For me returning to the Great Smoky Mountains is inevitable. Most all who visit here fall in love with everything about this magical place. The air smells fresher, the people are welcoming and there’s no end of things to explore. While this trip featured several new experiences for me, I always make the drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cades Cove Loop, seeking out scenic overlooks and photo-ops to capture the beauty all around me. Once you’ve driven through, you’re always drawn back. It’s ever-changing with the passage of time yet it remains clean and well maintained, a credit to our national parks workers. Photos can never do it justice but I wanted to share a few favorites from this vacation.
And one more thing, if you’ve never been here, I hope you will one day.
Road trip 2021, arrived on Memorial Day hours early for my Wears Valley cabin check-in. Already in nearby Townsend it was time to let my vacation begin, starting with an impromptu wine tasting at Cades Cove Cellars, stocking up on wine…. since I was there anyway. Next on to drive Cades Cove Loop, 11 miles, one lane/one way road. The 11 miles is leisurely and slow-moving easily 2-3 hours which lined up with my check-in and a perfect choice as this place is everything I love about Tennessee. My #1 Tennessee trip goal is to see a black bear every trip – hopefully more than one. Photos never truly capture the majestic mountains, abundant meadows and that sky above… what I’d imagine heaven looks like.
And on this first vacay day, I had my first bear sighting, check!
There’s something about the Great Smoky Mountains that connects with my soul, a sense of peace that I crave. After rescheduling my May trip due to Covid-19 lockdowns, I made the trip this month and immersed myself in the beauty and calm of the Smokies.
One of the first things on my list was to drive the Cades Cove loop. It’s an eleven mile, one way, slow and scenic drive with a high likelihood of seeing wildlife. It never disappoints.
Driving the Cades Cove Loop you’ll find several churches with small cemeteries. It was early Sunday morning when I came upon them and I was able to hear parts of the sermons and hymns at each as I walked with reverence around the graveside pathways. It was peaceful and I was in awe of the history in this place.
The Dan Lawson Place, which was originally constructed in 1856, is a transitional piece of architecture – the home features both sawn lumber and hewn logs. In addition, the pioneer cabin featured a modern chimney made out of bricks.
Over the years, Lawson expanded both his land holdings and his residence. By the time of his death, the cabin had been expanded to have a large porch and an additional second story. The large, covered porch was used as a post office that Dan ran from his house.
I visited Cades Cove on three occasions this trip and my posts only provide a glimpse of the beauty. The peaceful meandering loop road connects you to nature. At any hour of the day you’re assured of unforgettable scenic views and often wildlife sightings making it a must-see when you’re visiting the Smoky Mountains.
A trip to the Smoky Mountains isn’t complete without driving the Cades Cove Loop. I drove it three times during the trip choosing daybreak, midday and late afternoon to experience the changing light and wildlife sightings. It’s a one-way 11 mile drive that progresses slowly as you savor the scenery, take photos and stop for animals.
I get a thrill seeing the black bears that are a beloved fixture in Tennessee. I’d been following several Facebook groups in the weeks before my trip with numerous posts of mother bears with multiple cubs. I’ve always had multiple bear sightings on past trips – my hopes were high. I saw one bear cub on my late morning drive. He scampered across the road in front of me and was gone before I could get a photo. He was my only bear on this trip but there’s always next time.