Cades Cove Visitor Center#6 in Best Things To Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Cades Cove Visitor Center is located about midway on the 11-mile, one-way Cades Cove Loop Road. One of the most popular areas in the park, the Cades Cove valley is known for its abundant wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bears, turkeys, raccoons and other animals. The visitor center features both indoor and outdoor exhibits detailing Southern mountain life. Visit the Cable Mill, a gristmill that operates in the spring, summer and fall, and the historic Becky Cable House, or explore the exhibits inside the center and view a short film on the area. Several ranger-led programs are available seasonally and the visitor center offers a bookstore, public restrooms and trail maps for hikers.
Recent travelers complimented the friendly staff members and extensive information available at the Cades Cove Visitor Center, and noted that the center's public restrooms are the only ones available on the loop drive. Many also loved the free film detailing the history of the area and several praised the well-stocked gift shop. Some reviewers noted that on busy weekend days during peak seasons, traffic was very slow on the loop road and parking was limited.
Although the loop road to reach the visitor center is not long, heavy traffic during peak times (summer, fall and holiday weekends) can make it a slow drive, so park officials recommend allowing up to four hours or longer to make the drive and tour some of the exhibits or hike area trails. The road is closed to auto traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 a.m. from May to late September to open the route to bicycles and foot traffic, and the visitor center is open daily except Christmas Day. Inclement weather may close the loop road to traffic, so be sure to check the park's website or hotline before heading out. The visitor center and road are free to access.
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#1 Roaring Fork Motor Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a nearly 6-mile-long, one-way loop road, offers spectacular mountain scenery and access to two of the region's most popular waterfalls: Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls. You can actually walk behind the 25-foot high falls at the Grotto via the Trillium Gap Trail. You'll also see historic log cabins and the remains of a mountain village, the Roaring Fork Cemetery and an array of wildlife from birds and deer to black bears.
Recent visitors who raved about the beautiful waterfalls and mountain scenery on this motor trail said this is a must-see and a great place to spot bears in the wild. However, some summer tourists bemoaned the fact that the trail was crowded and offered limited parking areas. To avoid the midday rush of visitors, plan your drive in the morning to beat the crowds.
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