On our trip out to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg I was really looking forward to visiting Cades Cove. It did not disappoint!
We stayed in Townsend since we wanted an easy and less congested entrance into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This area is perfect for accessing Cades Cove!
Arriving early is your best bet for wildlife viewing and to avoid other people. We left at 7:50 for our twenty minute drive to the cove with very little traffic. This was the least busy park day we would have on our trip! There were a few light rain showers that I think helped keep the crowds away that day.
I was driving on Laurel Creek road almost half way to the cove when a huge bear darted in front of our car and up the hillside. He was bigger than I thought local bears would be and he was running faster than I thought they could. I was very glad I did not hit him with the car and it reconfirmed why the speed limit is so low in the park. After seeing the size/ speed of him I was rethinking my desire to see a bear in the park.
Once you reach the gate the road through Cades Cove is eleven miles long and while it offers a couple of cut through roads plan on spending at least a couple of hours on it.
While I had a couple of weeks to plan this trip I was unable to schedule everything like normal. Daughter was gone for the two weeks prior learning how to be a great camp counselor as a counselor in training. So I made the dinner reservations and filled the one request she had for a ghost tour but that was it. Beyond that I figured we would maybe relax back at the bed and breakfast, or roam the historic area since she now enjoys shopping. Once we arrived in Savannah she became intregged by the idea of a carriage tour.
The carriage tours can be booked far in advance and I did not think to book one for our trip. We checked with a couple of companies along the squares and river front. Most had openings but it was right around the time we had dinner reservations. So we kind of gave up and decided to see what would happen after dinner at the Olde Pink House. I could tell Daughter wanted to take a carriage ride and she was petting all the horses we came across in our search.
After dinner we walked up to the carriage rides along the river to see if they had openings. They had some for the next morning if she wanted to wait until then. We stumbled across an empty carriage and wagon racing down a one way street. Sort of racing, they took off with the light next to each other and “raced” to the next corner. It was pretty funny to watch and the driver that walked the fastest was glad his horse “won.” Now Daughter was tracking all wagons to see where they loaded and if they had opening for tours. We followed an empty wagon up toward the city market and stumbled on a wagon and driver sitting along the square. We stopped to ask him if they had openings for the night, they did and the next one was at 8:30. Sold!
We climbed up into the wagon with three women we were sharing the tour with. Our driver Justin took us around some squares, past the cemetery, fire station, and Cathedral all with interesting and witty commentary. This was a fun tour and lots of laughs. I think we were on board around 45 minutes. To be honest I was not keeping track, it went fast and we are still laughing about the commentary on the tour. FYI because it came up on the tour the firefighters across from Colonial Park Cemetery have a calendar if you want to check that out. Heard it on the tour, not sure where you can find it but now you know….
Our driver dropped us back off at the same spot along Ellis Square at the end. The cost was $22 for people aged 13+, kids 6 -12 are $11. We really got lucky that being the hot summer season we stumbled onto an opening so if you want a tour book well in advance!
More information here: http://www.madisontourcompany.com/tours.htm
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