Cades Cove is where you can find one of the popular scenic drives in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
And for Cades Cove waterfalls, Abrams Falls is one of the great waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains!
This Smoky Mountains hike to waterfalls in Cades Cove will include hiking directly alongside a river (creek!), crossing bridges (including a log bridge!), hiking through a forest, and more!
Abrams Falls Trail basics
The distance of the Abrams Falls Trail is around 5 miles round trip.
It’s officially recommended to give yourself 3-4 hours to complete the hike to Abrams Falls.
How much time you spend on the trail can depend on your fitness level, how many stops you make, and how long you spend at the waterfalls!
Your destination for google maps can be the Abrams Falls trailhead. (map)
You will be driving the Cades Cove Loop Road to get to the Abrams Falls trailhead.
If you’re coming from Gatlinburg, the drive to the Abram Falls trailhead parking lot may take 1.5 to 2 hours.
If you’re looking for another scenic drive in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can drive Little River Road to get to Cades Cove.
Make it a biking + hiking day in Cades Cove?!
Biking the Cades Cove Loop Road is a thing. The loop road is 11 miles, and the Abrams Falls Trail is at around halfway of that. The road is a little hilly in spots.
If you’re ambitious and looking for a solid day of physical activity, then you can bike to Abrams Falls trailhead, and then hike to the waterfalls!
You can bring your own bike from home, or there’s a Cades Cove bike rental shop near the start of the loop road. (Don’t expect super high quality bikes though.)
In 2020, June through September had car-free days on Wednesdays on Cades Cove Loop Road.
If you’re planning a Smokies vacation in 2021, look out for the announcement of when there will be car-free times or days as your vacation date gets closer! In previous years, just mornings were designated as car-free, but 2020 had all-day designations.
See more about biking in Cades Cove.
Abrams Falls Trail to Elijah Oliver historic cabin
You’ll have the chance to visit a number of historic log cabins when you drive the Cades Cove Loop Road. The first one you’ll come across is the John Oliver Cabin.
There’s also one near the Abrams Falls Trail, the Elijah Oliver cabin. If this is one of the cabins you want to see in Cades Cove, then there’s access to the cabin from the Abrams Falls Trail.
The trail to the cabin is located near the start of Abrams Falls Trail. You’ll get started on the Abrams Falls Trail, and then just past the first bridge you’ll see the sign to Elijah Oliver Place. It’s a half mile trail to the cabin, so it will be an 1 mile round trip added on to your waterfall hike. So you could add this on after you see the waterfalls depending on how you’re feeling.
You can also make a stop at the cabin by parking directly the at the Elijah Oliver Place parking lot and the walking distance is about the same, around 1 mile round trip.
If you are interested in the historical aspect of Cades Cove, be sure to pick up the Cades Cove tour booklet so you can make it a self-guided tour as you drive the loop road!
This costs $1. You can pick up a Cades Cove auto tour booklet by stopping by the information spot that’s located right before the start of the Cades Cove Loop Road. You can also find them at a Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center. Cash only, so bring dollar bills! If you still have time before your Smoky Mountains vacation, you can order the Smokies starter kit of tour booklets online too.
No dogs on the Abrams Falls Trail
In general, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not a pet-friendly park when it comes to hiking trails. Pets are not allowed on the vast majority of hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains, and that includes Abrams Falls Trail.
There are bears in Cades Cove
You will see “bear-proof” heavy duty trash containers at the Abrams Falls trailhead, and all over the national park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is bear country! There are bears in Cades Cove. (I’ve seen one!)
Toilets at Abrams Falls trailhead
There are pit toilets (aka no-flush) at the Abrams Falls parking lot.
The other bathroom located on the Cades Cove Loop Road is at the Cades Cove Visitor Center which is on the road just beyond the turn-off for Abrams Falls. So you’ll pass it after you’re finished with your waterfall hike.
Campground near Abrams Falls
There’s the Cades Cove campground, and that would be the campground that’s near Abrams Falls. The campground is located a couple minutes drive from the start of the Cades Cove loop road.
This campground has modern bathrooms (flush toilets and sink) but no showers. (There aren’t showers at any of the campgrounds in the national park.) There’s a Cades Cove campground store nearby that sells firewood and ice, along with basic convenience store items as well as gift shop type items like souvenirs.
Driving to the Abrams Falls trailhead
The listed time that the Cades Cove Loop Road opens is at 8am.
I was driving through the gate at around 8:05am and it wasn’t long before there were traffic delays due to slow cars.
There was one car that just didn’t move for a solid few minutes once they saw deer. This means you’re stuck behind any cars that decide to just stop in the middle of the road.
There are pullovers, but they aren’t always utilized.
That’s just the way it goes on the Cades Cove Loop Road!
I arrived at the Abrams Falls Trail parking lot just before 8:45 am without making any stops. So it took around 40 minutes to drive from the start of the loop road to the trailhead. If there’s no traffic at all (unlikely!), then this drive would take around 25 minutes according to google maps.
So how long it will take you to drive to the trailhead will depend on the type of people who are driving in front of you once you get to the loop road! But no matter what, you can likely expect a slow going road.
Cades Cove Loop Road is one of the most popular scenic drives in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and aside from taking in the mountain views, people are looking for wildlife. And if they see said wildlife, well, there’s a good chance there will be at least a minimum stoppage on the road!
The evening before, I saw a bear climbing a tree while driving Cades Cove. Of course I had to slow down to try to get a better look at it! You will too. 😉
So don’t be too mad when people are driving ridiculously slow in front of you!
So to get to the Abrams Falls trailhead parking lot, you’ll just follow the one-way Cades Cove loop road until you see the sign for the Abrams Falls. Then you’ll drive that down road to end up at the trailhead.
There was Cades Cove morning fog!
New for 2023:
You need a parking pass for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
You can buy this when you arrive, or you can buy it online ahead of time.
According to recreation.gov, the official national park reservation website:
If you purchase your parking tag through recreation.gov, you will need to know your license plate number.
You will receive your parking tag via email and you will need to print the tag prior to your visit to display in your vehicle once you arrive.
Park staff cannot print your tag for you.
Annual parking tags purchased online via Great Smoky Mountains Association will be shipped right to your door.
Please allow 2 weeks shipping time.
According to the National Park Service:
Annual parking tags must be displayed in the front, lower passenger side windshield.
Daily and weekly parking tags must be placed face-up on the front, lower passenger side dashboard.
See current Great Smoky Mountains parking fees.
PHOTOS for a little bit of what to expect when hiking in Cades Cove on the Abrams Falls Trail!
I hiked the Abrams Falls Trail in early October 2020. Pictures are from that time.
And then the arrival at the waterfalls!!
And then once you’ve taken in the waterfalls, back you go to the Abrams Falls parking lot and continuing your drive on Cades Cove Loop Road!
And that’s a bit of what it’s like on the hike to Abrams Falls!
For another great scenic drive in the Smoky Mountains with waterfalls, you can also make a trip to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail waterfalls!
Be sure to see the list of more great waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains!
For walking in Cades Cove, see about walking part of Cades Cove Loop Road.
For biking in Cades Cove, see about biking the Cades Cove Loop Road.
For camping in Cades Cove, see about the Cades Cove Campground.
Also see things to do along the way as you drive from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove. This includes another waterfall hike that you’ll pass!
There’s also the big list of things to do in the Smoky Mountains!
HAPPY HIKING TO SEE CADES COVE WATERFALLS!
Here are some ideas for a few days in the Smoky Mountains!
Among the most popular things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are Clingmans Dome, Cades Cove, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. These are some of the best scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains!
There is the Clingmans Dome Trail that will take you to the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. But you can also see amazing views even from the Clingmans Dome parking lot without stepping foot on the trail!
You can make Cades Cove just about the drive along Cades Cove Loop Road. But there are also stops to make including historic cabins, a historic mill, and even the waterfall hike of Abrams Falls Trail. And, you might end up stopping because you see BEARS! You can bike Cades Cove and you can walk Cades Cove too.
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is also a scenic drive you can enjoy from your car, but there are stops you might want to make too!
Another classic Smoky Mountains activity would be to do an epic hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Alum Cave Trail can take you to the Mount LeConte summit for one of the highest peaks in the Smoky Mountains. You can even hike to the summit and then stay near the summit at the LeConte Lodge, which says they are the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States! (It does sell out fast!)
You may also want to see some of the best waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains. (These waterfalls require hiking.)
You also have a chance to see elk in the Smoky Mountains! The best place to see elk is in Cataloochee Valley, but you might see them at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center too.
You can go camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a budget-friendly stay. Otherwise for traditional lodging, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are popular Tennessee towns to stay outside of the national park.
PLUS visit the Kentucky national park: Mammoth Cave National Park
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