Parson Branch Road

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This 8-mile-long road is permanently closed to motorized traffic, though it's open to mountain bikers and walkers, who can enjoy some serene forest views along its graveled length. Keep in mind, though, that the threat of falling trees is serious here. The road should definitely be avoided during high winds and after heavy rain, when loose soil can cause trunks to uproot themselves.

You'll go through rhododendron tunnels and pass over creek crossings as you wind your way between Forge Creek Rd and Hwy 129 in the south.

If you don't have a bike, you can hire one from Cades Cove Campground and make the trip down – a ride best undertaken when the Cades Cove Loop Rd is closed to cars (before 10am on Wednesday and Saturday, from May through September).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park attractions

1. Cable Mill Historic Area

1.56 MILES

To get bread on the table, early residents of Cades Cove first had to mill their grains and corn. Above all other staples, corn was the most important…

2. Elijah Oliver Place

2.39 MILES

The homestead farthest from the Cades Cove Loop Rd, this multi-building property sits at the end of a half-mile stroll through the woods. The cabin was…

3. Tipton Place

2.64 MILES

The picturesque Tipton homestead was built by Mexican War veteran ‘Colonel Hamp’ Tipton in the early 1870s. The grounds include a spacious two-floor cabin…

4. Primitive Baptist Church

3.32 MILES

One of three rural churches that remain standing in Cades Cove, the 1887 Primitive Baptist Church is flanked by an atmospheric cemetery. Look out for the…

5. Carter Shields Cabin

3.32 MILES

The last cabin on the loop road is arguably the most photogenic, tucked in a small grassy glade surrounded by the woods. Carter Shields, a Civil War…

6. Missionary Baptist Church

3.34 MILES

The Missionary Baptist Church was formed in 1839 by former Primitive Baptist Church members who were kicked out for advocating missionary work. The…

7. Methodist Church

3.52 MILES

Cades Cove's 1902 Methodist Church has a small but picturesque white steeple and includes gravestones on its lawn. It was built by blacksmith and…

8. John Oliver Place

4.39 MILES

Built in the early 1820s, this rustic log cabin is the oldest in Cades Cove. Check out the stone chimney, made with mud mortar. The home was built by one…