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This 11-mi loop through Cades Cove is the most popular route in the park and arguably the most scenic part of the entire Smokies. The one-way, one-lane paved road starts 7.3 mi from the Townsend entrance. Stop at the orientation shelter at the start of the loop and pick up a Cades Cove Tour booklet ($1.50). The drive begins with views over wide pastures to the mountains at the crest of the Smokies. Few other places in the Appalachians offer such views across wide valley bottoms with hayfields and wildflower meadows, framed by split-rail fences and surrounded by tall mountains. Along the way, you'll pass three 19th-century churches and many restored houses, log cabins, and barns. All are open for exploration. A highlight of the loop road, about midway, is the Cable Mill area, with a visitor center, working water-powered gristmill, and a restored farmstead. The Cades Cove Loop Road is also an excellent place to see wildlife, including black bears (especially in late summer and fall), white-tailed
deer, and wild turkeys. The road, open year-round, is closed from sunset to sunrise. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 am the loop is open only to bicyclists and walkers. On almost any day, and especially on weekends, you can expect traffic delays, as passing points on the one-way road are few and far between, and if just one vehicle stops, scores of vehicles behind it also have to stop and wait. Allow at least two to three hours just to drive the loop, longer if you want to stop and explore the historic buildings. If you get frustrated with delays, there are two points at which you can cut across the loop on improved gravel roads, exiting sooner. A campground and picnic area open year-round are near the beginning point of the Loop Road, and a horse camp is nearby.