Experience Cades Cove in a New Way by Bicycle

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.

I’m sharing why you should consider biking the loop instead.

Smoky Mountain View

Stop at Sugarlands Visitor Center First

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 in offering advice and answering any questions that you might have.

Roadtrip to Smoky Mountains in the KIA Sorento

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!

bike Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

Try Biking Cades Cove Instead Of Driving It

Once you bike Cade’s Cove, you will never want to drive it again!

bike Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

You have the freedom to stop when you want, where you want while connecting with nature all around you at a slower pace.

family biking Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

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.

Cades Cove Loop Road sign

Bike Ride on a Wednesday for Vehicle-free Access of the Cades Cove Loop

If you don’t want to worry about riding around cars visit on a Wednesday from May 5th through September 1st.

During those Wednesdays, there is Vehicle-free access along the Cades Cove Loop Road

bikes and cars on the Cades Cove loop

Bike Rentals at Cades Cove Trading Company

You can bring your own bike or there are bike rentals available at Cades Cove Trading Company. The rental shop is 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.

boy biking on Cades Cove loop

Kids under a certain age are required to wear bicycle helmets during their ride.

There are no bike trailers available for rent. Bike trailers are not recommended because they are wider on the road and harder for vehicles to see.

Cades Cove Map

The Cades Cove Scenic Loop

You are given a map before you begin your journey that shows points of interest 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 at Cades Cove 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.

John Oliver Cabin on the Cades Cove loop

A few of our favorite stops were the John Oliver Cabin, Primitive Baptist Church, and the Cable Mill.

Primitive Baptist Church on the Cades Cove loop

The Cable Mill is also a great halfway stop for lunch or a bathroom break.

bike view of the Cades Cove loop in TN

What to bring when you bike Cades Cove

The bicycle rentals have a water bottle holder. 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.

Cable Mill on the Cades Cove loop

Should you lock your bike if you stop on the Scenic Loop?

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.

boys on bikes in Cades Cove

Experience the Full Cades Cove Bicycle Loop

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.

walking bike on a steep curve on Cades Cove loop

Cades Cove Bicycle Only Days and Hours

If you want a vehicle-free experience, check out the online calendar mid-May- mid-September on Wednesday.

The employees will arrive at the bicycle rental around 6am.  I was told that the Cades Cove bicycle rentals go really FAST ( like by 7:15 am).

FYI-The State of Tennessee requires a helmet for bike riders ages 16 and under.

McDaniel family selfie at Cades Cove

Biking Cades Cove was unanimously one of our family’s top 3 adventures during our weekend visit to the Smoky Mountains.

I would highly recommend this experience!

You can find out more about Cades Cove from the National Park website.

bicylcles along Cades Cove Loop

Thanks again to Visit Gatlinburg for hosting our visit and KIA for providing a 2017 KIA Sorento to use as our road trip vehicle.

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8 thoughts on “Experience Cades Cove in a New Way by Bicycle”

  1. It really depends on how often you stop to look at the sites along the way and if you need to bike slower because of car traffic. There is one steep hill that is recommended for you to walk your bike down and there are a few hills on the back end but it’s doable. You can always walk your bike if it starts to feel strenuous.

  2. What time of year did you go? I would love to do this but we are going the last week of March 2019. Are the bikes available?

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