My family has visited the Smoky Mountains region around and near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, many times over the years. Each time we visit, we run out of time before we run out of fun. There is ALWAYS something new to discover there…along with many family favorites that we try to visit each time we are in town.
We’ve driven the popular Cades Cove 11 mile loop many times during visits to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The scenic curvy road that leads to Cades Cove is filled with gorgeous imagery of mountains and streams during the 13.1 mile drive. Depending on the time of year, traffic to the park, and how many times you stop for pictures or animal sightings, the drive to Cades Cove could take you between 40 minutes-1hr+ to reach.
If it’s your first time visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I recommend stopping at Sugarlands Visitor Center as soon as you enter the park to make the most of your visit. You can get a free map of the National Park and the rangers are extremely helpful offering advice and answering any questions that you might have.
Because the drive can feel like a really long time to a kid, I’ve found my kids to be less than enthusiastic when we’ve driven the loop and made them get out for multiple stops along the way. The National Park recommends allowing 2-4 hours when visiting the park…….That’s why biking Cades Cove changed everything!
Once you bike Cade’s Cove, you will never want to drive it again!
You have the freedom to stop when you want, where you want, while connecting with nature all around you at a slower pace.
You can appreciate the sights and sounds so much more from a bicycle than your vehicle.
We also enjoyed this experience so much better than driving the loop because you are not stuck in vehicle traffic. The loop is one way and bicycles have the right of way.
You can bring your own bike or bike rentals are available at Cades Cove Trading Company located at the camp store when you enter the park. There are a few 16′ children’s bikes but the majority are 24′ for adults. Kids under a certain age are required to wear bicycle helmets during their ride. There are no bike trailers available for rent and they are not recommended because they are wider on the road and harder for vehicles to see.
You are given a map before you begin your journey that shows points of interests along the way. We did the 11 mile loop but you do have shortcut options of 4 and 7 mile loops if you want to do a shorter distance.
Each bike rental has a tag sharing more about a point of interest along the way. I would recommend stopping for as many of the historic sites as possible.
A few of our favorite stops were the John Oliver Cabin, Primitive Baptist church, and the Cable Mill.
The Cable Mill is a great halfway stop for lunch or a bathroom break. The bicycle rentals have a water bottle holder and I would also recommend that someone in your party wear a backpack with snacks, sunscreen, and additional water. We visited during a time when they were doing demonstrations at the mill which made the experience even more interesting.
When you stop to look at historic sites or wildlife you don’t have to worry about locking up your bikes. I was told that rangers know to look for the bicycle rentals.
The backside of the scenic loop has more elevation changes, which can be more of a challenging ride. Our family was still glad that we did the full loop, we just walked our bikes up the hills when we needed to. If you see a sign that tells you to walk your bike down a hill, DO IT! There is a reason for the sign. A few people have been injured while going down because they gained too much speed and couldn’t slow down in time for the tight turn at the bottom.
If you want a vehicle free experience, check out the online calendar mid May- mid September on Wednesday or Saturday mornings from 7-10am. The employees will arrive at the bicycle rental around 6am and I was told that the bike rentals go really FAST ( like by 7:15 am) and Wednesday tends to be the busier day of the two.
You can find out more about Cades Cove from the National Park website.
When you visit Gatlinburg, you have a lot of options to choose from for entertainment. Ober Gatlinburg offers so much to do year round and the beauty is that you can do it all at one location. You can easily spend hours there between all of the adventures and activities.
So what are your options for an Ober Gatlinburg adventure?
When you visit the Smoky Mountains Region, you are faced with A LOT of options when it comes to where you stay. Where do you even begin? We were invited to check out what the Gatlinburg Falls Resort has to offer for a Smoky Mountain vacation.
I was really excited about checking out the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster during our visit to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster is a fun, family friendly thrill ride that takes you up and down that side of a mountain on your own personal coaster that can reach speeds up to 35mph!
You can ride single or double and your thrill level is up to you. During our visit, the lines for the Mountain Coaster moved pretty quickly. Our ride operator made sure that we were harnessed securely in the ride and that we knew the safely instructions. He also welcomed and encouraged a picture of himself.
I rode with my younger son, who also doubled as the photographer, because you are not allowed to take pictures while riding if you are in charge of the brake.
The specially designed ride up the mountain was very quiet and smooth.
The steep incline up the hill makes you wonder what going down will be like, but keep in mind that you control your speed.
Once you reach the top, you push your handle forward to begin your ride. My son and I decided to go full throttle down the mountain. If you do want to brake, you just pull your handle back.
The quick twists and turns through the woods were such an adrenaline rush filled with pretty scenery!
It really feels like you are going faster than you really are, but it’s still important to make sure that you still maintain a safe distance from the riders in front of you.
The track is really quiet, but you probably won’t be on your way down. You can’t help but smile and scream.
My younger son rode with my friend and he was in charge of videotaping their ride.
My friend was grateful that she could control her own speed. She didn’t go full throttle but she still had a blast!
The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster was such a fun adventure! The ride lasts about 5-7 minutes depending on how fast you go. The time seemed to fly by!
The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster is open year round which makes it a fun adventure any time of year. We were able to go right after it finished raining but the track still runs in rain or snow.
Pricing at the time of our visit
1 Rider $14.32
Must be at least 56”
1 person per coaster car (Maximum weight 375lbs/330lbs if track is wet)
2 Riders $24.16
2 people in same coaster car (Maximum weight 375lbs/330lbs if track is wet)
Children $7.16 (Child-Parent Combo $21.48)
(Ages 3-9. Must be at least 38 tall and ride with a companion at least 16 years old and 56” tall)
You can find out more about the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster from their website.
The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster is located at 306 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN. (865)430-5577
Disclosure: I was given complimentary admission for review purposes. All opinions are my own.