Cades Cove is one of the most popular areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
And what makes it popular is the slow-going one way road that is called the Cades Cove Loop Road, which is considered one of the best scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains.
And, there are many ways you can experience the Cades Cove Loop Road!
You can drive it, you can walk it, or…
You can bike the Cades Cove Loop Road!
If you want to go biking in the Smoky Mountains, then Cades Cove is where you want to go!
Biking the Cades Cove Loop Road doesn’t have to be all that complicated.
Basically bring your bike (or rent one when you get there), and off you go cycling on Cades Cove Loop Road!
Still, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind as you plan for your Cades Cove bike ride! List below!
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.
1. The best days for biking Cades Cove are at times that are car-free.
If you have flexibility during the time you’re in the Smoky Mountains, it will be best to plan your day trip to Cades Cove on a day that vehicle access to Cades Cove Loop Road is restricted.
Because… this. 👇
Of course, if your trip to the Smoky Mountains doesn’t work out so that you bike Cades Cove on a car-free day, well, it’s just all about the attitude!
So just manage your expectations and mentally prepare for what it means to ride alongside cars!
2. In 2020, Wednesdays were car-free days.
In previous years, there were just car-free mornings. In 2020, there were full days that were car-free.
Check the National Park Service website for updated info about the car-free times before you go.
3. Bring your own bike from home to your Smoky Mountains vacation!
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4. If you have your own bike, then you can follow the signs straight to the Cades Cove Loop Road.
Right before the start of the loop road, you’ll find some parking spots where you can unload your bike… if you show up early (or late) enough.
There’s also a little kiosk information spot at this parking area. Stop by here to get a $1 Cades Cove self-guided tour booklet! (Hopefully it’s stocked up!)
If you still have time before your Smoky Mountains trip, then you can also get a $5 Smokies starter kit online that comes with a Cades Cove booklet.
You can also buy this at a visitor center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
5. There’s a Cades Cove campground store near the start of the Cades Cove Loop Road.
If the parking lot is rather packed you’ll likely start see cars parked on the side of the road before you even approach the parking area in front of the loop road.
There is also a parking lot in front of the Cades Cove Campground Store and you can unload your bike there too.
You’ll follow signs to the campground.
This will lead you to the campground store parking lot.
6. The campground store is basically a convenience store.
At the Cades Cove campground store you can find some water and snacks, so if you want to stop by the campground store to load up on fuel before you start your bike ride, this may be a reason to park over here too.
You can get things like energy bars (Clif Bars) and granola bars (Nature Valley bars).
You can also refuel after your bike ride with a smoothie drink (Naked Juice), chocolate milk, or even yogurt!
7. There’s a bike rack at the Cades Cove campground store.
So really, no matter where you park, you can bike straight to the campground store for food and water before and/or after your bike ride!
8. You can rent a bike from the bike rental shop next to the Cades Cove Campground Store.
If you don’t want to bring your own bike from home, then you can also rent bikes near the start of the Cades Cove Loop Road.
You’ll get a basic bike.
Also keep in mind that mornings of car-free days tend to be the busiest, so there is a chance there there may be no bikes available. (You may consider walking a shorter loop instead if that happens!)
9. The cost of Cades Cove bike rental is around $8 an hour.
If you’re staying at the Cades Cove Campground, then you can rent a bike for the day for $30.
Prices subject to change! See current bike rental prices here.
10. You can pick up a Cades Cove Loop Road map in front of the campground store.
There is also a map posted near the bike rental shop if you want to take a picture of it.
You can also see the Cades Cove biking map (pdf) provided by the bike rental shop.
11. You can make it an 11+ mile bike ride, or you can make it a 4+ mile bike ride… or something in between!
You can bike the entire loop, or there are 2 streets that cut across to make it into around a 4-5 mile bike ride or around an 8-9 mile bike ride. (See the map for the visual!)
You can cut across Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane.
12. There are a few hills.
13. There may be a road or 2 flooded out.
14. You can stop by to see historic cabins.
The first cabin you’ll come across is the John Oliver Cabin.
15. You can stop by to see historic churches.
16. You can stop by to see a historic mill.
17. You can stop for a waterfall hike!
If you want to make it a biking + hiking kind of day, then there’s the Abrams Falls Trail that you can hike to see waterfalls.
18. You can stop by the Cades Cove Visitor Center.
This is located about half way on the loop road.
There’s a bathroom and if you didn’t bring enough water, you can buy water here.
19. There’s the Cades Cove picnic area so you can have a picnic after your bike ride!
This is located outside the loop road.
20. If you stay at the Cades Cove Campground, you can go for a morning bike ride to see the morning fog, and you can go for an evening bike ride to see the sunset over the valley!
The time of day you bike can offer you a different experience!
The Cades Cove Campground is among the popular campgrounds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
21. Wear a bike helmet!
If you’re bringing your own bike, don’t forget your helmet!
The Cades Cove bike rentals come with bike helmets.
But if you’d rather not use a helmet where someone else’s sweaty head has been, be sure to bring a helmet too!
If you’re in the market for a bike helmet, Giro is a good bicycle helmet brand.
Giro has MIPS helmets. MIPS stands for multi-directional impact protection system, and MIPS helmets are designed to better protect your brain if your head has a crash impact.
Search for a MIPS helmet on Amazon here.
Type into the search bar who you want a bike helmet for. (Example: women, men, adult, kids, girls, boys.)
22. Bring WATER and SNACKS!
Also it’s a good idea to always have gallon jugs of water in your car for the duration of your Smoky Mountains trip so you never have to worry about running out of water!
23. Be safe out there!
And try not to start your bike ride too late!
And maybe bring bike lights just in case you end up riding past dark!
And that’s a bit about biking in Cades Cove!
Explore more of Cades Cove:
- Abrams Falls
- John Oliver Cabin
- Sparks Lane
- Cades Cove Campground
- Things to do on the way to Cades Cove
Plus see more of the Smokies:
- The best hikes in the Smoky Mountains for VIEWS
- List of waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains
- Planning a camping trip in the Smoky Mountains
- The big list of things to do in the Smoky Mountains
HAPPY BIKING IN THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS ON CADES COVE SCENIC LOOP ROAD!
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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