Why a Wonder: Cades Cove, an isolated mountain cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, combines the beauty of the Southern Appalachian Mountains with the history of the people who lived there before the park was formed. The ancient mountains surrounding this verdant cove allow images of the fields, streams, forests, wildlife and living history to depict a distinct rural aesthetic.
Where: You can get there from Gatlinburg by turning right at the park headquarters on Hwy 441 and following Little River Road, or enter the park from Townsend, Tennessee, then bear right at the “Y” onto Laurel Creek Road. Parking is available at the entrance for those biking the cove. There is no fee to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but in March 2023 a parking permit will be required for vehicles parked more than 15 minutes in any park location.
When: Spring and fall are the best times to visit, but all four seasons offer photo opportunities in Cades Cove. Fall color does bring crazy traffic to the 11-mile one-way loop road around the cove, but the two crossover roads offer great views even during busy times. Winter snow usually results in the loop road being closed to vehicles, but walking or biking around the cove is allowed even if the gate is closed. Also, the loop road is vehicle-free on Wednesdays from Early May through late September to allow bike and foot traffic only.
Photography: Though you can photograph here year-round, early morning or late in the day offer the best photo conditions and wildlife viewing, plus the least amount of congestion. One limitation to consider is that the loop road is only open to vehicles from sunrise to sunset. Morning fog over this pastoral landscape is a real bonus when the conditions are right. The key to finding good photos in Cades Cove is to see it as a unique mountain landscape with a variety of photo opportunities to challenge your vision as a photographer.
Learn More: Visit the Great Smoky Mountains website at - https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm
Copyright Notice: © Jerry Whaley