Cades Cove  is one of the most popular sights in the national park, and a favorite place for auto touring. Traffic along the one-way 11-mile loop road proceeds slowly, and there are frequent opportunities to stop and explore on foot.
Beware that during peak visitation, it can take five hours to drive the loop—longer than it would take to walk it. Set out early in the day to have it more to yourself.
The drive begins at the orientation shelter, located near the Cades Cove campground and picnic area. If you don’t already have one, pick up the detailed guide to Cades Cove here. The first homestead you arrive at is that of John Oliver. If it’s crowded, drive on—there are more cabins later in the tour.
You will next pass Cades Cove’s  three extant churches. These beautiful buildings date from 1887–1915. Opposite the Missionary Baptist Church is Rich Mountain Road, a winding, steep road that goes to Townsend . It is closed during the winter.
At the extreme southwestern corner of the cove is the Cable Mill area. Here you will find restrooms and Cades Cove’s most substantial visitors center. There is also a collection of historic buildings to explore on foot.
As you drive along the southern side of the cove, you will pass a series of homesteads, including the Dan Lawrence Place, Tipton Place, and the Carter Shields Cabin.
There are two north–south “lanes” that cut through the loop. If you have time, and traffic allows it, drive through one of them to see the broad, flat expanse of the cove more closely.