wildlife, historic cabins and even horseback riding, there are virtually endless things to do in Cades Cove.

Here are a few of my favorite fun things to do in Cades Cove:

  • Explore historic cabins, homesteads, and historic churches on the Cades Cove Loop Road.
  • Take a Hike! Cades Cove Loop is a great starting point for amazing hikes including the must-see Abrams Falls, Gregory Bald, and easy trails like the Pine Oaks Nature Trail.
  • Stop by the Cades Cove Visitor Center and historic Cable Grist Mill
  • See Cades Cove in a whole new way by renting a bike or going on a horseback ride
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