A cove, in Appalachian parlance, means a valley, but Cades Cove is far more than that. Many consider this special place to be a national treasure, thanks to its poignant cultural legacy, telling pioneer architecture and plentiful wildlife. And then there's the landscape itself, lush green fields enveloped by an unbroken expanse of mountains. It's no wonder so many families return year after year.

The first settlers - most of English, Scotch-Irish and Welsh stock - arrived in the 1820s. By 1850 the valley's population had swelled to its peak of 70 households and 451 residents. Today, thanks to the excellent preservation efforts of the NPS, you can still get a vivid sense of life in 19th-century Cades Cove through its surviving churches, gristmills and homesteads.

Cades Cove is the most-visited area in the country's most-visited national park. Due to bumper-to-bumper traffic during peak season, it can take five hours to drive the 17km (11mi) one-way loop road - longer than it would take to walk!

The loop road is open to car traffic from dawn to dusk, except on Wednesdays and Saturdays from mid-May through September, when bicycles and hikers rule the road until 10:00. Pick up the self-guiding auto tour booklet Cades Cove Tour from any visitor center to discover more about Cades Cove's attractions and history. Day Hikes In & Around Cades Cove is also available.