Five Timely Tips For Your 2021 Visit

Few leave this national park without seeing Cades Cove. It’s a beautiful—and often busy—slice of earth. Flashing signs on summer and autumn days often advise four hours for driving the eleven mile loop road.

Don’t cancel any plans, but do have a plan. Supplement your itinerary with these tips and avoid those dreaded travel surprises. COVID-19 restrictions may change, so check the park website for updates. While there, check their Twitter link for road closures due to weather, accidents, and construction.

Having made the circuit well over a hundred times in all seasons via car, foot, and bike allows a degree of insight. I’ve been stuck in “bear jams” in vehicles and even once on my bike.

A dozen of us early bird bikers in the photo below waited behind park officials while a mother bear moved her triplets across the road. Be Bear Aware provides a complete overview for safety in bear country.

After many years and many visits, my simple advice for first timers is this: Take snacks, and take your time. There’s more tho, so let’s get started.

Tip #1

Every Wednesday from May 5th through September 1st in 2021 is “No Vehicles On Loop Road Day.”

Only pedestrians and bicycles are allowed past the loop road gate all day. Mobility-assisted devices are also permitted. Volunteers will be out and about for assistance.

The campground, camp store, picnic area, and horse stables are still accessible. (The ranger station confirmed this.)

Make this your day for safely and leisurely seeing the cove, then enjoy some ultra-popular camp store ice cream.

*Pro tip: I don’t recommend biking with children on days when vehicles are present; Tennessee law requires helmets for those under sixteen.

*Bonus Pro Tip: Shallow creek water may be on the road during first half mile in springtime. If walking on a day where vehicles are present, just smile and wait for a truck to say “Hop on!”

Tip #2

On all other days, the loop road gate opens at 8am and closes at sunset.

Being among the first in line saves time. Pack breakfast, arrive before 7:15, and just enjoy being here. Have lunch, drinks, and lawn chairs in the car for later on around the loop. “What a good idea!” is heard many times as we sit in the shade with ham sandwiches and ice cold Cokes. We’ve called it mighty fine dining for years.

*Pro Tip: The loop road is open to bikers and walkers 24/7/365 weather permitting.

Tip #3

Bike rental in Cades Cove

No bike? No problem. See all the info on the sign below. A huge shout out to the bike staff for giving campers a 24 hour option. Nothing beats a twilight or pre- breakfast ride. Ask for a headlamp if needed.

Pro Tip: Obey signage. Don’t be the guy below who flew past me one morning.

Tip #4

Use Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane Shortcuts For Flexibility

On wheels or foot, these two-way gravel roads shave off some miles and hills. Know that Sparks has a paved shallow water crossing that all ages love cooling off in on hot summer days.

Note: Bonus Pro Tip #3 also works here.

Tip #5

Autumn Visitors: Mark These Dates!

September 7th through September 27th—Loop Road is completely closed for paving.

Sunday, November 14th—Cades Cove Loop Lope (It’s a fabulous fundraiser event!)

Avoid this morning unless participating!

Starting around 6am, only those with Loop Lope passes are admitted past the “Townsend Wye” gate, which is about seven miles from Cades Cove.

Public access opens back up around 11am.

As of this writing, the event will be “in person.” Last year was virtual/Covid.

Click the link if a 5k or 10 mile morning sounds fun, and know that many walk it.

This is Year #6 for the Loop Lope. I haven’t missed one yet, so my simple Cades Cove campsite will be ready once again this November. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Pro Tip: Your feet get wet on the 5k route. The guy on left is trying a trash-bag-jump technique. It’s a wonderful morning!

This is Year #6 for the Loop Lope. I haven’t missed one yet, so my simple Cades Cove campsite will be ready once again this November. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Article and photographs submitted by: Marilou Parsons

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